The Elephant in the Dark: A Review of Holistic Approaches on Circular Economy in the Built Environment

Authors: Fernanda Cruz Rios, Sonia Panic, David Grau, Vikas Khanna, Joseph Zappitelli, and Melissa Bilec.

Abstract: As one of the globe’s leading sectors for resource use and carbon emissions, the built environment could play a vital role in the circular economy (CE). This study investigated CE in the built environment from a systems-level perspective. First, we built on circular design frameworks to propose applications of CE in the building sector. Then, a bibliometric analysis revealed that the current literature is dominated by environmental themes with little regard for technology, education, and socio-cultural aspects. We identified examples of studies that applied a systems-level approach to CE in the construction sector. Our multistep selection criteria identified 12 peer-reviewed publications that encompassed at least five out of eight CE dimensions, as follows: governmental, economic, environmental, technological, societal, behavioral, educational, and design dimensions. Contrary to previous findings, holistic approaches on CE were equally found in studies ranging from building materials scale to cities. This review offers insights on the interdependencies among different dimensions of CE in the built environment. Future research needs include investigating how CE can promote social justice, and how voluntary policy instruments can increase the demand for CE in the building sector. Finally, transdisciplinary research is necessary for the evolution of CE in the built environment.

This publication was submitted in October 2020. Come back soon for updates!

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