Circularity is a concept related to circular economy, as a model of production and consumption of extended life cycles, this involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products implying waste reduction. The circular model uses materials in a cyclical chain of valuing natural resources at all production stages, it aims to reduce extraction and increase availability, resulting in potential to reverse a percentage of environmental damage such as global warming and pollution.

Modern society in its consumerist models tends to live in a linear economic model, which is based on a take-make-consume-throw away pattern; this model relies on large quantities of cheap and easily accessible materials and energy, ruled by planned obsolescence, where products are designed to have a short lifespan encouraging consumers to buy it again, generating enormous amounts of waste. Advanced circularity differs from linear economy in many ways, metabolic thinking is the main aspect where the planning for production takes into account material reinsertion into the environment after its life cycle ends, contemplating reuse and impact.

“Sustainability benefits the environment, economic growth, population life quality, cost reduction and competitiveness gain, which consequently results in greater aggregated value, new sources of investment, optimization of raw materials’ usage, less waste, increased job creation, greater operational efficiency, economic growth, population awareness, consuming more cautiously and with environmental awareness [1]”. Yet, the main challenge of advanced circularity is getting nations and their commercial systems to compromise with a major change, a sustainable circular plan from material production to reinsertion into the natural environment. Transitioning to become a carbon-neutral, environmentally sustainable, toxic free and fully circular economy, including stricter recycling rules and binding targets for material consumption, while keeping technological and economic stability is quite a challenge, since it demands a knowledge of chain production involving other countries and manufacture conditions.

The challenge, obviously, is to identify the good in both, the new and the existing and blend them with a minimum negative consequence” [1]

Hebel, D.; Heisel,F.; Introduction: Cultivated Building Materials

In the last decades, architecture has turned to technology to solve complex problems, from improvement of graphical methods of design to simulations of optimization or training artificial intelligence to solve tasks, making designs more sustainable.


After the climate conferences, some nations started working towards a more sustainable future, which includes a series of calculations and guidelines to assure a minimum sustainable architectural performance, often performance is supplemented by high-tech systems to support its decisions. Architectural performance towards sustainability and its local impact became a must-have, but how effective are those solutions when analyzed globally? Heavy industrialization and global interconnection made supply chain of a simple building so complex, it became challenging to ensure the actual architectural sustainability when confronting extractivism impacts and metabolic life cycle of a building.  Cyclical extractivism walks along this problematic when modern societies behave like resources are infinite, withdrawing natural resources indiscriminately seeking to satisfy only economical needs, leaving behind devastated communities and ecosystems. Conscious supply chain and its complexity is often overlooked in the process of architectural production and evaluation. However, supply chain is only one aspect of metabolic thinking as a closed-loop production chain.

Image 1: by the author

“The concept of cultivation implies the possibility and wish for a ‘closed-loop’ construction sector (…) not only the biological character of a building material which determines its metabolic behavior, but also whether it can be returned after used to a state where it may become a nutrient for other cultivation process” [1]

Hebel, D.; Heisel,F.; Introduction: Cultivated Building Materials

The reintegration models include parameters such as reuse, repair and remanufacturing intrinsically accounting recyclability, biological compatibility, embodied values and durability, based on the assumption of metabolic thinking into the cycle of circular economy, where the closed cycle requires the complete recovery of the material through deconstruction and reintegration into the environment with minimal impacts. Even though the market promotes certain materials as environmentally friendly, they are not necessarily in accordance with those values.  Glued laminated wood is presented as a sustainable alternative when it is an industrialized process where thin wood veneers are soaked in glue, which is a chemical agent that prevents separation, recycling and reintegration due to toxicity of the glue, for example. Extending these reflections to other materials raises questions such as: What is sustainable in the context of architecture? What concepts should be subject to revision in the parameters of architecture, construction and teaching today? What is the real impact of architects as professionals? And how much do we know about the production chain of what we consume?

Architectural design under premises of imposed sustainable design has a certain sense of accountable production without the necessary incorporation of fundamental knowledge applied to the matter. Biomaterials applied to sustainable purposes transfer the same systemic thinking to new materiality, re-looping the problematic by ignoring key factors, it fails to translate the specificity of material to context, “despite well-organized calls for action maturing into local legislation and an attentive profession, architecture is proving hesitant in this transition. The latter understanding bio-design as fully innovating new ways of understanding what design can be and how performance can be driven “.[2]

Design for Disassembly is an alternative for cyclical adaption that requests extensive research into construction materials to select non-toxic, high-quality, and recyclable materials. This design method of material selection revolves around possibilities as phase out and reusability of materials and resupplying cycles, dismantlement fundaments and avoidance of heavy equipment. Mechanical joinery should be prioritized over non-removable and chemical joinery, which would make the material difficult to separate and recycle. Designing for disassembly is a challenging task that adds many layers of responsibility and requires a committed team.


             Architecture is unrevealing as a fundamental piece for a sustainable future, where material data and production data bring a new understanding of architecture. Design is a complex task composed by a conglomerate of factors shaping decisions, where sustainable material sources have major importance. This means, architecture can not make a better environment for one context while benefiting from material sources that destroyed another environment, professionals must see the social implications and global effects derived from their design choices.


[1] HEBEL, D.; HEISEL ,F.; Introduction: Cultivated Building Materials.

Available at: (access: November 19th, 2022)

[2] THOMSEN, M. R.; TAMKE, M.; Towards a transformational eco-metabolistic bio-based design framework in architecture. Available at: (access: December 16th, 2022)

[3] Kanters,J.; Design for Deconstruction in design process: State of the art. Available at: (access: November 8th, 2022)

[4] Arantes, P.F.;Arquitetura na era digital-financeira. Available at: 095029/publico/PedroArantes_72dpi.pdf (access: November 22nd, 2022)

[5] McDonough, William. (2002) Cradle to Cradle : Remaking the Way We Make Things. Publishing: New York :North Point Press, 2nd edition, printed version.

[6] Hebel, D.; Heisel,F; Cultivated Building Materials: Industrialized Natural Resources for Architecture and Construction. Available at: (access: December 1st, 2022)

[7] The Second Digital Turn, Mario Carpo, MIT Press, 2017. Available at: (access: December 6th, 2022)