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Circular Design for Affordable, People-Oriented and Zero-Waste Housing
Housing demand in cities is predicted to increase. Urban centres are struggling to provide affordable housing. Moreover, cities are wasteful in resource consumption and waste generation and suffer from persistent social problems, such as unemployment. There are opportunities to deal with these complex challenges by adopting an integrated approach that unites technical and social aspects through design. Circular economy offers principles to reshape current practices in cities to enable society, the economy and the environment to prosper in new ways. It suggests a rethink of how we design, make and use things to reduce the use of resources and minimise waste by keeping resources in use for as long as possible, so extracting maximum value from them as well as recovering and regenerating products and materials at the service-life end through a closed flow loop. Its implementation in urban housing could support the development of affordable, people-oriented, zero-waste homes. However, the theory and practice are still evolving, and research is needed to generate evidence and support the design of effective solutions. Since the circular economy encompasses various approaches to sustainability, it appears that design for sustainability is appropriate to the process of implementing solutions. Until now the notion of a circular economy has mainly referred to technical aspects covering innovation levels from materials to products, business models and industrial systems, with a limited emphasis on user practices and behaviours that can foster social innovation. However, technological innovations need to be complemented by social innovations to achieve sustainability in large social-technical systems to meet society’s energy, mobility or housing/infrastructure needs. This project means to explore the implementation of the circular economy in urban housing by designing a technical solution that implements circular economy principles combined with social innovation that encourages housing communities to adopt circular economy practices. Using design research methods, the project is developing a product-service system applied to a community-based innovation in and with a social housing community in London. Product-service system design is a promising technically focused approach to implement circular economy, and design for social innovation has emerged in the past decade, but its application to the circular economy is currently limited to a few examples in developing countries. This project is redesigning the domestic kitchen as a hybrid system of products and services supported by a network of actors and connected by a digital platform to embed circular economy principles. This system will support on-demand maintenance, reuse, refurbishment and re-manufacturing on-site as well as recycling at its service-life end. A social enterprise is envisioned within the community to provide access to services, space and products by product-as-a-service contracts and sharing. Through a digital platform, product information will be tracked for enabling repair, reuse, and recycling while the housing community will be connected to the services for enabling people to activate and manage circular economy practices. Finally, defined system concepts will be assessed and considered for a future detailed system development. By this experiment, an innovative approach for implementing affordable, people-oriented, zero-waste urban housing will be explored.