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London Plan: New document to help architects embed circular economy principles

shutterstock circular economy material passport reuse bank
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New guidance from City Hall on environmental sustainability presents architects with a ‘fantastic opportunity to innovate’, according to former RIBA president Sunand Prasad

The Mayor’s updated London Plan will require all new developments referable to the mayor – these include those with 150 or more residential units or buildings over 30m in height – to submit a Circular Economy Statement.

Prasad, co-founder of Penoyre & Prasad and one of the mayor’s design advocates (MDAs), spelled out his call to action in a related new document – the Design for a Circular Economy primer.

The text, developed in partnership with the MDAs and industry experts, aims to help organisations in the built environment sector, which generates 54 per cent of London’s waste, to embed circular economy principles into their design processes and projects to help tackle the climate emergency.

The document outlines that buildings should be designed to last and adapt to changing needs and conditions, while promoting refurbishment of existing buildings wherever possible.

Prasad said the primer was ‘an aid to begin to think seriously and pragmatically in ways that can be applied in everyday practice about the circular economy’. He added that architects can use it to start engaging with clients to ‘conceptualise buildings in a new way’.

Revealed last year as part of the new draft London Plan, the Circular Economy Statement must show: how demand for materials and construction waste will be minimised; how secondary materials can be used; and how new materials are being specified to enable their reuse.

There is also a requirement to demonstrate how the development supports reuse and recycling by sharing facilities and unwanted building materials, and ensuring there is ample space for storage and collection of waste recycling streams.

I would love to see it being applied to smaller buildings

Prasad would like to see architects ‘go for it’ even without the requirements of the London Plan. He said: ‘Circular economy applies to buildings of all scale and all types, and I would love to see it being applied to smaller buildings than the threshold indicates at the moment.’

He said this was not ‘a glum duty’ or ‘dreadful imposition’. ‘It’s a fantastic opportunity to innovate and think in different ways. And the lovely thing is, it can be done on so many fronts. As the name implies, the circular economy operates at so many levels.’

Duncan Baker Brown, co-founder of BBM Sustainable Design and senior lecturer at the University of Brighton, said: ‘The issues covered in the document are the correct ones.

’However, my concern is how is all of this interpreted by designers and builders, because I would say there is a lack of knowledge in the industry at the moment. Therefore it is good that it is a call for action and case studies.’

Jules Pipe, Deputy Mayor of London for planning, regeneration and skills, launched the primer at an event held by the social enterprise Public Practice, which he chairs.

He said: ‘In London we’re leading the way in investing in green infrastructure, decarbonising our buildings and transport, and delivering jobs in the low-carbon sector.

‘The Mayor’s new guidance will help the built environment sector reduce its climate impact by designing out waste and reducing the call on natural resources.’  

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Fine talk but the AJ online seems to contain numerous examples of 'demolish and build' in central London where the demolition is of buildings that definitely aren't on their last legs physically, only in terms of market forces.
    So how does the Circular Economy Statement address that?

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