POLO Architects goes circular
For the reconversion of the Silos and Van Orshoven mills in Leuven, POLO Architects opted for circular building. The project focuses not only on sustainable materials and technologies, but also on flexibility and demountability. How can you give a building a second life with minimal effort?
In our current throw-away economy, we import raw materials on a large scale, only to dump them as rubbish after use. However, there is a growing awareness that this linear system cannot exist forever. Circular economy turns this linear logic into a closed loop, in which further depletion of raw materials and growing rubbish dumps are a thing of the past. The creation of closed lifecycles is essential in this process. Renewable raw materials and reuse play a very important role.
The challenges of the future - transforming a linear model into a cyclical model - require sophisticated and innovative spatial developments on an organisational, material (physical) and immaterial level (programme, processes, management). This bitter truth also presents us with interesting challenges.
POLO Architects anticipates by creating a flexible design. The transformation's costs and environmental impact are kept as low as possible. Buildings are no longer conceived as a static final stop for its materials, but rather as a raw material database. Sustainable materials are temporarily implemented, only to be given a second life in the following building.
Circular building allows all materials to remain in circulation. Whether it be in a natural cycle of consumption and reintegration, or in a technical cycle of reuse and recycling. Future-oriented, transformable and therefore circular buildings are becoming the norm. Closed loops are becoming increasingly common, not just for raw materials, but also for energy, water, etc.
“A circular building is a temporary aggregation of components, elements and materials with a documented identity, recording their origin and possible future repurposing, assembled in a certain form, which accommodates a function for an established period of time.” - Guldager, K. , 'Building a Circular Future'
The architect has the expertise to translate the client's requirements and wishes into a design, and ultimately into a physical building. Circular building requires an additional focus on the public interest, resulting in an increased societal responsibility for the architect.
Architects who design with consideration for circular building not only provide an answer to the short-term requirements, but also reflect on adaptability in terms of future use and materiality.
Since 2017, POLO Architects / Groep van Roey have been gaining expertise in the field of sustainable building by actively taking part in applied research in collaboration with renowned knowledge institutions such as the Vrije Universiteit Brussel's Transform group, the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO) and the Belgian Building Research Institute (BBRI).
It is the duty of architects, construction companies, building material manufacturers, local and regional authorities, private property developers, researchers and other organisations to join forces and turn circular building into an everyday reality in the future.