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Why circles are better than lines

Well I don't hold anything against lines really, but when it comes to our society, economy and ecosystem, well the circular argument has it.

Since the Romans, we’ve enjoyed ‘taking, making and then disposing’ of stuff – particularly the buildings in which we live and work. It’s a linear process for which we are now counting the cost and more importantly, seeking a different philosophy.

"We are on the cusp of a third industrial revolution, where a convergence of new technologies in communication, energy and transport will completely change the structure of the economy from linear to circular." Richard Boyd, April 2015,

In the new, circular economy, waste will be reduced to near-zero, as products are re- designed and services changed so that any waste becomes an input to another process. Value is not destroyed; instead it is preserved – and also created by sharing under-utilised assets. This model is not only less environmentally damaging, but economically more efficient, meaning many markets based on the current linear take- make-dispose process are being turned upside-down by new, circular disruptive innovators. More importantly, by increasing the efficiency with which existing assets are used, fewer assets are needed to meet society’s demands, so overall resource use is reduced.

Disruptive? You bet.

The next industrial revolution, like the first one, is responding to changing patterns and scarcity. It will create upheaval, but more importantly, it will create opportunities. Resource sharing platforms like Uber and Airbnb are already marketing under-utilised assets – un-driven cars or empty homes – at lower costs than the market incumbents. They have shown us they can profit and gain decisive competitive advantage.

What a wonderful time for innovation and reinvention for the construction industry. There are certainly unmissable signs of changing patterns – fewer and fewer of us can afford to own or rent in leading UK cities; the property industry no longer meets customers’ needs; buildings are resource hungry, expensive and time consuming to construct, just as they were when the Romans were building.

"The UK’s 12 biggest cities have spent £2bn on housing people in temporary accommodation wiping out savings made by the introduction caps". The Bureau of Investigative Journalism 2015

"We design buildings with lifetimes that far exceed the speed of change of the technology used to service them".  Martin Shouler, 2016

"There is something fundamentally wrong with our housing economy - our dependence on a few large development companies to buy the land, beat their way through local community resistance and build rows of poor quality, unsustainable mass housing that fewer and fewer of us can afford," Alastair Parvin, WikiHouse.

So, imagine this….

  • The mismatch between what property costs and what people can afford to pay is perceived as an opportunity.
  • Accommodation constructed from kits of re-usable, transportable component parts which contribute to a circular economy.
  • ‘Smart' designs that can be added to or subtracted from (and re-used elsewhere), which evolve and are globally mobile.
  • Using Building Information Modelling (BIM) and modern methods of construction to drive investment strategies and measure the inherent value of a building – not just the land beneath or the tenant within.
  • Time-based land use and investment models of 5, 10 and 15 years.

"As Janine Benyus’s biomimicry taught us, living systems work by building things up and breaking them down, never creating any component or substance that does not have a place or a use in the bigger system…Now that we have a better view of it, we should adapt our economic models so they too actually fit that system, in order to achieve long-term prosperity and resilience”. Ellen Macarthur

As children, the value of ‘houses for life’ and bricks and mortar is embedded in our psyche – remember the tale of the three little pigs and the big bad wolf who huffed and puffed to blow their house down!

It’s ironic that today for many, the dream of home ownership is just that – an unattainable dream.

What we need is a new model that transforms the way we design and build our homes and a new, contemporary fairy tale.

Errr.... Houston we have a problem
A Fairy Tale for our times*