You are a stakeholder in the construction industry and want to minimise the embodied energy?
Then Circular Structural Design can help you!
There are many possibilities how Circular Structural Design can elevate your project. Here are some projects we are working on:
Bio-composites experimental pavilion
Building with mycelium
© R. Lelivelt/ TU/e
Bio-based bridge in Eindhoven
Re-use of precast concrete elements
© Bart van den Brink/ TU/e
Demolition vs. Transformation in practice
© Stuke Architekten
Demolition vs. Transformation in theory
Re-use of structural steel elements
© Luca Upper on Unsplash
Building with ice
© Rien Boonstoppel
Buildings contain a lot of valuable resources that are becoming increasingly scarce and are responsible for many CO2 emissions. Especially structural engineers can counteract this consumption of materials on a massive scale.
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Patrick Teuffel is working for a long time on the question how circular economy can be implemented into structural design.
“Structural engineers can make a big difference in terms of sustainability”In an interview he speaks with DGNB about built heavyweights and the current state of research in the world of materials.
In the post-COVID-19 era there still will be a big challenge to solve the problem of climate change and it is clear, that there is a huge societal demand and political willingness to tackle this.
On the one hand side this is a top-down approach (e. g. the European Green Deal or one of the European Commission’s priorities “Towards a circular economy”) and on the other side a bottom-up approach (e. g. Fridays for Future activities among many other grassroots movements).
Apart from the societal and political situation also the technical environment offers great potential: First, construction activities are the most resource-intensive industry sector and therefor there is a powerful leverage of it in general and structural design in specific to provide big impact to tackle the challenges.
In 2015, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals presented ambitious goals for the first time to combat global warming. For example, the energy requirements shall be significantly reduced by 2030, resources are to be better used and waste is to be avoided. The construction industry plays a major role here, as it is currently responsible for around 40% of the CO2 emissions caused by energy generation.
You, as designer, developer, contractor, or building owner, can influence this in a positive way!
Apart from these global frameworks many initiatives at European level, such as the European Green Deal, the EU Circular Economy Action Plan, the New European Bauhaus or just recently the EU Taxonomy have been developed. At a national level, the Circular Dutch economy by 2050 is an excellent example for these ambitions.
But not only various political decisions drive us towards a circular economy, because there is also a strong need from the industry to define clear rules for sustainable or impact investment, such as Environmental, Social and Corporate governance (ESG) criteria. Last but no least there is also the scarcity of natural resource, which highlights the relevance of these topics.
Based on the concept of circular economy CIRCULAR STRUCTURAL DESIGN explores solutions for the future built environment. This provides a promising concept and is defined by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation as follows:
“Looking beyond the current take-make-waste extractive industrial model, a circular economy aims to redefine growth, focusing on positive society-wide benefits. It entails gradually decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources, and designing waste out of the system. Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural, and social capital. It is based on three principles:
1) Design out waste and pollution
2) Keep products and materials in use
3) Regenerate natural systems”
These three principles can be applied in the construction industry by following means:
1) Design out waste and pollution
The design of lightweight structures is of course an obvious way to save material and it also has a long tradition, starting with pioneers like Buckminster Fuller (“How much does your building weigh”) or Frei Otto and there is also diverse and promising work in research in this area. The approach of optimizing the primary structure of buildings and saving materials, however, has so far hardly played a role in “normal” structures such as residential buildings or commercial properties.
2) Keep products and materials in use
In general, the idea of “keep” can be viewed on three different levels: 1) material, 2) components, 3) structure. The possibility of material recycling is very different for the various materials: while the recycling rate for structural steel is well above 90%, the reuse of concrete is much more difficult to realize. Further on there are also developments in which individual components can be reused Here, too, topics such as a circular economy in construction, traceable material flows, dismantling concepts or new business models are developed. Finally, the most effective way of using resources responsible is that existing buildings are not demolished, but rather investigated and determine whether and how they can be adapted for new functions.
3) Regenerate natural systems
Another possibility to design sustainable structures is to use renewable raw materials, whereby wood has of course been an alternative that has long been known and is currently experiencing a revival. However, here too the possibilities are not unlimited, as the high demand for building materials cannot be met. For example, fibre-reinforced composite materials made from natural fibres, bio-based resins and mycelium or other fungi-based materials, offer new and alternative development opportunities with fast growing natural resources.
You do not only want to hear and talk about Circular Economy, ESG, CSR, SDG, EU-Taxonomy, or impact investment, …, but you are interested to explore how this can be implemented in real-life projects?
CIRCULAR STRUCTURAL DESIGN wants to strive the application of circular economy principles in every day’s structural design project. One platform to implement this is the Smart Buildings & Cities (SBC) PDEng program at Eindhoven University of Technology, where various case studies can be tested in a 2-year research and design program.
Patrick Teuffel is founder of TEUFFEL ENGINEERING CONSULTANTS, a structural engineering consultancy in Berlin, and Professor of Innovative Structural Design (ISD) at Eindhoven University of Technology. His vision for the professional activities as well as for the research and educational tasks focuses on resource-efficient structural and the relation between structural design and sustainability in the context of a circular economy. If you are interested, please feel free to contact at firstname.lastname@example.org