Design for Change and Circularity: Accommodating Circular Material & Product Flows in Construction

Bob Geldermans

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articleScientificpeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)
84 Downloads (Pure)


Circular building concepts, as proposed within e.g. Circular Economy and Cradle-to-Cradle frameworks, imply radical changes for the construction sector. Cradle-to-Cradle® in particular has put forward the idea of buildings as material banks, radically altering the way material flows need to be managed. The notion of material banks (temporary storage of materials that comprise the building assemblies) sheds new light on the value of building materials and products, and how to maintain and restore this. The basics are straightforward: high quality, pure material use and anticipated material regeneration routes. The implications for the supply and value chain, however, are significant, and research in this direction has only recently taken off. To smoothen the path to implementation, circular building principles may be combined with Design-for-Adaptability (DfA) guidelines, as developed over the last decades. DfA guidelines are rooted in enhanced resilience of the built environment on the one hand, and the associated constructive implications on the other. Synergy between the concepts of circularity and adaptability, with regard to the Dutch context, is at the heart of this paper. The main research question is: what are prerequisites for an effective performance of materials, products, services and buildings in the case circularity is a leading ambition? The research is structured around four interdisciplinary expert workshops in which knowledge and experiences were shared, discussed, tested and redefined, leading to a set of preconditions for circular building material and product flows. A key finding is that circularity-values emerge at the intersection of specific intrinsic properties (material and product characteristics) and relational properties (building design and use characteristics), whilst combining multiple parameters. In separation, neither intrinsic nor relational properties have decisive significance with regard to circularity; it is on the crossing where fulfillment is created. This paper finishes by discussing the findings from the perspectives of lifespan, monitoring, ownership, and standardization.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-311
JournalEnergy Procedia
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventSBE16 Tallinn and Helsinki Conference: Build Green and Renovate Deep - Tallink Spa & Conference Hotel, Tallinn, Estonia
Duration: 5 Oct 20167 Oct 2016


  • Circular Economy
  • Design for Adaptability
  • Cradle to Cradle
  • Open Building
  • Integrated Sustainability


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