There has been an increase in circular economy thinking and the built environment recently, and no doubt we will see much more in the coming weeks and months. It forms a core element behind the Green Vision half day conference in Leeds on the 12th Dec.
Whilst researching back ground information on “Designing Out Landfill” for a client I was struck by these useful paragraphs from Sophie Thomas co-director of design at the RSA and published in a Guardian Sustainable Business article in September 2012
Built to last
Design sits at the heart of the challenge to create a circular economy. Approximately 80% of a product’s environmental impact is “locked in” at the design stage, so understanding production cycles and reconfiguring them for maximum effectiveness is key. We cannot simply substitute one material for another without understanding the consequences.
Designing in this way is complex. Gone are the days of “sustainable” or “eco” design, when a simple change of material to a recycled alternative would give a project environmental credibility. This system calls for investigation into materials at a molecular scale. It demands true co-creation, with all stakeholders involved in the lifecycle of a particular product. Finally, it requires a new logistical approach to capturing and recirculating materials.
This effort needs to be led by businesses. At the moment, it is rare to see a company setting a design brief that includes requirements to recover material. Now, however, the business model is changing and the economic imperative for recovery is growing stronger.
How well is design, construction and facilities management prepared for such ‘deep green’ thinking to waste elimination?