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Annette Davis


Annette has worked as a RIBA Part 3 qualified Architect, with professional and academic experience acquired in the UK and abroad. She completed her BSc at the University of Bath, where she also participated in a year exchange at Universidad Europea de Madrid in Spain.

During her Masters studies at the Manchester School of Architecture, she pursued her passion for using design to address social housing issues with her project ‘Rethinking the Highrise’. The project identified the need to implement sustainable and affordable design solutions for the high-rise typology, addressing the need for high quality design for high density housing by utilising modular stacked dwellings. Following her Masters, she completed the RIBA professional practice postgraduate diploma with the University of Westminster in 2019.

Annette’s professional experience in architecture and urban design includes a range of residential, public realm, and commercial projects at several award winning London practices. She was able to first develop her strong conceptional skills at smaller practices, after which she gained substantial technical and construction experience with BIM based projects at two larger practices.

Alongside her professional experience, she has taken part in volunteering and sustainability activities. She was a founding member of Farrells’ Sustainability Group, volunteered as an RIBA Ambassador in 2019, and is involved with the Architects Climate Action Network (ACAN) in Spain.

Research topic

Updated sumaries

July, 03, 2023

July, 18, 2022

March, 21, 2022

December, 14, 2021

September, 14, 2021



The current lack of sustainable and affordable housing is a global issue which has reached a crisis point. The negative environmental impacts of the energy and materials consumed during the whole life cycle of housing is not typically considered, whilst in terms of affordability there is a lack of social and affordable housing for growing urban populations. Furthermore, residential buildings account for an average of 75% of the EU building stock, making the role of housing in the twin crises even more critical.


An important issue to address these challenges is resource inefficiency in housing, construction not only contributes to nearly 40% of global energy-related CO2 emissions; half of the world’s materials are extracted for the construction industry and over a third of all waste in the EU is generated by construction and demolition. Transitioning to the circular economy can improve both environmental sustainability and affordability of housing in the long term. Designing buildings to be disassembled plays an instrumental in realising the circular transition, however, it is rarely fully implemented in permanent housing.


This project responds to a lack of knowledge and guidance for industry stakeholders to achieve 'circular' social and affordable housing at the building scale by providing practical evidence-based information centring on two key approaches: industrialised construction (known as Modern Methods of Construction in the UK) in combination with design for disassembly.


The expected outputs are interdisciplinary guidelines aimed at (1) housing providers, (2) designers and (3) housing manufacturers in how to apply circular principles to affordable and social housing using disassembly and industrialised methods at key milestones. The guidelines will be validated by collaborating partners and cover best practices and lessons learnt for circular housing based on an extensive literature review, the development of an adapted Life Cycle Assessment methodology, and observations and interviews from academia and industry. 

Reference documents

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Affordable and Social Housing in the Circular Economy Transition: Industrialised Construction and Design for Disassembly


The current lack of sustainable and affordable housing is a global issue which has reached a crisis point. The design, construction, maintenance, and deconstruction of housing typically does not consider life cycle thinking, which has negative environmental impacts. In tandem, there is a lack of social and affordable housing, the latter of which is becoming increasingly unaffordable. A key issue to address these challenges is resource inefficiency in housing, construction not only accounts for nearly 40% of global energy-related CO2 emissions; over a third of all waste in the EU is generated by construction and demolition.


This project addresses a lack of knowledge in how to provide environmentally sustainable housing that is not disproportionally expensive. This will be achieved through investigating how Design for Disassembly (DfD) in combination with Industrialised Construction (IC) can provide sustainable housing based on Circular Economy principles. DfD is the design and planning for the future disassembly of a building, which can be used to minimise the extraction of raw materials by prolonging the building lifespan and facilitating reuse and recycling at the end-of-life stage. Within this project, DfD principles are combined with the Shearing Layers concept, separating building elements to account for their varying life spans. This facilitates increased flexibility and adaptability, optimised maintenance, retention of heritage, and the possibility to easily relocate an entire building. These benefits can be scaled-up when paired with IC to deliver social and affordable housing through economies of scale. Measuring the environmental impacts of housing designed for disassembly using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) presents additional unresolved issues. Despite the potential benefits, DfD in combination with IC is not commonly implemented in practice within housing. This project is therefore based on the hypothesis that DfD combined with IC and integrated with Shearing Layers can deliver sustainable and affordable housing.


