What’s in it for me? A user stories approach for scaling circular building design

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Although circular design approaches, enabling future reuse and recycling, yield long- term environmental savings in a financially feasible way – as has been demonstrated before – their wide-spread implementation is not yet achieved. Apart from perceived uncertainties and other systemic barriers, the benefits of investing in a circular design today are often situated in a far-off future, hardly convincing clients and designers to make different design choices than they did before. The question therefore remains, how can we capture today, the benefits of circular building design? In some new projects circular design choices can however be identified, for example, the use of reversible connections and the autonomy of components. Also, refurbishment projects take advantage of circular design qualities that are inherently present in buildings, such as the generality of the plan layout. Maybe these design choices have not been taken for the sake of circularity or to close material loops, still they trigger or enable the feasible recovery and reuse of building components and materials. By pinpointing the motivations that were the basis of the choices in these two groups of projects, we get a grip on a series of opportunities to implement circularity more often.

To understand from which motivations circular choices proceed today, we reviewed six building projects and organised two workshops with over 20 design practitioners. A user stories approach was adopted to switch perspectives and put the practitioners in the shoes of various stakeholders and make explicit the value those stakeholders gain. User stories also align easily with multiple acceleration mechanism of sustainability transitions, including replication, upscaling and embedding. This participative research approach was possible in the context of Atelier Circulair, the Flemish learning network for architects and consulting engineers established in 2019 by sector organisation Netwerk Architecten Vlaanderen and research group VUB Architectural Engineering with the support of Circular Flanders. In this network, practitioners from 60 architectural or engineering firms participate. They include forerunners in circularity as well as early adaptors, with portfolio of various scales and scopes.

From our review it was possible to synthesise six archetypical user stories that led to one or more circular design choices. They include: ‘temporal use’, ‘life-long living’, ‘do-it- yourself’, ‘maintainability’, ‘heritage valorisation’ and ‘environmental saving’. From this synthesis it is possible to guide building designers and clients when identifying - in their specific building project - motivations to make different, more circular design choices. With this guidance we hope to provide insight in the added value of circular building and bridge the individual gains and societal necessity of this transition. These win-win situations - ‘What’s in it for me?’ - can act as starting points to promote the uptake of circular building design. Yet, circular design concepts can create value for the client in lots of ways, as they can offer specific solutions for specific user needs. This list is thus far from complete. Further, we have observed that not only the client but other stakeholders profit from circular design choices as well. This must be studied further too.
Originele taal-2English
TitelIBA Crossing Boundaries
SubtitelAbstract book
UitgeverijZuyd University of Applied Sciences
Aantal pagina's2
StatusPublished - 24 mrt 2021
EvenementCrossing Boundaries - Online
Duur: 24 mrt 202125 mrt 2021


ConferenceCrossing Boundaries
Verkorte titelCB2021
Internet adres


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