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How can engineers incorporate circular economy principles into the design and manufacturing processes to reduce waste and promote recycling?
This is not my area of expertise, but on a high-level, it will require engineers to do 2 things: get their clients on board with these sustainable design practices, and partner with vendors or material providers who can actually produce what is required. Since "sustainable" is often associated with "expensive", at least up-front, clients will need to see the long term value of whatever forms of sustainability you wish to introduce into a project.
I'm seeing more talk on this topic but I've also struggled to find applications in my project work. As I understand it, the core of circular economy thinking is twofold:
1. Minimizing use of virgin material. This can take many forms: - Adapting existing material/infrastructure onsite, rather than replacing - Advocating for rehabilitation over demolition - Allowing/encouraging recycled content in concrete, steel, and other materials - Where possible, repurposing "scrap" components rather than recycling
2. Designing for reusability. I don't think the industry is here yet, but this involves details and components being detachable without damage (i.e. "design for disassembly"), minimizing custom detailing and fabrication, and potentially using component types that are generally in demand or could easily be adapted to a range of applications.
Arup's Circular Building in London is a great example of this. Also, the Germany pavilion at Expo 2020.
There's a really great overview of the circular economy in the November 2022 issue of Structure Magazine. One thing I found really interesting is the historical context, with the wastefulness of the last century being a brief exception to a longtime system of reuse. Here's the link: https://www.structuremag.org/?p=21903
Here is some guidance from Arup, including info and links related to the "Circular Building": https://www.arup.com/services/climate-and-sustainability-services/circular-economy-services/circular-buildings-toolkit
And this is an overview of "design for disassembly" from ArchDaily, which also mentions Arup's work: https://www.archdaily.com/943366/a-guide-to-design-for-disassembly
Implementing the circular economy on an industry-wide level requires cultural change, so I think learning is the first step. As more engineers, designers, and owners become familiar with the topic, we'll see more opportunities to implement it.