Circular economy of façades: Real-world challenges and opportunities

Rebecca Hartwell*, Sebastian Macmillan, Mauro Overend

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
166 Downloads (Pure)


Reuse and high-value recycling have a pivotal role to play in reducing waste and minimising carbon emissions in the built environment. Design strategies for such recovery methods have yet to be fully established in the façade industry. Meanwhile, stringent regulations, aimed at reducing operational carbon emissions of buildings and improving other performance criteria such as occupant safety, have stimulated the use of more complex façade systems that incorporate multiple functions. Other areas of the façade life cycle, such as embodied carbon and high-value material recovery, are rarely considered at the early design stage. This study adopts a mixed-method approach of data collection, to investigate the key challenges and opportunities associated with promoting high-value recovery options for façade products, as perceived by stakeholders in the façade supply-chain. Data was initially collected through an online survey completed by 69 stakeholders from across the façade knowledge/supply-chain. This was followed by 29 semi-structured interviews with selected survey respondents. It emerged that the advancement of circular design strategies is dependent on: increased awareness and quantification of the environmental value of circular design; cross-supply-chain buy-in on developments in take-back infrastructure including greater support for demolition contractors; and advancements in technological separation methods specific to façade components. Enhanced communication between stakeholders - notably between clients, facade contractors and material processors - acceptability criteria and product availability; and more holistic legislation based on whole life cycle emissions, to avoid the over-emphasis on operational efficiency, appear as vital requisites to increasing material efficiency. Finally, we illustrate where stakeholder priorities related to reuse converge and diverge, and thus we identify strategies for levering these factors to minimise environmental impact and optimise economic value in the façade sector.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105827
Number of pages16
JournalResources, Conservation and Recycling
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository 'You share, we take care!' - Taverne project

Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • Circular economy
  • Design-for-disassembly
  • Embodied carbon
  • End-of-life
  • Façades
  • Recycling
  • Reuse


Dive into the research topics of 'Circular economy of façades: Real-world challenges and opportunities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this