The Circular Construction Lab (CCL) in the Department of Architecture at Cornell AAP houses a design research program that advances the paradigm shift from linear material consumption towards a circular economy within an industrialized construction industry. At the intersection of architecture, engineering, material and computer science, as well as economics, the lab investigates new concepts, methods, and processes to (1) design and construct buildings as the material depots for future construction, and (2) activate the potential of the built environment as an 'urban mine' for today's construction. CCL understands architecture as part of a regenerative and restorative cycle and sees design as a vehicle that can advance this ambition with excellence in teaching and research. Through close collaborations with academic, industrial, and legislative/ political partners the lab ensures the relevance of its work and promotes the direct and full-scale implementation of research results towards a more sustainable, low/ no-carbon, circular construction industry.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation defines a circular economy as "a systemic approach to economic development designed to benefit businesses, society, and the environment. In contrast to the 'take-make-waste' linear model, a circular economy is regenerative by design and aims to gradually decouple growth from the consumption of finite resources." A circular construction industry requires a radical redefinition of how resources are managed within the construction industry and the built environment. Similar to warehousing, material stocks and flows of buildings, cities and regions must be kept track of and anticipated. The goal must be to inventory and document them, and communicate at the right time what materials will become available for reuse or recycling, in what quantities and qualities, where, and at what time in the future. The implications for the design and construction process, the supply and value chains within the construction industry, and data generation and management are significant and the focus of the Circular Construction Lab.
New Book (in English and German):
Building Better - Less - Different: Circular Construction and Circular Economy
Published on October 24, 2022, each volume of "Building Better – Less – Different" examines two fundamental areas of sustainability and explores their specific dynamics and interactions. After an introductory overview, innovative methods and current developments are described and analysed in in-depth essays, international case studies and pointed commentaries. The sustainability criteria of efficiency ("better"), sufficiency ("less") and consistency ("different") form the framework for each book. Together, the five planned volumes provide a systematic and up-to-date compendium of sustainable building.
The first volume presents concepts, methods and examples of circularity in construction and the economy. Urban mining and circular construction are two approaches to the challenges facing architecture and urban design, using techniques such as reversible details and design for disassembly and tools such as material passports and databases. The circular economy is not solely about recycling but encompasses a wide range of strategies from local community projects to new ownership and service models and steering mechanisms such as carbon pricing schemes with climate premiums.
Forthcoming volumes will cover the topics "Energy and Digitization", "Housing and Participation", "Land and Production" and "Health and Materiality".
- Building sustainably: a compendium in individual volumes
- First volume on circularity in architecture and economy
- Systematic, up-to-date, international
Director Circular Construction Lab
Office / Lab
240E Sibley Hall, Department of Architecture
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853