Scales to Aspects Interdisciplinary Encounters

Deciding for circularity: a multi-dimensional affair

Professor Ellen van Bueren is head of the chair of Urban Development Management at the TU Delft Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment. In this video, she discusses how important it is to determine the appropriate scale for policy-making.

Main Takeways

  • The concept of circularity has enormous bridging power, but its operationalization is challenging and might sometimes lead to not acting.
  • On the state level, policy makers are using heuristic guidelines such as the R strategies to formulate their ambitions. However, applying the R-ladder beyond the component scale is not straightforward.
  • Making decisions requires defining a context and unpacking the multiple dimensions of that context. There is always risk that the spatial scales might overlap and/or that they are not in line with the administrative scales. Or that these dimensions don’t develop at the same speed. In any case, the circular built environment will always call for multi-actor decision-making.
  • Pilot projects offer the possibility to try out different approaches whilst minimizing undesired implications.

Further Reading

  • Ancapi, F. B., Van den Berghe, K., & van Bueren, E. (2022). The circular built environment toolbox: A systematic literature review of policy instruments. Journal of Cleaner Production, 133918.
  • Kooter, E., Uden, M. V., Marrewijk, A. V., Wamelink, H., Bueren, E. V., & Heurkens, E. (2021). Sustainability transition through dynamics of circular construction projects. Sustainability, 13(21), 12101.
  • Tukker, A., van Bueren, E., van Raak, R., & Spork, C. (2016). Towards a Circular Products Initiative in the EU, Report of the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Centre for Sustainability.
  • Van Bueren, E., Van Bohemen, H., Itard, L., & Visscher, H. (2012). Sustainable urban environments. An Ecosystems Approach. Dordrecht: Springer.
  • Van Bueren, E. M., Klijn, E. H., & Koppenjan, J. F. (2003). Dealing with wicked problems in networks: Analyzing an environmental debate from a network perspective. Journal of public administration research and theory, 13(2), 193-212.
  • Van Bueren, E. M., & Priemus, H. (2002). Institutional barriers to sustainable construction. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 29(1), 75-86.


Ellen van Bueren
Ellen van Bueren

Prof. Dr. Ellen van Bueren is full professor at the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment of Delft University of Technology. The governance and management of urban development in support of a sustainable built environment is at the core of her work. She is involved in research and education on policy, planning and decision-making for climate adaptative, resilient, and circular built environments. Her work is of an inter- and transdisciplinary nature, crossing boundaries between theoretical knowledge and societal needs. Focusing on impact for society, she is engaged in action-oriented research. She publishes in public, professional and academic media, and speaks regularly at national and international events. 

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Circularity for Educators

The platform is intended to provide with content on either circularity or pedagogy for and about circularity. It is one of the outcomes of the Circular Impulse Initiative (CII), a project intending to enhance the integration of circularity in the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment education. The platform mainly aims to help tutors get better acquainted with circularity in the built environment by providing a series of resources on this subject that they can either view to get better informed or directly share with their students in class or online. A large number of the Faculty's professors and researchers have contributed substantially both in creating a coherent narrative for circularity in the built environment as well as further elaborating on different aspects of it. Besides this one, a new platform for interaction and direct exchange was also established in parallel that we call ‘Educators for Circularity‘. This one offers the opportunity for all of us to meet and share our experiences and learn from one another.

Visit Educators for Circularity