Circular Structural Design

We delineate the circular future of structural design (and its past).
Circular Economy concepts are gaining momentum worldwide. Their benefits for the environment and employment have been demonstrated. Still, their implementation in the construction industry is yet to be explored. What would a circular construction industry be like? What are the new opportunities and challenges for building designers? To what extent can circular economy be achieved? How far does it affect the design of load-bearing systems in buildings? What can we learn from past attempts?
Crystal Palace (Richard Paxton, 1851) (Photograph by Philip Henry Delamotte)

Although meant for reuse, the Crystal Palace (Richard Paxton, 1851) suffered from inappropriate technological details. (Photograph by Philip Henry Delamotte)

Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is reused: structural design for a circular economy

C. Fivet; J. Brütting 

Structural designers’ efforts to reduce environmental impacts traditionally consist of developing systems that minimise material quantities or use low-impact materials. A third strategy is currently (re)emerging: the reuse of structural components over multiple service lives and in new layouts. Still in its infancy, this circular economy strategy disrupts structural design practice in many ways: rather than manufacturing components after the design of a system, the system is synthesised from a given stock of reclaimed components; versatility, reversibility and transformability become hard requirements for all loadbearing systems and components; costs, performance and environmental assessments span multiple service lifecycles. There is consequently a sudden lack of expertise, design tools, technological solutions and relevant metrics. This article contextualises the effects of the circular industrial economy upon structural design practice and reviews recent and future developments in the field.

The Structural Engineer. 2020-01-02. Vol. 98, num. 1, p. 74-81.
We identify reusable components as a new design mean
to reduce the adverse environmental impacts of building structures.
A 100 yr-old barn built with 200 yr-old beams
A 100 yr-old barn built with 200 yr-old beams

Other publications:

  • Corentin Fivet : Sortir de l’esthétique du bricolage
    Tracés magazine, 2019 (detailed record)
  • Design of Load-Bearing Systems for Open-Ended Downstream Reuse
    SBE conference 2019 (detailed record)
  • The reuse of load-bearing components
    SBE conference 2019 (detailed record)