Our cities are struggling with the effects of the increasing urban population combined with our current unsustainable operating system in which we “take, make, and dispose of”. Cities are unable to deliver current priorities like housing, mobility, and economic development in sustainable ways while they remain wasteful in terms of resource consumption, and waste generation contributing heavily to the climate crisis. A change in our operating system seems necessary. An alternative system is a circular economy. It provides a framework to rethink how we design, make and use the things we need and allows us to explore new sustainable ways of producing, consuming and living (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017). It is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use distinguished in technical and biological cycles, and regenerating natural systems. This framework fosters the optimal use of materials, energy and water resources, while it also supports positive impacts on biodiversity, human culture and society, health and wellbeing and the creation of multiple forms of value. A transition to a circular economy can play an important role in tackling current global challenges such as sustainable development and climate change.

Aims and activities

The Circular Landscapes Design Unit will work on envisioning and designing the reuse of an abandoned industrial area in Grangetown (Cardiff) for developing a regenerative and restorative neighbourhood based on circular economy principles.

The design unit will have the chance to explore opportunities for implementing a circular economy in this area focusing on the following key urban systems: buildings; mobility; products; food; water; energy; and green infrastructure. Circular economy principles will be integrated into the planning, designing, operating and maintaining of the envisioned urban development.

Students will be guided to rethink how buildings and surroundings are designed, made and used, how resources are managed, and what it is done with materials afterwards to explore new sustainable ways of producing, consuming and living. The implementation of circular economy principles will promote the design of buildings that are durable, adaptable, modular, free-from-waste and easy to maintain, with repurposed components and materials. Modular designs will allow the easy reconfiguration of buildings and products to meet changing needs. The use of digital tools will be envisioned to track the composition of buildings and products to support repair and reuse. Materials will be selected to be locally sourced and from renewable supplies where appropriate, and to be composted, reused and recycled. Building components will be designed to be easily repaired and refurbished in local labs within the area promoting local skills and people’s access to space, and products through sharing or service. New possibilities and jobs will be envisioned. This envisioned system will encourage the creation of local value loops: maker-labs will encourage local production, repair, and distributive manufacturing; collective resource banks will even out the materials demand and supply while digital applications will support the exchange of goods, materials, and services. Energy systems will be

designed to be renewable, localized, and distributed, reducing costs and having a positive environmental impact. The mobility system will be envisioned to incorporate public transportation with on-demand shared cars while excessive road infrastructure will be converted for pedestrian and bike paths. Through urban farming, the planned area will be able to supply part of its food. Food and water systems will be envisioned to capture nutrients from the municipal solid waste and wastewater streams and food waste, process them to develop an organic fertilizer in urban and rural agriculture and generate electricity and then to return the rest to the soil in an appropriate manner.

Over the year, the design team will grow their ideas from a master plan into integrated building solutions for a circular economy. Initially, students will develop a collaborative master plan implementing team working skills through this experience. Then they will select an urban plan lot and they will develop an individual building project including its surroundings. Through this experience and by direct feedback from the design leader, each student will be guided in the development of an individual design thesis on the creation of regenerative and restorative urban-architectural systems.

Reading list