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Circularity Glossary

The circular economy requires a systemic change, a process of thinking through the whole life of the asset (interior or whole building). Circular principles have a regenerative approach and present an opportunity for a sustainable, low carbon and resource efficient future. In the scope of designing and delivering interiors, this relates to the resource of materials and products to make and furnish spaces we live, play and work in. As designers, this circular approach pushes us to think about the end as we begin, so that we consciously design with the end in mind through each stage and as we work backwards to today, we are aware and improve the full life cycle journey of each person, product and the whole interior.

The terms ‘circular economy’ and ‘circular design’ are referred to the transaction and ownership approach, and the design solution that also enables a circular system. These two are on most occasions, co-dependant. Below we refer to some of the terms that are used in this approach to support awareness. We have relied on two very helpful resources; the RSA’s Great Recovery Project and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation which have both done amazing work on this topic.

Linear economy

A linear economy is one in which finite resources are extracted to make products that are used and then thrown away. It is a wasteful and polluting system that degrades natural systems.

Circular Economy

“A circular economy is one that is restorative and regenerative by design, and which aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value at all times, distinguishing between technical and biological cycles” – a definition introduced by the Cradle-to-Cradle writers and then by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a global advocate and leader on this topic.

Through the butterfly diagram, we see there are two generic ways to approach a sustainable circular system, these are:

Technical Cycle

The technical cycle is the processes that materials go through to retain their value, for example those not consumed during use such as metals, woods, and plastics.

Biological Cycle

The biological cycle is the processes that materials go through to help regenerate natural value, such as through composting and anaerobic digestion. These materials must be suitable to be safely returned to the biosphere.

Once an approach is selected, there are various ways these are designed or procured to enable/support high circularity. Here we outline some key features:

Designed for Disassembly (DfD),

DfD means that products can be deconstructed and either as a whole or in parts, used again elsewhere.

Designed for Adaptability (DfA),

DfA means that products are designed to be flexible and resilient to human and environmentally induced change. So parts or the materials can be re-formed or replaced in another product or use. Especially without any degradation to the materials’ quality and not ‘down-cycling’.

Designing out Waste 

Designing out waste is a method in which clients, designers and engineers can proactively design products in a smarter way, resulting in less waste in production. This can start by preventing problems in the first place, and then once material or products are in play, we look to create the most effective amount of it in use and also through installation, in-use and end-of-life waste.

Product as a Service (or Performance)

The product-as-a-service model is an alternative to the “buy and own” approach and includes leasing, renting, or pay-for-use agreements. It allows customers to purchase a service or desired result (performance), rather than buying the product itself. This could include lighting, furniture, pods and so on.

Do you want to know more?

We’ve published various blog posts around various Sustainability topics. We invite you to browse:

You can also check out the variety of services we offer here:



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