7 Circular Buildings from India and Around the World

The circular economy model provides a restorative approach to design and construction and is a great way to eliminate waste. In this article, we bring to you 7 best-case examples from India and around the world to inspire your next design to be circular.

Neha Gupta
Min Read

As per the 9Rs of Circular Design, construction and demolition waste or Malba, can be reused, recycled, or repurposed to close the material loops and lower the carbon footprint of the new construction. In other cases, the buildings are designed Circular by rethinking and reducing our dependence on virgin resources and maximizing the future value of the building through demountable design.

Either way, they make for one-of-a-kind homes.

Here are seven architectural projects that use circular design principles.  

#1 People’s Pavilion – Eindhoven, The Netherlands

Figure 1: People’s Pavilion by Bureau SLA + Overtreders W (© Filip Dujardin)
Figure 2: The circular economy aesthetic (© Filip Dujardin)

From structural beams to its facade elements, what makes the People’s Pavilion so special is that it is made of 100% borrowed materials. Without any screws, glue, drills, or saws, the architects introduced a new aesthetic for circular architecture – one of a building that is designed for deconstruction. The steel straps holding together the beams give an edgy, raw look. Meanwhile, the gorgeous fish-scales-like facade is made of colourful plastic tiles, made from recycled plastic household waste, collected from and by the residents of Eindhoven [1].  

The pavilion is a collective community effort, and Team Malba gives it a 9/10 for addressing the social aspect of circular economy as well.

#2 Temporary Court House – Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Figure 3: Temporary Courthouse by Cepezed (© Leon van Woerkom)
Figure 4: Demountable floor system (© Cepezed)

Cepezed designed the temporary accommodation to provide the Amsterdam judiciary continuity during the construction of the new permanent court. The building explores the idea of reuse at different scales to prevent waste and maximize its residual value after serving its first life. For this, the structure is designed as a kit of parts using a unique mounting system for the hollow-core slab floors that simplifies detaching and facilitates reusing the slab elsewhere [2]. The temporary building is now being dismantled and reassembled at Kennispark Twente in Enschede, where it will function as an office and a research facility.

How cool would it be if all our temporary shelters could be constructed as a kit of parts that could be reassembled in times of emergency?

#3 Galaxy School – Rajkot, India

Figure 5: Galaxy School Rajkot (© Surya Kakani Associates)

The project was designed by Surya Kakani and aimed to lower the carbon footprint by recycling and reusing Malba from nearby sites. The primary building blocks are formed by ramming rubble, generated during the 2001 Bhuj earthquake and thrown outside the city, and fly ash, an industrial by-product from GEB thermal plant, into moulds with gypsum–waste from the sanitaryware industry and lime-waste from Tata Chemicals. The trusses for the roof are created by steel pipes repurposed from ship-breaking work at Alang to support renewable roofing of date palm leaves on a bamboo framework with a final layer of thatch [3].

Team Malba gives this project an 8/10 for harvesting the waste streams of various industries.

#4 Tridos Bank – Driebergen-Rijsenburg, The Netherlands

Figure 6: Tridos Bank Headquarters by RAU Architects (© Ossip van Duivenbode)
Figure 7: Wooden structure of the bank (© Bert Rietberg)

The headquarter of Tridos Bank by RAU Architects is designed as a 100% wooden and reconstructible building. The building is conceived as a temporary combination of products, components, and materials with a documented identity using material passports. The structure is held together using 165,312 screws, allowing it to be entirely dismantlable without losing value [4]. The architect could pre-embed future reuse by designing for disassembly and data management, eliminating additional cost and logistics.

At Malba Project, we’re very excited about futuristic construction details that think beyond the lifespan of the building, and design to maximize the lifespan of each little material of the building.

#5 The Resource Rows – Copenhagen, Denmark

Figure 8: Upcycled Brick Wall facade by Lendager Group (© Lendager Group)
Figure 9: Brick modules cut, processed, and stacked for reuse (© Lendager Group)

Lendager Group saw an opportunity to reuse the bricks from the demolition of Copenhagen’s Carlsberg brewery. Often, the cement mortar in the brick wall makes it difficult to separate the bricks, requiring recycling the Malba. Thus, the bricks were cut out in modules of 1m x 1m, processed, and stacked to create a striking patchwork façade for a new housing block. The modules were stabilized by moulding their back with recycled concrete to prevent cracks and collapses during installation [5]. The innovative approach makes it possible to continue reusing bricks cycle after cycle, resulting in a 50% carbon reduction compared to the conventional construction system in Denmark.  

Who says there isn’t room for innovation and technology when reusing Malba?

#6 Collage House – Mumbai, India

Figure 10: Old doors and windows adorning the facade of the house (© S+PS Architects)
Figure 11: The pavilion roof held over columns dismantled from a house in Cochin (© S+PS Architects)

The Collage House, designed by S+PS, looks into the idea of reusing building materials in several ways. The front façade is made from old doors and windows of demolished houses in the city. One of the courtyard walls is clad in cut-waste stone slivers collected from the Malba generated in stone cutting yards. The flooring is made out of old Burma teak rafters and purlins. The architect takes it a step further by incorporating seven hundred-year-old columns in granite stone and solid wood, which was sourced from a dismantled house in Cochin, to hold up the pavilion’s roof [6].

At Malba Project, we find it intriguing how reused and recycled materials become socially acceptable when linked with the intangibles – heritage and memories.

#7 Debris House – Pathanamthitta, India

Figure 12: Debris House by Wallmakers (© Anand Jaju)
Figure 13: Debris Wall Construction (© Wallmakers)

The project designed by Wallmakers features a patented innovation called the ‘Shuttered Debris Wall’ by the principal architect Vinu Daniel and architect Shobitha Jacob.  The curvilinear Shuttered Debris Wall that we see in Figure 11 is built over the existing foundation by ramming lump-sized debris from the site with 10% gravel, 5% cement, 5% manufactured sand, and water. The Debris Wall consumes 5 times less energy and is 4 times less polluting than a country fired brick wall [7].

Our question here is what happens to the Shuttered Debris Wall at the end of its life? Can the raw materials be looped back into the cycle somehow?

While all of these projects strive to close the material loop, team Malba attempted to score them as per their degree of circularity.

Figure 14: Circular strategies applied in the projects (Source: Author)
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