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Circular façades?

Some background

Circular façades are a part of a circular building system, which aims for maximizing the facade’s and building’s lifespan by allowing to easily maintain, repair and reuse its elements. This way, by closing material loops, waste generation and use of new resources is avoided and a more circular economy is established.

Transformable façades allow efficient addition, elimination, substitution and/or relocation of its elements in order to adapt its functionality to changing demands.

Transformable buildings are composed of shearing layers, which are several layers of change (Stuff, Space Plan, Services, Skin, Structure and Site). Those are layers that evolve in different timescales [Brand, 1994]. Due to the different layers of change 'Skin' and 'Structure', a transformable façade is included in the 'Skin'-layer. A transformable façade is therefore always a non-bearing wall, or a curtain wall. 

A transformable façade is a technical solution that fits within the definition of circular façades.

Circular economy...


A circular economy is an economic system that still has possibilities for economic growth, but which is based on following three principles [Ellen McArthur Foundation]:

  • Design out waste and pollution

  • Keep products and materials in use (extend their life cycle)

  • Regenerate natural systems

It entails the decoupling of economic activity from the impact on the environment. By preserving the value of the materials and products, the production of waste and the consumption of finite resources should be downsized. This ensures enhanced flows of goods and services.

in the construction sector...


Today, the construction industry still adopts the linear ‘make, use and dispose’ model. In this linear economy, all investments end up as waste. Moreover, the invested resources are wasted too early because we design our buildings as durable solutions for temporary​ problems. Buildings have the need to adapt because of physical decay, economic fluctuations, evolving lifestyles, technological development or new legal requirements. The current static buildings foster resource depletion and excessive energy consumption. 


The way we design has an impact on how our materials are maintained, repaired and recovered.

The transition towards an economy of closed material loops asks changing mindsets of designers and construction teams. To downsize the production of waste and consumption of resources in the construction sector, our buildings should be easily adaptable. This way, their service life can be extended and their utility can be increased.  

The way we design has an impact on how our materials are maintained, repaired and recovered.

Building components that can be disassembled, can be recovered and reused and maintain their value. Disassembly is facilitated by the use of reversible connections, such as screws and bolts.


Disassembly is facilitated by the use of reversible connections, such as screws and bolts. Herman Miller Mirra office chair.

Design for Change

Besides being able to adapt (transformability), a circular building or façade also allows to house multiple functions (generality). This design strategy is called Design for Change. The aim of Design for Change is to create buildings that support change more efficiently. This includes the possibility to easily disassemble, reconfigure and reuse the components of the façade. This way, the production of building waste and the use of new resources can be reduced.

in the façade sector...

The façade is a building part that takes, compared to other building parts such as the space plan and the services, more effort to change and often costlier to change (Macchi, 2016). Therefore, it is considered as a challenge to tackle ‘circularity’ in the façade sector. The need for a larger effort results from the fact that a façade is a static, complex and expensive building element. The façade performs several functions, from thermal protection to the architectural appearance of the building. Moreover, more and more extra functions and system are integrated in the façade (think of BIPV). How can this increasingly complex building element become a circular version of itself? 

what does a circular façade look like?

All nice and catchy, an explanation on circular economy in the façade sector, but what does a circular façade look like?

Take a look at the different cases and discover how other stakeholders developed circular façades.

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