Putting Circular Economy Principles into Practice with Valérie Vermandel

Author: Valérie Vermandel

How can the circular economy benefit the environment as well as foster better business?

According to Valérie Vermandel, Chief Development Office here at Whitewood, in countless ways. Working as the CDO for Whitewood for the past three years, Valerie has invested a lot of her time and passion into discovering just how much building can benefit from working in a circular way. With over 50% of the world’s waste products coming from construction, and destruction, projects, there is clearly a big space to improve when it comes to recycling and upcycling building materials.

A Circular Way of Thinking

But what are the principles of a circular economy? As opposed to a linear economy where buildings are built for a sole purpose and then destroyed when they no longer serve that purpose, a circular way of thinking means that buildings are architected to serve numerous purposes and to reduce the amount of waste it produces over its lifespan. By choosing for flexible or demountable components, architects open the way to circular buildings. It also means that architects search for materials they can repurpose from old construction, or new materials that are reusable or highly recyclable in their new projects. When a building can go from economical to residential and back again with minimum tweaks over decades, it was designed with a circular economy mindset.

Seeing Green

“Many investors and developers see the circular economy as only a ‘green’ way of thinking and not a ‘profit’ way of thinking. With more and more research going into just how powerful the reuse of materials can be when it comes to budgets, we are starting to see the light,” explains Valérie, “A circular economy helps the environment by the utilization of urban mining materials, which often come with a higher quality at a lower price, and through the use of certified circular materials. It also protects the investor because flexible and demountable structures and building components will reduce the risk of unrented spaces and speed up refurbishment times.”

Architecting for the Environment and the Budget

As a former engineering architect that specialized in building restoration, Valérie has the experience to know how various materials can be salvaged and repurposed. In the Multi project, 60 fire safe doors were saved and placed into a new development, still under the original warranty. The amount of money saved just on reusing those doors was nothing to shake a head at. With more architects being able to use digital BIM models and the power of technology, sourcing materials that could work in other projects is getting easier. This means saving money is getting easier, too. Ceilings, wooden floors, marble and other fixtures are all durable materials that are completely safe to reuse. The possibilities of a circular economy are endless and present an opportunity to add character and history to a project.

Better Business, Conscious Outcomes

What could be more effective than an environmentally conscious building development or restoration that not only saves tons of material ending up in the landfill, while also having little to no impact on an investors budget? Not much that we can think of! With the proof of the world’s dwindling resources on our doorstep, there’s no advantage in denying it. The advantage lies in finding ways to work around it and work with it and make a true effort to make the amazing buildings that surround us keep serving a purpose for generations to come. If you would like to learn more about our efforts to think circularly in our development projects, we would be happy to share our experiences. Get in touch with us to find out how a circular economy way of thinking could work for you.

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