Seven Principles of Circular Built Environments in Africa

Well-known definitions of circular economics refer to a decoupling of economic activity from the consumption of finite resources and designing waste out.

Less well-known definitions emphasize developing regenerative systems that build natural, social, and human capital. This capital is required to ensure future systems are sustainable.

The regenerative aspect of circular economics aligns well with African contexts where holistic integrated approaches can be used to create multiple beneficial impacts. To explore what this may mean for buildings I developed circular built environment principles for African contexts. These are outlined below:

  1. Reduce the use of finite resources: Limit the use of materials in buildings that have to be mined and where supplies are limited and will run out.
  2. Keep products in use longer: Design and manage buildings to enable materials and products to have a long service life and avoid the waste associated with replacement.
  3. Avoid pollution, emissions, and waste associated with products: Avoid materials and products associated with pollution, emissions, and waste to reduce the negative environmental impacts of your building.
  4. Regenerate natural systems: Specify local sustainably farmed products that improve biodiversity, and soil fertility and create local sustainable jobs.
  5. Support the development of small enterprises: Specify products made by small enterprises that are responsive to your requirements and contribute to resilient local economies.
  6. Create local employment: Specify materials that support local employment and create virtual cycles where increased local incomes support education and health services and the sustainability of local businesses.
  7. Support circularity in other areas: Design buildings and neighborhoods to support circularity in other areas. For instance, mixed-use high-density neighborhoods can include urban agriculture, circular food markets, and repair and maintenance enterprises.

The principles and examples were presented at the GBCSA conference and will be developed in publications later this year.