The aim of this project is to provide strategies for key stakeholders in the delivery of affordable housing to increase the adoption of Design for Disassembly in combination with Industrialised Construction.


This will be achieved through interviews with experts from industry (contractors, architects, and sustainability consultants), academia, and public and private housing providers to gain their knowledge as to best practices and barriers preventing adoption. Three types of housing will be included in the scope of research: affordable, social, and emergency housing. The Shearing Layers concept will be applied to the cradle-to-cradle LCA of three in-depth case studies to quantify the environmental impacts of housing designed for disassembly. The expected project outcomes are three guidelines aimed at designers, contractors, and housing providers, in addition to a tested LCA methodology for projects that plan to implement DfD.

Reference documents

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Key concepts | Achieving circular goals in housing: Design for Disassembly in combination with Industrialised Construction


Industrialising Housing to Meet Circular Goals:

A cradle-to-cradle assessment in combination with Design for Disassembly and Shearing Layers


The climate and housing crises are putting increasing pressure on the construction industry to shift from the current paradigm to a more sustainable and affordable one. Construction accounts for nearly 40% of global energy-related CO2 emissions, whilst over a third of all waste in the EU is generated by construction and demolition. Additionally, advancements in energy efficiency and reduced operational carbon have exposed the urgent need reduce the extraction of raw materials and embodied carbon to achieve net zero by 2050. In tandem, there is a lack of social and affordable housing, the latter of which is becoming increasingly unaffordable. To address these challenges, the industry must move away from the linear “take-make-waste” model that has underpinned development to a Circular Economy (CE) approach, which decouples growth from the consumption of finite resources. A circular building system provides the opportunity to improve the affordability of housing whilst simultaneously improving environmental sustainability.


Industrialised Construction (IC) - or Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) - is a broad term encompassing the systematic and controlled production of buildings; it is increasingly associated with industry 4.0 and merging with ICTs such as BIM to support an integrated project team and document information for all building life-cycle stages. IC can be combined with economies of scale to provide social and affordable housing: reducing construction time, improving build quality, and reducing costs. Production of industrialised housing can take place in factories either off-site or in temporary on-site hubs. It is expected that a significant proportion of housing in the coming decades across Europe will be built in such factories, and sustainable homes will be mass customised from range of standard elements. Both IC and CE principles consider buildings as a product rather than a one-off prototype. These two schools of thought intersect in practice through Design for Disassembly (DfD) where demountable standardised elements are easily adapted, reused, repaired, recycled, or relocated.


A circular approach is of high priority in the EU and globally as highlighted by the Circular Economy Action Plan, and changes in leading Green Building assessments and the new Europe-wide framework Level(s). These assessments are increasingly reliant on quantitative data and cradle-to-cradle Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) to measure resource and energy efficiency. However, applying the current Whole Building LCA method to industrialised housing and DfD is an unresolved issue. The standard LCA method assumes a 60-year life span for the entire building, that does not account the varying lifespans of different building layers. In addition, this does not support the comparison of a range of large building elements to inform design decisions in mass customised housing. These are crucial issues to address not only to appropriately assess the sustainability of industrialised housing, but to set appropriate governmental targets.


The aim of this project is therefore twofold: to investigate how Design for Disassembly (DfD) can provide circular sustainability solutions in housing and strategies for increased adoption at the building and policy levels.


Within this project, a new method is proposed to assess the sustainability of housing designed to be disassembled. This will be based on a cradle-to-cradle LCA using Building Information Modelling (BIM), which will incorporate holistic indicators in combination with the Shearing Layers concept, with different assumed lifespans for each layer. This will enable technical stakeholders to make better informed design decisions throughout all building stages and provide sustainable solutions based on more accurate information, within a less time-consuming process. This will be achieved through testing the proposed methodology on both research and industry projects with Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV) and construction company Grupo Casais. The expected outcome of this project is an outline methodology to be used in industry, which will include a roadmap and recommendations to achieve this.


Keywords: Industrialised Construction (IC), Building Information Modelling (BIM), Design for Disassembly (DfD), Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), Cradle-to-cradle (C2C), Shearing Layers.


Reference documents

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Key Concepts


A framework for sustainable and affordable housing using Industrialised Construction


Industrialised Construction (IC) is a broad term which encompasses systematic and controlled production. IC is no longer synonymous with mass production and prefabrication, and novel methods are more often taking place on site. Today IC is used to deliver customer-oriented housing through mass customisation and is increasingly used in combination with ICTs such as BIM to implement lean methods. Recent advancements in IC and ICTs have created a paradigm shift in the Architecture Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry, with a different view of the building lifetime that goes beyond practical completion.


