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Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is reused

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SXL contribution to special issue of ‘The Structural Engineer’, January 2020

Corentin Fivet and Jan Brütting (Structural Xploration Lab, EPFL) contributed to the latest issue of The Structural EngineerFrom digital skills and AI, to carbon concerns and the circular economy, the special issue explores future trends within the profession. Their contribution “Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is reused: structural design for a circular economy” is available here.

Structural designers’ efforts to reduce environmental impacts traditionally consist of developing systems that minimise material quantities or use low-impact materials. A third strategy is currently (re)emerging: the reuse of structural components over multiple service lives and in new layouts.
Still in its infancy, this circular economy strategy disrupts structural design practice in many ways: rather than manufacturing components after the design of a system, the system is synthesised from a given stock of reclaimed components; versatility, reversibility and transformability become hard requirements for all loadbearing systems and components; costs, performance and environmental assessments span multiple service lifecycles.
There is consequently a sudden lack of expertise, design tools, technological solutions and relevant metrics. This article contextualises the effects of the circular industrial economy upon structural design practice and reviews recent and future developments in the field.

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