March 27, 2019

FutureBuild: Embracing the Circular Economy

The excellent FutureBuild Event held at Excel earlier this month has left a lasting impression on Air.

From the speakers to the displays and products on offer, the overall message conveyed was that the Design and Construction industries are already embracing the Circular Economy – not just as a matter of choice, but also as an inevitable consequence of globalisation and the many challenges we face today around balancing sustainability with population growth and an unstable climate – both politically and environmentally.

The most heartening thing about the event was just how many incredible and innovative sustainable products and solutions were available to tackle these challenges. It left us feeling that wherever our governments might be falling short, our industry experts, leaders and entrepreneurs are quietly doing their bit to take us in the right, sustainable direction.

In a nutshell, instead of the ‘take, make, dispose’ principle of our current linear economy, the circular economy seeks to re-use, repurpose and recycle every resource we use, so that it re-enters our environment (including our built environment!) in a way that nourishes the world societally, economically and ecologically.

Numerous talks, demonstrations and stands showcased current, living examples of thoughtful construction and interior design projects, which were not only practical but beautiful; many from companies focusing on the above principles, as well as giving them new material and economic value. Madaster was a prime example of how businesses can ‘capitalise’ on this, explaining how nothing comes into or leaves our planet, and that, as T.M. Rau put simply, ‘waste is material without an identity.’  The company’s aim is to eliminate waste by giving all products an identity made up of the material data, thus endowing them with the same economic value and legitimacy as traditional trading commodities.

And Futurebuild proved that neither has aesthetic or cultural value been neglected! Community21 demonstrated how tiles made out of crushed oyster shells from local restaurants in Brighton mixed with demolition waste mimic the timeless architectural practice of using local resources (such as earth to make mud huts in an African village or wood to make log cabins in the forests of the American wilderness) to revitalise local building vernaculars and bring back a sense of place: think flint walls in old coastal villages or the famous Bath stone in that town’s eponymous elegant crescents.

Building materials that were sympathetic to nature were also much in evidence, e.g. honeycomb-style bricks with holes for bees and other insects to live in; tiles made out of crushed cocoa-bean pods; pollution-eating concrete; the list is almost endless….

See links below for companies we love that are already successfully practicing circular principles:

Author: Joanna Griggs