Circular Facade Design: The Tectonics Of Circular Economy

Publications: Book / Anthology / Thesis / ReportPh.D. thesisResearch

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Abstract

This PhD-thesis sets out to investigate what circular economy [CE] constitutes when effectuated through architecture. This is done through five articles all revolving around façade design as a point-of-departure and a ‘lens’ to see architecture through.
State-of-art on CE is presented in two parts as it contains; CE and Façade Design. CE is presented in a multitude of ways; in the The Burning Platform and Its Counter Position the current political and strategical character of CE is established along with the history of its emergence and eventually analyzed in the architectural contexts of façade design. In Part 2 (articles) we return to the understanding of CE where state-of-the-art is framed in the context of each article.
Façade design is unpacked in the theory chapter Theory of Tectonics, where it is placed in a tectonic understanding of architecture.
CE can be coined as a material economy, that simultaneously aims to be a regenerative economy (ecology) and ensures economic growth (Webster, 2017, p. 17). Throughout the study the dichotomy between ecological sustainability and economic growth is an underlying problematic premise as they often stand in stark contradiction to each other – but the focus of this study has been to find ways for CE to become regenerative through architecture and façade design. The question of the sustainability of economic growth (green growth) is not the subject area of this study (European Commission, 2017).
The theoretical position of this study is tectonics. Tectonics proved itself to be a productive understanding of architecture as it, in a direct sense, deals with the physical and material reality of architecture. As such the subjects of tectonics turned out to align with the material and practical nature of CE. Thus, the research questions align to the fundamental concepts defining tectonics (defined in the Theory chapter). It is investigated whether CE is a new understanding, not just of the material, but also of craft, construction (core-form) and architecture as a poetic/sensuous expression (art-form). Finally, it is investigated if the legislative framework for architecture allow for the changes CE represent? It resulted in a study, and this thesis, that is expansive in nature and works within a broad field of inquiry, approached through three levels/categories of abstraction (Gall Krogh et al., 2015, p. 8):
First, Speculation Through Making (Circular Economy), investigates the practical ramifications of CE in façade architecture – how CE influence the choices of materials, the craft and construction in façade architecture. Furthermore, it reflects on the concept of economic decoupling as a gauge to qualify the level of success of CE in architecture. It consists of one article, Building Circular Economy.
Second, Implementing Circular Economy, deals with CE as a shift in architectural thinking and method. It consists of two articles, Circular Design Guide that reflect on an array of necessary concepts to employ in architecture as way to operationalize CE through architecture. In the article A New Method of Circular Façade Design? the associated concept of CE in architecture; Design for Disassembly [DfD] and Initial (material) Impact Analysis (a reduced version of LCA [Life-Cycle-Assessment]) were tested in relation to façade design.
Thirdly, The Framework for Architecture, investigates if the legal framework of architecture promotes or excludes architectural practice from aligning with CE. It consists of two articles; in The Relation Between Building Performance and Embedded Energy it is discussed if the prevailing understanding of material and energy in architecture is compatible with the regenerative goal of CE and in The Compatibility of Architecture and Circular Economy, the scope of deliveries (YBL18) - a defining measure in architectural method in practice - is investigated in regards to the architectural focus CE requires.

The investigations in all articles are set in the frame of façade design as a focal point. Thus, the thesis revolves around façade design but merely as a starting point as most of the discussions will address the envelope as a whole and architecture in general. In the final chapters this results in a Discussion and Conclusions on the general impact of CE on architecture where the façade merely functions as a planform for the discussion. Finally, in the chapter Perspectives we return specifically to façade design as a way to generate Circular Synergies for the building as a whole.
This thesis will show that CE in façade design must be about; material understanding and energy, reuse and renewables, craft and DfD, and much more that requires an acknowledgement of the possibility that architectural visions comes out of something more than function and esthetics; façade design must position itself in the tectonic (philosophical and technological) discussion of ecology that will signify a new ethic in construction that revolves around the material and craft of architecture. But equally important; Circular Façade Design can emerge from a simpler mechanical (passive) building technology in which synergies and holistic thinking become the all-important features of CE in architecture. Thus, CE can be understood as a part of an emerging new view on (architectural) technology that differs from the prevailing technological understanding underpinning and leading the way for the last centuries of industrialization, economic development and our yearning after eternal economic growth.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherThe Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation
Number of pages227
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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