The Super Circular Estate (SCE) project is one of the most frontrunning experiments on circular construction in Europe. The main objective of the SCE project was to investigate capacity of existing built environment to be activated as resource banks for new buildings. One of the key questions that the UIA Super Circular Estate project partners dealt with was “how to reverse building’s negative impact (associated with the end of building life on (i) social and (ii) environmental capital), into a positive one”?
According to the UN reports, urban agglomerations (neighbourhoods and cities) are responsible for around 65%of all energy used, 60% of all water consumed, and 70% of all greenhouse gases produced worldwide. Furthermore, 50% of total use of natural resources in Europe, 39% of material waste and 40% of total CO2 production is related to buildings. The exponential increase in population and contemporaneous increase in standard of living for many, will mean that the demand for essential goods & services (transportation, cars, housing, materials, water) will increase by at least a factor of 2 in the next few decades. It is through cities and vast urban agglomerations that mankind is increasingly present at the planet through which it mediates its relationship to the various stocks and flows of environmental capital. It becomes critical to understand the capabilities of urban areas to transform what is today a negative environmental impact to a positive one. The complex systemic and multi-scale capacities of urban areas provide great potential for a broad range of positive correlations with nature’s ecological / regenerative systems.
The Super Circular Estate project aimed to reverse the conventional approach to urban transformation (demolition and relocation of residents) into a circular approach, aiming at closing material circles within own restructuring area and at return of residents. Thus, the aim was reusing physical and social values as social and physical building blocks for the new construction and new neighbourhood. In the period of the last four years, the project explored the potential of circular management of resources including material, water and social circularity.
Number of solutions have been tested through the demonstration of circular concepts during deconstruction of 10-story flat building and construction of three new houses while reusing 95% of materials from a neighbouring downer building. These experiments illustrated potential of reactivating and extending material life at the end of building life by means of deconstruction and material/product reuse, demonstrating that end of building life does not necessarily mean end of materials life. Besides the demonstration of material circularity, several co-creation sessions with inhabitants have been organised, which resulted into their involvement into a physical transformation of the neighbourhood that brought about greater social interaction. Inhabitants became one of the important stakeholders during the urban transformation process enabling to reuse social capital that will take care of social continuity and cohesion of the neighbourhood in the future.
Last but not least, extraordinary step was made in the field of water recycling and creation of closed water cycles and water reuse systems in the neighbourhood and new housing.
All in all, SCE experiments illustrated potential of reactivation of resources within existing built environments and helped us understand better the balance/disbalance between costs and benefits of circular building concepts within a framework of the existing market and legal conditions.
This expert’s journal will elaborate on cost and benefits analyses as well as on lessons learned during the project and their implementation into a spin off projects. These helped to identify barriers and opportunities for the further evolution of construction industry towards a circular one.
Major challenges with respect to the difference between circular and conventional building process have been addressed by the SCE consortium members and elaborated in previous Expert’s journals and zoom-in movies (UIA Expert’s Journal 2019, 2020). Number of lessons learned have been presented in UIA Expert’s journal 4 and Zoom in no.3, as well as during opening of three SCE houses in Kerkrade and UIA SCE scientific conference “Crossing Boundaries” that took place in Heerlen on March 2021. As such, SCE results have already drawn attention of many Dutch and international research and industry groups dealing with circular economy in construction. During the last six months, results and findings from UIA SCE project were presented at:
- International scientific conference “Crossing Boundaries” March 2021, organised as a closing event of UIA SCE project by SCE partners ZUYD University, IBA and Region of Parkstad. (Figure 1)
- The project was nominated for International Guangzhou Award organised by, among others, World Association of the Major Metropolises (Metropolis), C40 Cities Climate Leadership and International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives. 273 sustainable building projects from 60 countries have been submitted. Super Circular Estate has been listed as one of 30 deserving cities and was included into a catalogue for the UN event on circular development. (Figure 1)
- Super Circular Estate is the winner of 'The Innovation in Politics Award 2020'.
- Project results and lessons learned have been presented to the EDA (beginning of 2021) and will be implemented in the recommendations to the French government by French demolition association.
Figure 1 : Presentation of results of SCE project and nominations for international awards