Compiled by Beverly Pereira
Photography: Simon Kennedy;courtesy Arup Associates
Read Time: 3 mins
The Circular Building, intelligently constructed out of re-usable components, seeks to explore how the construction industry can work towards zero waste.
Circular economy, an important catchphrase of the moment, moves away from the linear model of ‘take, make, waste’ to a sustainable and circular model of material flow that aims to maximise total material resource efficiency.
Arup Architects, proponents of the Circular Economy, have blueprinted a functional living structure - the first-of-its-kind in the UK – which they showcased as a prototype for the 2016 London Design Festival within a tight ten-week design-and-build time. Not only does the structure respond to Circular Economy principles in its entirety, it also ranks high in comfort and aesthetics.
The project adopts a responsible way of thinking about the design process and its influence on the supply chain. Starting with extensive materials research and testing for potential circularity, the team produced a Materials Database with a focus on ‘next use’. Using circular materials and open-source details coupled with the refinement of existing pre-fab construction techniques; they produced and tested details that utilise fine-tuned engineering as opposed to mechanical fixings. The result is a low-waste; self-supporting and demountable SIPS wall system, where clamp connections between the wall and recycled steel frame ensure that both can be repurposed in the future. Additionally, the cladding and decking are sustainably sourced heat treated timber that is durable and recyclable.
The structure echoes Stewart Brand’s Six S’s diagram through a simplistic architectural ‘house’ form. The tectonics of the constituent parts is showcased in the architecture, offering a visual narration of the design process. Layers of the building envelope and the sustainable SIPS panels are visible at the gable ends while the structural frame extends to create an additional bay that allows for extension and adaptation in the future.
The Circular Building also references the ‘Loop’ and ‘Re-use’ actions of the Ellen Macarther Foundation’s ReSOLVE framework. Carpet supplier Desso has committed to replace the carpet, when worn out and to sustainably refurbish and reuse it.
The living zone, cocooned in an acoustic wall system made entirely from recycled plastic bottles, also points to the use of circular materials. The work station integrates elements of Arup’s ‘It’s all about the Desk’ system that uses sensors to monitor internal environment and relay data in a cloud hosted system that links the operable skylights, blinds and lighting system.
Given that the circular economy presents designers and architects with a range of long-term benefits and a radical approach to design, the Circular Building makes a perfect case for how architectural design can facilitate the journey towards a more conscious industry.