There is growing attention on utilising IC to provide innovative solutions for today’s housing challenges in sustainability and affordability, in addition to managing building complexity and coordination with various fields. Recent ambitious EU targets to deliver Net Zero Energy Buildings and to incorporate circular economy have put increasing pressure on the construction industry to shift from the current paradigm to a more sustainable one. When used in conjunction with economies of scale IC can improve build quality, minimise waste, and reduce cost and time of construction. However, there needs to be a greater understanding of IC by both technical and non-technical stakeholders for its benefits to be fully realised.


This project will investigate the benefits that a combination of industrialised methods and ICTs can provide in delivering sustainable and affordable housing. The research will seek to establish methods suitable for housing within a BIM-centric framework, demonstrating the benefits in terms of sustainability and affordability supported with case studies in collaboration with construction company Grupo Casais. The methodology will include establishing indicators in conjunction with Life Cycle Analysis. This will cover all building stages, including beyond the end-of life-stage for a circular approach. The proposed outputs will include a framework and guidelines for actors involved in the delivery of housing.

A framework for sustainable development of housing using Industrialised Construction


Industrialised Construction (IC) is a broad term which encompasses systematic and controlled production. IC is no longer synonymous with mass production and prefabrication, and novel methods are more often taking place on site. Today IC is used to deliver customer-oriented housing through mass customisation and is increasingly used in combination with ICTs such as BIM to implement lean methods. IC raises the question of what constitutes a ‘home’; arguably some of the innovative methods intended for other purposes such as travel, military use, or product design, which have been adapted to housing are inherently unsuitable.


There is growing attention on utilising IC to provide innovative solutions for today’s housing challenges in sustainability and affordability, in addition to managing building complexity and coordination with various fields. Recent ambitious EU targets to deliver Net Zero Energy Buildings and to incorporate circular economy have put increasing pressure on the construction industry to shift from the current paradigm to a more sustainable one. When used in conjunction with economies of scale IC can improve build quality, minimise waste, and reduce cost and time of construction. However, there needs to be a greater understanding of IC by both technical and non-technical stakeholders for its benefits to be fully realised.


This project will investigate the benefits that a combination of industrialised methods and ICTs can provide in delivering sustainable and affordable housing. The research will seek to establish current methods suitable for housing within a framework, demonstrating the benefits in terms of sustainable development supported with case studies in collaboration with construction company Grupo Casais. Using a systems approach, the methodology will include establishing indicators in conjunction with Life Cycle Analysis (LCA). The analysis will cover all building stages, including beyond the end-of life-stage for a circular approach in line with the Level(s) framework. The proposed outputs will include a framework and guidelines for actors involved in the delivery of housing.


