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Circular Built Environment Design - Applying the Circular Economy to the Design of Social Housing

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CircuBED (Circular Built Environment Design - Applying the Circular Economy to the Design of Social Housing)

Reporting period: 2018-06-01 to 2020-05-31

The project explored how urban communities in social housing can contribute to the implementation of a circular economy (CE) in cities, and how they can be engaged in envisioning the transition to a CE.
Cities heavily contribute to the current climate crisis due to the growing urbanization combined with our current linear production-consumption system. Cities emit around 70% of carbon emissions, consume over 78% of the world’s energy and 75% of natural resources, and produce over 50% of global waste. Resource efficiency in cities depends on consumption and production patterns that are strongly linked to citizens’ lifestyles and behaviors. Almost one-fourth of the ecological footprint of cities in the UK consists of citizens’ food and drink consumption and that together with three other components - travel, energy, and consumables - constitutes 70% of the total footprint.
The CE offers an approach to rethink and reshape current production and consumption practices to reduce resource use, minimize waste and enable society, the economy, and the environment to prosper sustainably. Until now, the CE has mainly focused on technical innovations in materials, products, business models, and industrial systems with reduced attention to social practices and behavioral change. On the other side, the literature on behavioral change highlights the crucial role played by social innovation (SI) in promoting sustainable living and resource efficiency. SIs are initiatives that encourage alternative social practices through citizens’ engagement, the creation of new roles and relationships, the development of new assets and capabilities, and improved access to power and use of resources. Even if it is acknowledged that these interventions complement top-down initiatives in the implementation of a CE in cities, SIs are not well-known or well-established.
Therefore, the project pointed at exploring the phenomenon of SI for a CE in urban communities and groups of interest through the analysis of collective interventions aimed at promoting circular production and consumption practices among citizens to define the potential contribution of social housing communities to a CE. This study provided the identification of seven types of SI for a CE that can engage social housing communities in a transition to a CE. Based on this typology, the study defined potential opportunities, benefits, and challenges for social housing. Moreover, it showed that SI can hold a complementary role with the industry, government, and institution in the implementation of a CE in cities. Therefore, the project suggested the introduction of emerging SI concepts in the CE approach to overcome current limitations in the CE approach and support the transition to a CE in cities.
Work performed:
1) exploration of the current implementation of a CE in cities and then in social housing by literature review, interviews, and data analysis.
2) review of current knowledge on behavioral change through SI and recent understanding of SI for sustainability.
3) analysis of current issues in terms of housing maintenance and building lifecycle as well as social housing residents’ needs and aspirations through secondary data analysis and interviews.
4) investigation of the phenomenon of SI implemented by urban communities and groups of interest in collaboration with social enterprises and businesses and focused on promoting circular production and consumption practices through empirical research.
5) categorization of case studies into three main categories and seven main modes of circular production and consumption practices through empirical observation, comparison, and grouping.
6) identification of a typology of SI for a CE in urban communities and groups of interest and a systematic description of types.
7) definition of the potential contribution of social housing communities to the transition to a CE through SI by specifying SI opportunities, benefits, and obstacles.
8) definition of SI opportunities for cities in the transition to a CE as well as challenges.
9) advancement on knowledge in the current CE approach by the definition of the circular community concept overcoming current CE limitations and by the introduction of emerging SI concepts into a CE framework to support SI opportunities for a CE.

Project results:
- Knowledge advancement:
1) a typology of SI for a CE composed of three main categories and seven types of innovation with a systematic description of features.
2) a framework of opportunities, benefits, and challenges for social housing to implement SI for a CE in their communities.
3) a framework of opportunities and challenges for cities to implement SI for a CE.
4) the formulation of the concept of circular community to overcome current limitations in the CE approach.
5) the expansion of the ReSOLVE framework in the CE approach by the introduction of a SI strategy to be combined with CE actions for supporting the development of SI opportunities for a CE.

Exploitation and dissemination:
- Further research – new research fund applications to implement further research for providing additional evidence on potentials of the circular community concept and benefits of adopting gamification as a citizens’ engagement approach for resource circularity.
- Training - educational programs for Bachelor and Master students in Architecture to support the implementation of CE concepts and strategies in the built environment by design.
- Societal knowledge and actions – promotion of bottom-up knowledge on the CE concepts and societal actions for the CE implementation by SI through gamification.
- Policy change – formulation of preliminary recommendations regarding support strategies and measures for policymaking to support SI for a CE based on evidence provided by further research.
Progress beyond the state of the art:
- introduction of SI concepts and strategies in the CE approach because of the role that SI can have in the transition to a CE in cities through behavioral change by engaging citizens in interventions that promote circular production and consumption practices.
- formulation of the concept of a circular community implemented by groups of citizens organized into communities, groups of interest, businesses, and social enterprises that promote regenerative production and consumption initiatives to ensure well-being for all within planetary boundaries and overcome current limitations in the CE approach by prioritizing circular practices intertwined with degrowth principles.
- introduction of gamification as a citizens’ engagement approach on resource circularity to facilitate decoding of CE concepts and strategies and support collaborative envisioning of SI scenarios for the transition to a CE.

Expected further results until the end of the project:
- Product prototype - a card game prototype on SI for a CE to engage social housing and urban communities in decoding CE concepts and strategies and envisioning possible SI scenarios for a CE into their communities.

Impacts:
- Researcher – restart of the academic career
- Climate change-related issue - contribution to the challenge of resource efficiency in cities to mitigate their impact on climate change.
- Behavioural change – public knowledge on the CE concepts and practices and SI interventions for a CE.
- Policymaking – potential implications on policymaking with impact on the European and Wales CE and SI policies.
Social innovation for a circular economy in social housing