Circular Economy

An exploration of the concept of the Circular Economies in cities and an analysis of its implementation into the construction and demolition sector.

(c) Nishtha Pherwani

Project team: Prof. Claudia R. Binder, Ivo Philippe Baur, 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?
Valeria Superti

I contributed to this research with my doctoral project –Assessing the impact of circular economy on urban systems’ sustainability–.

Valeria Superti, PhD student


Recycling Thermal Insulation Materials: A Case Study on More Circular Management of Expanded Polystyrene and Stonewool in Switzerland and Research Agenda

V. Superti; T. Forman; C. Houmani 

Resources-Basel. 2021-10-01. Vol. 10, num. 10, p. 104. DOI : 10.3390/resources10100104.

Unraveling how the concept of circularity relates to sustainability: An indicator-based meta-analysis applied at the urban scale

V. Superti; A. Merino-Saum; I. Baur; C. R. Binder 

Journal of Cleaner Production. 2021-06-24. Vol. 315, p. 128070. DOI : 10.1016/j.jclepro.2021.128070.

A systemic framework to categorize Circular Economy interventions: An application to the construction and demolition sector

V. Superti; C. Houmani; C. R. Binder 

Resources, Conservation and Recycling. 2021-06-10. Vol. 173, p. 105711. DOI : 10.1016/j.resconrec.2021.105711.

Strategies for a Circular Economy in the Construction and Demolition Sector: Identifying the Factors Affecting the Recommendation of Recycled Concrete

V. Superti; C. Houmani; R. Hansmann; I. P. Baur; C. R. Binder 

Sustainability. 2021-04-07. Vol. 13, num. 8, p. 4113. DOI : 10.3390/su13084113.

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.

Scrutinizing the Circular Economy concept applied at the urban level: A contribution based on the analysis of urban circularity indicators, the categorization of Circular Economy interventions, and the identification of factors fostering the adoption of circular innovation.

V. Superti / C. R. Binder Signer; I. P. Baur (Dir.)  

Lausanne, EPFL, 2021.