Recent activity

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Let’s talk embodied carbon

Posted on 26-07-2023

I’m happy to report of some good news for once from the UK, although I am a Londoner now living in Barcelona, I am trying to keep my finger on the pulse with the goings-on of all things sustainability back home.   There have been some promising updates regarding embodied carbon, with real steps being taken to actually limit it, rather than just talking about it. But first to clarify what embodied carbon is, the World Green Building council defines it as “the carbon emissions associated with materials and construction processes throughout the whole lifecycle of a building or infrastructure”, the lifecycle refers to extracting raw materials, transportation to factories, manufacturing processes, transporting products to site, construction on site, maintenance and replacements during the use phase, and the end of life phase (i.e. when the building is transformed and hopefully not demolished). Until recently the conversations really centred around operational carbon, which is the energy consumed during the use phase by occupants mostly for heating, cooling, lighting, and powering appliances and devices.   To reduce the amount of embodied carbon that is put out into the world, the first practical step is to stop and think whether a project should be built at all, as per the R ladder by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, which goes beyond the famous 3R’s (reduce reuse recycle). Given that we do build in most cases, the focus must be on reusing as many materials as possible to reduce embodied carbon, rather than recycling (downgrading), landfilling, backfilling, and incinerating.   Here are some of the good discussions going on:   The RIBA has launched a new prize championing reuse called the Reinvention Award that “recognises achievement in the creative reuse of existing buildings through transformative projects that improve environmental, social, or economic sustainability”. This will incentivise architectural practices to push for reuse and in time provide excellent case studies for others to follow suit.   Oxford street’s Art Deco M&S building has been saved from demolition after a long campaign launched back in 2021. Knocking the building down would have generated almost 40,000 tonnes of embodied carbon and acted counter to the UK’s net-zero targets. To stop more projects like these trying to get through, it would be extremely helpful to have a tax reform removing VAT on refurbishment projects – whereas in contrast new build projects (which often entail demolition) are currently exempt.   Steps are being taken to regulate embodied carbon slowly, but promisingly. The push has come from industry with the Part Z proposal and a campaign launched by ACAN UK in February 2021. In February this year the Carbon Emissions (Buildings) Bill went for its second reading. The UK Parliament's Environmental Audit Select Committee’s 2022 report highlighted the fact that current policy inadequately addresses the need to reduce embodied carbon, develop low-carbon materials, or prioritise reuse and retrofit. Whilst “[ot]her countries and some UK local authorities are already requiring whole life carbon assessments to be undertaken. This leaves the UK slipping behind comparator countries in Europe in monitoring and controlling the embodied carbon in construction. If the UK continues to drag its feet on embodied carbon, it will not meet net zero or its carbon budgets.” The Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and France have already introduced regulation on whole-life carbon emissions. Apparently, the UK is considering including regulating embodied carbon in 2025 building regulations.   Some outgoing thoughts:   All buildings should be built as monuments, meaning we need to literally build in value so that they are considered worth keeping in the future. Today developers, insurers, and designers take too much of a short-term view to the detriment of building quality. What’s more, we need to put more thought into how we can better design buildings to be dismantled and adapted in the future to deal with changing needs and climate change. We have countless world heritage and listed buildings that have stood for centuries that have been reconfigured and maintained throughout time. This level of protection should be afforded to all buildings to limit further carbon emissions.   Re-skilling: There is a great need to re-train current built environment professionals and overhaul academic curriculums to reflect the skills needed to prevent further destruction of biodiversity and climate change. That means rather than striving to build whatever the client wants - regardless of potential negative environmental impacts – the priority should be to make sustainability focussed design decisions. That is at least until legislation catches up.   High-tech solutions are not the answer, unquestioningly embracing new technologies such as AI and the ubiquitous use of smartphones is having negative and even dangerous effects on our lives. The same can be said for the over-reliance of smart systems, mechanical solutions, and overengineering in the built environment. This quote from a recent report by Unesco about the overuse of digital technology on learning outcomes and economic efficiency also applies to construction: “Not all change constitutes progress. Just because something can be done does not mean it should be done.” An example of high-tech energy efficient solutions masking the embodied carbon cost is Foster + Partner’s Bloomberg building which claimed to be the “world's most sustainable office building” and was awarded BREEAM’s highest rating Outstanding in 2017, despite the high embodied carbon that went into building it. Since the invention of electricity, we have relied heavily on it to heat, cool, and light our buildings and homes and have turned our backs on passive strategies which rely less on the production of electricity and the extraction of an increasing number of critical materials.   It's not all about embodied carbon. It’s important to bear in mind that carbon is not the only cause of climate change (methane is another contributing greenhouse gas); climate change itself is also just one of nine planetary boundaries identified by the Stockholm Resilience Centre, which are moving towards tipping points and endangering the earth’s stability.   Although these last remarks sound quite existential, I’d like to bring the focus back to the positive moves happening back home (and abroad). The seemingly small wins of promoting reuse, actively preventing demolition, and regulating embodied carbon are the foundations of building a sustainable future.     Sources World Green Building Council’s embodied carbon definition found in report   R ladder by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency      RIBA Reinvention prize,%2C%20social%2C%20or%20economic%20sustainability   M&S building saved from demolition   Proposed Part Z regulating embodied carbon in the UK   ACAN UK’s regulating embodied carbon campaign   The Stockholm Resilience Centre planetary boundaries  


