Circular Economy

(c) Nishtha Pherwani

Project team:

Claudia R. Binder, EPFL Lead
Ivo Philippe Baur, EPFL
Valeria Superti, EPFL

Funding: Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN)

Duration: 2018 – 2021

One approach that has been proposed to reach sustainability in urban systems is the Circular Economy (CE). Although the conceptualization of the CE is not new, the related academic research still needs to explore several of its facets. For instance, the link between the contributions of CE to urban sustainability needs to be clarified, as contradictory opinions subsist.

The proposed research aims at analysing how and to what extent the CE perspective and CE strategies can contribute to the sustainability of urban systems. The study is articulated in research questions that explore different aspects of the conceptualization and implementation of sustainability in urban systems and the role of CE, with a case study in the construction sector.

The project is structured as follows:

  • Module 1 analyses the issue of sustainability in urban systems, to contextualize the research from a general perspective, and to introduce the concept of the CE. The work performed is devoted to understand to which extent the CE concepts are already embedded in the concept of urban sustainability, by means of comparing the related indicators.
  • In Module 2, we conduct a case study on the Swiss construction sector, to understand the barriers to sustainability, how to overcome them, and what the role of CE might become.

The selected research questions are:

  • How is sustainability of urban systems defined and how is the CE related to it?
  • How can CE strategies improve building practices to contribute to the transition to urban systems’ sustainability?
  • How can the circularity of the insulation materials’ cycles in the building sector be improved?
  • How can the use of mineral recycled construction material be supported?


Indicators for urban sustainability: Key lessons from a systematic analysis of 67 measurement initiatives

A. Merino-Saum; P. J. Halla; V. Superti; A. Boesch; C. R. Binder 

Ecological Indicators. 2020-12-01. Vol. 119, p. 106879. DOI : 10.1016/j.ecolind.2020.106879.