Developing the facilitation of circular building processes

Quinton Jie, of the Industrial Ecology master's programme, studied how business model innovation can make construction processes in the building sector more circular and resource efficient.

The building sector is energy and material intensive, heavily reliant on resources and a main contributor to climate change, pollution and resource depletion. He applied circular economy and urban living lab concepts to study three recently built office building project in the Netherlands. From these case studies he distilled a facilitating framework to assist stakeholders in similar future projects. "The circular building process is like a puzzle. Each piece can have different forms, but together they will fit in a way that becomes a circular building," said Jie.

Collaborative ecosystem

By implementing circular solutions based on performance instead of consumption, buildings will function as a deposit for resources. So materials are regarded as temporarily stored in a building and are reused and recycled. The projects had in common open collaborative networks of real world sector stakeholders and users working together on a large scale. "Policy makers need to support these parties with a regulatory context that allows them to rethink their long term interdependencies, consider uncertainties and innovate," he said.

Diverse integral solutions

Jie saw that by replacing traditional competitive tendering by framing requirements to the market in terms of visions and ambitions, different innovative outcomes can occur. Brummen city hall is a relatively low budget semi-permanent extension project designed to be disassembled after 20 years for recycling. The Alliander office building in Duiven results from the client's brief to devise a circular building design process. It renovates and adds to a cluster of old buildings and applies material passports to document and track the materials in the building. The Venlo city hall, a cradle to cradle (C2C) inspired new build design, also applies a material bookkeeping technique, considering the future value of the building elements.

Supportive Flow Diagrams

His framework, using flow diagrams, aims to support decision making, structuring and governing the collaborative ecosystem of the stakeholders. Its benefits are the promotion of collaboration and co-creation, effective value based decision making, the stimulation of experimentation and trial-and-error learning, and the development of a shared language among stakeholders.

Major challenges involve uncertainties about the durability of the stakeholder network and mapping the differing lifespans and maintenance cycles of building materials so that a physical building can be presented as a service. Jie hopes his framework can be tested and its effectiveness validated. A possible follow up may come from the National Library of the Netherlands in The Hague, which has shown interest in his thesis.