Circular Digital Built Environment: An Emerging Framework

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Abstract

Digital technologies are considered to be an essential enabler of the circular economy in various industries. However, to date, very few studies have investigated which digital technologies could enable the circular economy in the built environment. This study specifically focuses on the built environment as one of the largest, most energy- and material-intensive industries globally, and investigates the following question: which digital technologies potentially enable a circular economy in the built environment, and in what ways? The research uses an iterative stepwise method: (1) framework development based on regenerating, narrowing, slowing and closing resource loop principles; (2) expert workshops to understand the usage of digital technologies in a circular built environment; (3) a literature and practice review to further populate the emerging framework with relevant digital technologies; and (4) the final mapping of digital technologies onto the framework. This study develops a novel Circular Digital Built Environment framework. It identifies and maps ten enabling digital technologies to facilitate a circular economy in the built environment. These include: (1) additive/robotic manufacturing, (2) artificial intelligence, (3) big data and analytics, (4) blockchain technology, (5) building information modelling, (6) digital platforms/marketplaces, (7) digital twins, (8) the geographical information system, (9) material passports/databanks, and (10) the internet of things. The framework provides a fruitful starting point for the novel research avenue at the intersection of circular economy, digital technology and the built environment, and gives practitioners inspiration for sustainable innovation in the sector.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6348
Number of pages36
JournalSustainability
Volume13
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • circular economy
  • digital technology
  • digitalisation
  • built environment
  • construction
  • buildings
  • framework
  • circular strategies
  • circular business models
  • circular design
  • sustainability

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