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  • Byron Chan

Circular Series: RIBA Stage 3

Continuing the ACAN Circular Series, speakers Georgina Chamberlain of Buro Happold, and Taleen Josefsson of Chetwoods, discussed the key areas and lessons to locking in circularity at RIBA Stage 3.


Our virtual event 'Circular Series: RIBA Stage 3' was held on 25th February 2021, and is available to watch in full above. We gathered to discuss tackling Circular Economy Statements at the planning stage, circular design considerations and evaluating the design against metrics. Here we break down the key takeaways including why local resource maps and materials audits of existing buildings are essential tools.

Circular Economy Statements

As part of the New London Plan, major future developments in London will be expected to submit Circular Economy Statements as part of planning. Designers, developers and consultants will have to demonstrate how circular economy measures have been implemented in the design and construction of buildings.

Taleen Josefsson outlined the process of preparing a Circular Economy Statement using the Morden Wharf project in London which was submitted for planning. The following statements were needed:

1. Draft Circular Economy Statements submitted for pre-application, RIBA Stage 0-2

  • Circular economy strategy and approach: e.g. design for flexibility and disassembly

  • Short life (recoverability, reusability) vs long life components (flexibility, adaptability, longevity)

2. Detailed Circular Economy Statements submitted for full planning application, RIBA Stage 2-3

  • Bill of materials

  • Recycling and Waste Reporting Form

  • End of life strategy

  • Metrics

3. Post-planning / completion updates RIBA stage 4-7

A key lesson learned was considering materials at an early stage of the project. For the Detailed Circular Economy Statement, Chetwoods needed to provide metrics on material use for the Bill of Materials. At the time, this posed challenges as most materials were not normally specified at this early stage of the project. Using data from Environmental Product Declarations and querying manufacturers, this provided estimations of the material systems used and ensured that material optimisation has been considered in the design process.

Form follows availability

From her thesis research, Josefsson highlighted the importance of ‘availability’ as a driver of a circular design approach. Using the principle of ‘form follows availability’, designers should rethink the non-linear design process incorporating local context and local materials analysis early on to feed into the design concept.

To add to the circular designer’s toolkit, local resource maps and materials audits of existing buildings provide useful analysis tools for identifying the availability of materials for reuse that can be applied to construction projects.

Design process, local resources map and existing materials audit

(source: Taleen Josefsson)

When considering reusing components, Chamberlain recommended bringing in the technical team early on in a project to check feasibility, costs and compliance. On an educational building project for the UCL School of Management, the design team wanted to reuse as much materials in the existing office space such as the glazed partitions for new teaching spaces. Acoustic engineers were brought in and were engaged with the glass partition manufacturer to test materials to ensure they met acoustic requirements. Once feasibility, cost and risks of reuse can be assessed properly, this can support the client to make an informed decision.

"You can’t improve what you don’t measure" – Georgina Chamberlain

Learning from metrics

The professional should familiarise themselves with the tools and metrics to evaluate the performance of their design against circularity. Using the OneClick LCA tool, Chamberlain demonstrated how the team analysed the material quantities and embodied carbon of different materials in a project. By identifying the weakest performing building materials, this helped the team consider alternatives such as substituting the use of PVC vinyl flooring for a low carbon alternative. Therefore metrics can be an invaluable source of information for improving the circularity performance against benchmarks.

Chamberlain also recommended creating material inventories to quantify the building materials used in terms of weight and material intensity, which can later support the requirements of the Circular Economy Statements.


Speaker bios

Georgina Chamberlain

Associate Sustainability Consultant at Buro Happold; BREEAM Assessor and Advisory Professional; Chartered Member of both the ICE and IStructE; Affiliate Member of IEMA

Georgina is an experienced Sustainability Consultant with a passion for working with clients and project teams to co-create sustainable solutions in the built environment. Previously working in structural and civil engineering consultancy, her main focus now is advising and engaging with project teams on sustainability issues. Her professional interests cover implementing sustainability frameworks such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the circular economy, sustainable design and construction in buildings, green and blue Infrastructure and climate change resilience.

Taleen Josefsson, NCARB CPHC

Thrive Project Leader at Chetwoods; NCARB Certified; Passive House Consultant; member of the ACAN Circular Economy group and Changing Streams

Taleen is an American-registered architect and Passive House Consultant currently working as a Thrive Project Manager at Chetwoods advising on sustainability and circular economy. She is devoted to promoting healthy, low-energy architectural solutions that strengthen local communities, economies, and biodiversity. Her most recent work includes research and publication on building material reuse as a method for reducing the industry’s negative environmental impact, with a proposed circular working method of “Form Follows Availability.”


Guide on creating product and material inventories, reusing materials and products

Life cycle assessment tool used to calculate impact of carbon, materials and circularity in building design

Measures the circularity of materials in your design with a building circularity score

Circular design performance indicator providing a design prompt or checklist against circular criteria, for use at RIBA stages 0-2 though can be applied at later stages

Refer to BREEAM Mat 01-06 assessment criteria including Life Cycle Assessment, Responsible Sourcing, Design for Durability and Resilience.

Criteria varies according to type of project e.g. domestic, refurbishment, non-domestic

List of ‘worst in class’ toxic materials used in the building industry

Previous events


Get involved

The ACAN Circular Economy Group is working to push for a radical shift in the construction industry so that all buildings in the UK are designed and built in line with circular economy principles. It is our mission to reimagine current building practices to enable regenerative design at all scales and stages of a project, and for the construction industry to have a positive impact on human and planetary health.

Interested in contributing to the ACAN Circular Economy Group?

Please contact us for details on how to join.

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