Enabling Circular Economy in the AEC Industry Through Digitalization

Eric R.P. Farr, Poorang Piroozfar

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapterpeer-review


A circular economy (CE) is a systemic approach to economic development designed to benefit businesses, society, and the environment. In contrast to the ‘take-make-dispose’ step-by-step linear model, a circular economy is restorative and regenerative by design. It aims to gradually decouple growth from the consumption of finite resources distinguishing between technical and biological cycles, as Ellen MacArthur Foundation suggests. Relatively new as it is, despite the momentum circularity has picked up in many disciplines, the uptake of the concept is rather low and slow in the Architecture Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry. One of the reasons behind this is the fragmented nature of the AEC industry with low level of interchangeability, modularity, and customizability inherent in the industry. Digitalization has shown proven benefits in different stages throughout the lifecycle of building and construction projects. Digitalization in general and Building Information Modeling and Management (BIM/BIMM) in particular will be interrogated in this chapter with an aim to enable a better, more structured, and more transparent flow of energy and materials throughout the design, fabrication, assembly, handover, post-occupancy and service life, refurbishment and demolition phases in the AEC industry to help close the loop and promote the circularity in the construction economy. This chapter will provide a new insight to the concept of circularity into its next development stage which will be accelerated through assimilation of digital technologies not only as a new tool, technique, technology, or solution but rather as a new environment and a novel culture, an innovative way of thinking and a progressive worldview of and into the sector through which some current common practices in the AEC industry will need to be unlearned and relearned to ensure all the possible solution and choice spaces—both physical and non-physical—are exploited to their full capacity to enable achieving true circularity in the construction economy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to Ecological Design Thinking
Subtitle of host publicationHealthful Ecotopian Visions for Architecture and Urbanism
EditorsMitra Kanaani
Place of PublicationNew York
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)9781032023892
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2022


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