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Celebrating Social Housing

Posted on 29-05-2023

My dad’s family immigrated to London from what was then called Bombay, now known as Mumbai, in 1962 and would often recount fond memories of living in the East End Dwellings* in Whitechapel, despite not having any running hot water or heating, a proper stove, or toilet (let alone a bath) in their own home. Their first winter was one of the coldest on record, known as the Big Freeze, reaching a staggering -16°C in London. They did not own any proper winter clothing and it was a massive shock to them having come from the considerably warmer climate of India just a few months prior, and I can only imagine how cold it must have felt. After living for 10 long years in the Dwellings in shocking conditions by todays standards, the building was torn down as part of a ‘slum clearance’ and demolition programme, and my grandma, dad, and his siblings and were moved to a council flat further east in Mile End. Then in the early 1980s they exchanged their flat with one in a council estate in Barnet, North-West London.   Fast forward to the 1990s, and I would spend a lot of time at my grandma and aunt’s who continued to live in the council flat, which was in walking distance from the home I grew up in, until the 2010s. It was a ten-story tower block with an eclectic mix of residents with immigrant and non-immigrant backgrounds, including families, single mothers and those living alone. I witnessed first-hand the joys of living in a close-knit community, but also the stresses and dangers of the estate environment. Clearly not everyone who grows up in social housing will be disadvantaged, however I became acutely aware of the impact architecture can have on people’s future prospects.   Whilst studying architecture I was initially struck by the fact that there was no limit to what we could design; whilst the building had to be beautiful, there was never a budget, it could theoretically be clad in gold. During the years I worked in practice, most residential projects I worked on were for the richest 1% and a far cry from the urgently needed social and affordable housing. Despite years of experience and training, I found that social impacts and political contexts were not discussed despite the obvious influence that architecture and housing have on society.    Several architecture practices began to raise the profile of social housing and dedicated their efforts to designing beautiful social housing projects, such as Peter Barber, Karakusevic Carson, and Mikhail Riches. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) then launched a new design award in 2019 called the ‘Neave Brown Award for Housing’, recognising “the UK’s best contributions to affordable housing”, named in honour of the late architect Neave Brown who is revered as a pioneer of social housing in the UK.   You may be surprised to learn, as I was, that there is now a festival dedicated to celebrating and promoting social housing, jovially named the International Social Housing Festival (ISHF). The festival was initiated by Housing Europe - a RE-DWELL consortium partner - and is now in its fourth edition. I participated in the ISHF this time last year in the Finnish capital Helsinki with a group of fellow RE-DWELLers. We designed and facilitated a participatory workshop that interlinked our three research areas of design building and planning, policy and finance, and community participation. I can confirm that like a true festival, there was indeed singing with a live a cappella performance during the opening event. Though I sadly won’t be joining this year, RE-DWELL will be participating in the festival next week in Barcelona, Spain.   As I am nearing the end of the second year of my PhD researching social and affordable housing in the circular economy transition, I remain determined to leave a positive impact on the built environment and help drive change in practice. Social housing is a worthy cause that needs more dedicated professionals in the built environment to ensure it remains something truly worth celebrating.     *The East End Dwellings were built between 1885-1906 to provide housing for the Victorian working class by The East End Dwelling Company (EEDC), which was set up by local philanthropists. Dwellings were a form of social housing which partially evolved into council or social housing as we know it today.   Further reading on the history of the East End Dwellings   Architecture practices mentioned and Neave Brown award winners: Peter Barber Architects with McGrath Road Mikhail Riches Architects with Goldsmith Street   Article dedicated to Neave Brown written by Paul Karakusevic from Karakusevic Carson Architects   RE-DWELL workshop from the International Social Housing Festival 2022   International Social Housing Festival 2023


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WasteBuild Zero conference in Amsterdam

