Circular economy practices in the built environment

Tuomo Joensuu, Harry Edelman, Arto Saari

Tutkimustuotos: Katsausartikkelivertaisarvioitu

12 Sitaatiot (Scopus)
8 Lataukset (Pure)


The aim of this literature review is to provide structured information for the basis of organizing the future cities through circular economy. The built environment is responsible for the majority of global greenhouse gases and raw material extraction. Climate efficiency in cities cannot be improved simply by replacing the old structures with new ones, because both the construction and operation phases cause major resource and energy consumption. The academia and practice have recognized circular economy as a key approach in sustainable urban development, especially in China and Europe. The main idea of circular economy is to retain the value of resources and to prevent the use of virgin materials and waste outputs, not only by recycling and reusing, but primarily by reducing the need for resources. This review aims to clarify the general view, identify research gaps and target further research by asking how the present body of literature sees cities getting organized in the transition towards low carbon circular economy. The review covers 282 journal articles, forming three approaches for the adoption of circular economy in the built environment: (1) Management for sustainable cities; (2) Urban services and consumer practices aligned with circular economy; and (3) Cleaner production and construction. In the results on consumer practices, requests on waste hierarchy indicate that further research is needed on strategies of reduction such as product-service systems in intensifying use and extending service life. The review also suggests a new concept of urban-rural symbiosis as a potential approach for resource recovery in integrated urban waste, water and energy systems. In the construction sector, the review notes shortcomings of buildings’ life cycle assessment in the ability to reveal benefits in practices of reuse and reduction. In urban and industrial symbiosis, the review finds lack of carbon-free techniques and notices a risk of failing waste hierarchy. In the management of sustainable cities, the literature highlights self-correcting ‘adaptive management cycle’ with the phases of planning, implementation and evaluation. The review divides strategies for successful implementation under the categories of innovation-positive and inclusive politics, cross-sectoral integration, and cross-institutional capacity development. To promote cross-sectoral integration and cross-institutional capacity development, it is suggested that cities establish a database that consists of an interconnected set of best practices that are evaluated and continuously supplemented. This kind of a platform could support developing of built environment towards circular economy and delinking of environmental impact from economic growth.
JulkaisuJournal of Cleaner Production
DOI - pysyväislinkit
TilaJulkaistu - 10 jouluk. 2020
OKM-julkaisutyyppiA2 Katsausartikkeli tieteellisessä aikakauslehdessä


  • Jufo-taso 2


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