Built environment experts Arup have released a report entitled ‘The Urban Bio-Loop’ which highlights the need for more diverse material usage within construction. For an industry that specialises in boxes, is it time to think outside of it in terms of how we tackle very real issues such as climate change and overpopulation?

The publication aims to demonstrate that a different paradigm for materials in construction is in fact possible.

Organic waste from our cities and the countryside, traditionally managed through landfill, incineration and composting could be diverted – at least in part – to become a resource for the creation of construction engineering and architecture products before being fed back in the biological cycle at the end of their service life.

The use of organic waste in construction would possibly allow the exploitation of its untapped value with a positive impact not only from an environmental perspective but also from a technical, social and economic standpoint. In this project a number of organic waste streams have been identified, together with their applications in building construction as products. Some of them are already certified products used in some markets at global level. Some others need further research and investment before being ready to market.

In the short term these examples are a guideline for designers and practitioners for replacing some of the traditional architectural products with equivalents made with organic waste as a resource.

The report also explores to which extent both our cities and urban districts could become self-sustaining – at least partially – from a feedstock point of view. This would be through the active implementation of organic waste streams into the supply chain of building construction products. This vision entails on the one side cities and urban districts that could implement more effective recovery systems and processes to turn organic waste into a source of value, while on the other side they can be planned for growing natural construction materials.

The principles of Circular Economy would provide the rationale for a shift form a linear – disposal model – towards a circular value chain where organic waste is the main resource.

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