Transitioning to a circular built environment can reduce the environmental impacts, resource consumption and waste generation emanating from buildings. However, there are many options to design circular building components, and limited knowledge on which options lead to the best environmental performance. Few guidelines exist and they build on conventional environmental performance assessments that focus on single life cycles, whereas the circular economy (CE) focuses on a sequence of multiple use-and life cycles. In this article, environmental design guidelines for circular building components were developed in five steps. First, examples of circular variants of a building structure were synthesized. Second, the environmental performance of these variants was compared with a business-as-usual variant through Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) and Material Flow Analysis (MFA) respectively. Circular parameters of these variants were tested using a scenario-specific approach. Third, from 24 LCAs and MFAs, a scorecard, rules-of-thumb and nine environmental design guidelines for designing circular building components were developed that provide guidance on which circular pathways and variants lead to the best environmental performance. For components with a long functional–technical lifespan, the following are promoted: resource efficiency, longer use through adaptable design, low-impact biomaterials and facilitating multiple cycles after and of use. Fourth, the design guidelines were evaluated by 49 experts from academia, industry and government in seven expert sessions. Further research is needed to validate the generalizability of the design guidelines. However, this research makes an important step in supporting the development of circular building components and, subsequently, the transition to a circular built environment.
- Circular economy (CE)
- Life cycle assessment (LCA)
- Material flow analysis (MFA) design guidelines