Building a Circular Future

Danish Environmental Protection Agency


GXN team
Kasper Guldager Jensen, Casper Østergaard Christensen, Lasse Lind, Kristoffer Codam, Mikkel Møltoft Jensen, Jo Anna Nedergaard, Dagmara Piszcz, Rasmus Skov, Aleksander Guldager Kongshau, Allison Jang

MT Højgaard, Kingo Karlsen, VIA University College, Vugge til Vugge Danmark, Henrik Innovation

Building a Circular Future

Natural resources are scarce and the construction industry accounts for approximately 40% of material and energy consumption in Europe. The new book Building a Circular Future examines what it will take to transform the building industry from its current 'throw-away' to a circular model. Building a Circular Future is a collaboration between multiple design and construction firms, including 3XN Architects, GXN Innovation, MT Højgaard, Kingo Karlsen, VIA, Cradle to Cradle Denmark and Henrik Innovation.

Value Beyond a Building's Lifetime

A building is usually reduced to a 'material cemetery' at the end of its life. We currently do not recycle all of the valuable materials contained within it, which end up lost. Building a Circular Future uses a specific case study to show how we can create a profit from disassembling and recycling a significant portion of the materials contained in a building's shell. The goal is to inspire future buildings that are designed and constructed so that they can be dismantled without significant impairment and loss of resources.

‘The circular economy represents an unprecedented opportunity for our industry. We must rethink the way we build and design into a scalable, value-driven practice of the resource economy,’ said Kasper Guldager Jensen, Director of GXN and Senior Partner with 3XN. ’As we embrace the circular economy, new companies with business strategies that do not yet exist will develop, such as material exchanges that can handle the logistics and practical training in recycling building components, managers specializing in digital handling of materials and specialists in design for disassembly.’

Innovation in the Construction Industry

The case study presented in the book, a 42,000 m2 office building in Denmark, highlights a process with three components: 'design for disassembly' or how to design a building so that the elements and materials can be removed from the building in the future; a 'material passport' that documents what exactly comprises each element (i.e. a facade panel); and a description of how the individual parts of a building can be recycled and returned to the circular economy. The authors assert that in the specific case a profit of 35M DKK (4.7 million Euro or US$5.2 million) can be made using these processes versus traditional demolition on a building with a total construction cost of 860M DKK (€115.6million or US$128.7million.)

’This book underlines the cross-disciplinary nature of the circular economy, as well as the utmost importance of design. The authors make a strong case for an innovative and collaborative approach across the architecture and building industry’.

— The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Circular Economy Leaders

’It is wonderful to see Cradle to Cradle taken up vigorously by people interested in the circular economy. As an architect, I know our job in creating buildings is to put wisdom into practice, and to render these important concepts visible for all to see. This book is inspiring in its ambition to show us what this can look like now.’

— William McDonough, Co-author of Cradle to Cradle

Building a Circular Future is available online as an open-source publication via A hard copy of the book can be purchased through the Danish Architectural Press.

Copenhagen, Denmark

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