Arup launches circular economy toolkit

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A modern city with greenery and solar panels

Arup and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation create practical support for bringing the circular economy for buildings into the mainstream. 

The built environment is a major consumer of natural resources. It is now responsible for almost half of all the world’s consumption of raw materials and approximately 40% of global carbon emissions, so it is vital to develop usable tools for future-proofing assets as sustainability policies change expectations over the long term.

While a great deal of industry focus has been placed on addressing energy efficiency, a new toolkit from Arup and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation looks at other challenges too. In particular, it addresses embodied carbon emitted through production and operational processes. A circular economy will require designs that eliminate waste and pollution, circulate products and materials, and regenerate nature to help tackle climate change.

Eva Hinkers, Arup’s sustainable development director, explained: “Circular approaches allow us to reimagine the building as an asset bank, so that materials can be repurposed and stay in use for longer. We hope this toolkit helps the industry move beyond roadmaps and blueprints and makes circular economy a reality.”

The Circular Buildings Toolkit seeks to minimise waste by keeping products and materials in use for longer. Aligned with industry standard planning methods like the RIBA Plan of Work, it can help owners, investors and developers ready their portfolios for the influx of sustainability regulation – achieving more sustainable assets and limiting the risk of potential write-downs.

The toolkit has already been used by Arup and Futur2K during the design and construction of a prototype for a new circular building system (ADPT) in Essen, Germany, which will be unveiled in May. On that project, designers used the toolkit to embed lessons on flexibility and versatility by creating a system of timber units built to adapt to many uses so that the asset can adjust to future trends and demands.  

Andrew Morlet, CEO of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, said: “We have seen increased energy efficiency in the built environment sector, but the transition to renewable energy and energy efficiency is only half the story. 45% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the way we make and use things. We need a circular economy to address these emissions.”