Breaking Barriers to Building Material Reuse Video, 62 minutes

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We typically design buildings for a single, limited purpose. We build them partly out of plastics that can’t be readily recycled. We choose diverse materials with varying lifespans and glue them all together. We sometimes jeopardize the longevity of those materials by paying too little attention to moisture dynamics. When something goes wrong and a building has to come down, we just trash most of it, and much of the rest gets downcycled as aggregate. In the U.S. alone, building demolitions send 145 million tons of rubble to landfills every year.

The building industry isn’t alone. It’s just one part of the larger global economy, which tends to be linear: take, make, waste. 

Various global pressures are beginning to change things. But the barriers to reinventing the building industry as a circular economy—one where we design buildings for adaptability and disassembly, construct them out of reused and reusable parts, deconstruct structures instead of demolishing them, and develop markets for the exchange of salvaged materials—are significant. Linearity is baked in to every step of the process.

In this live webinar, join CRTKL’s Yarden Harari, Cornell University’s Felix Heisel, and Gensler’s Marcus Hopper as they talk about their work as “loop-closers.” Through stories and case studies, you’ll learn about:

  • a material reuse roadmap and how it’s streamlining circularity on projects like UPCycle building, a COTE Top Ten award winner in 2020

  • the Circular Construction Lab and what it’s teaching the next generation of architects about deconstruction and material reuse

  • All for Reuse’s ecosystem map and how it’s bringing together a growing network of building professionals committed to reusing commercial building materials

Learning objectives

  1. Understand the difference between linear and circular economy, and articulate which aspects of the building industry need to change to improve environmental performance.

  2. Explain how a linear economy contributes to environmental and social crises, including climate change and global inequality.

  3. Identify barriers to building material reuse (such as design conventions, construction timelines, storage issues, and policy shortcomings), and find solutions to these problems to improve environmental outcomes.

  4. Locate sources of reused materials and contribute to salvaged material exchange networks.


Yarden Harari, senior associate at Callison RTKL, specializes in performance-driven design, embedding sustainability and resilience in CRTKL culture to broaden and deepen strategies for the next generation of green design. With nearly a decade of experience in specialty retail prior to her current role, Yarden harnesses this experience to explore how projects with inherently short life cycles might achieve community-oriented and proactive practices through deconstruction and resource stewardship. This inquiry led her to create and host the first workshop related to the All for Reuse crowdsourced ecosystem map, which she continues to support, and which she talks about in this webcast.

Felix Heisel is an assistant professor of architecture at Cornell University, where he also directs the Circular Construction Lab. He is a partner at 2hs architects and engineers in Germany, an office that specializes in the development of circular proto-typologies. He has received various awards for his work and published numerous books and articles on the topic of circularity. As both an architect and an academic, he is working toward the systematic redesign of the built environment as a material depot of endless use and reconfiguration.

Marcus Hopper is a senior associate at Gensler, where he serves as the Northwest Regional Design Manager. With a depth of experience in workplace environments, Marcus is passionate about design’s capacity to shape the built environment with creativity, environmental conscientiousness, and material sustainability. Findings from a study he helped craft were published in the Gensler Research Institute white paper “What’s Old is New Again – Circumnavigating the Circular Economy.”