Posted on 18-05-2023

During my current secondment in the Netherlands at TU Delft, I attended the two-day WasteBuild Zero conference at the NSDM in Amsterdam, which pushes circularity in the built environment to the forefront. There was so much to unpack after many great presentations and panel discussions with people passionate about sustainability. Speakers included practicing architects, engineers, deconstruction and demolition experts, sustainability experts, economists, and researchers. Here are some of my key takeaways:   Defining circularity: There are inconsistent ways to calculate circularity across industries and stakeholder groups, it still needs to be defined with a series of agreed metrics and measures. Embodied carbon on the other hand has clear metrics, but few countries regulate it*. Economic incentive: Circular construction and bio-based materials are more expensive; we need to make these solutions more attractive. This can be achieved by shifting taxation from labour to resources. Otherwise, demolition and downcycling are inevitable. In the UK the problem of 20% VAT levy on reuse and refurbishments as opposed to zero on demolition or new-build needs to be fixed. A lack of timber industry: For designers to responsibly specify mass timber (which also sequesters carbon) that doesn’t incur excessive embodied carbon in transport, countries other than Austria and Scandinavia need their own local timber industries. Early interdisciplinary engagement: Figuring out solutions and identifying opportunities for material reuse early-on makes it more likely to be cheaper. Demolition teams and contractors have a lot of knowledge and should lead in strategies from the get-go. Furthermore, demolition companies should also provide a disassembly team to minimise destruction and increase reuse. Flexibility: The design, budget, and scope should have more flexibility and not be fixed to test new methods and products to innovate and challenge the status quo. Pre-demolition audits: Documenting all existing materials on-site helps them go back into the supply chain, maximise reuse and know-how, and should inform the design process. Waste classification: Bodies such as the Environmental Agency are preventing the reuse of existing materials on-site such as excavated clay to make earth-blocks and tiles - there were several examples of this presented in case studies. Procurement: Contractors are not incentivised to incorporate reuse and accept a higher level of risk. Tender documents should also state on the first page the requirement for second-life materials, if it’s on page five it won’t get looked at. Warranties: We need more protocols and standardisation to speed up the warranty process, otherwise each material must be tested which takes too long and is too expensive. Risk engineers and insurers should be engaged early on. If possible, try to involve the company that originally produced the material/product. Supply chains: There is a huge gap in the supply chain, lots of materials are available but performance criteria and a lack of warranties prevent reuse. The supply chain should provide a breakdown of materials and as-built information, and should be engaged to take materials back and remanufacture them. Material passports: These are key at the demolition/disassembly and preparation stage, but there is concern over the level of information needed, it is useful at an element level (products made from few materials) otherwise we could get bogged down with too much data.   It’s tough for construction teams to make sustainable choices when we are living and working in a broken system, where it is currently acceptable to landfill almost absolutely everything and it’s often cheaper and easier to source products from China than to reuse local materials. Architects cannot rely on ‘enlightened clients’ during the continued climate crisis, to quote Hans Hammink from De Architekten Cie, we should rethink the role of the architect as “protector of materials”.   Lastly, the lack of information sharing is holding back more widespread and urgent change, research in industry is usually confidential and money is still the main driver. The transition to a circular economy will require a true sharing economy of both materials and knowledge, and we need to ensure lessons learnt are also looped back into the cycle.   See you next year WasteBuild!   *The Architects Climate Action Network UK are continuing to push forward a bill to regulate embodied carbon:

Conferences, Secondments

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Solar Decathlon Competition and LCA | Secondment with UPV

Posted on 27-10-2022

Leading up to the summer I completed my first secondment of three months at the Universitat Politènica de València (UPV), which was conveniently only a three-hour journey south along the Spanish coast from my host institution in Barcelona.   Life in Valencia involved drinking copious amounts of horchata (a local drink made from tiger nuts called Xufa) and enjoying Jardin del Turia, a park that was once a river which today hosts attractions such as gardens, sports facilities, and futuristic cultural buildings designed by architect Santiago Calatrava. I had the pleasure of working with my co-supervisor Ignacio Guillén and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) expert Alberto Quintana Gallardo, Ph. D. in the department of Applied Physics. Together they provided excellent support with my plans to investigate housing projects from this year’s Solar Decathlon competition and to learn and apply LCA to built case studies during my stay.   As my project investigates Design for Disassembly (DfD) – in addition to Industrialised Construction – the Solar Decathlon competition was an exciting and unique opportunity to observe the disassembly and reassembly of sustainable homes, including the Spanish entry from team Azalea at UPV. As a former practicing architect where I worked with sustainability consultants who normally carry out LCA’s, I was also very eager to learn how to actually do an LCA myself.   Solar Decathlon So what is the Solar Decathlon competition? It is an international competition where teams from universities build prototype homes known as ‘House Demonstration Units’ (HDU) that showcase the best in innovation and energy efficiency using renewable energy. Although the design aspect of the competition focusses on minimising operational carbon, the build challenge requires teams to first construct their HDU at a site in their home country, disassemble it, then transport and reassemble it in only two weeks at the competition site, also known as the Solar Campus. This means designing for disassembly is integral to the competition, making it a fantastic opportunity to study how housing can be more resource efficient over the building life cycle and understand practical building issues.   The competition and reassembly of the houses took place this year in May at the Solar Campus in Wuppertal, Germany. The 16 teams that made it to the build phase heralded from the Netherlands, France, Sweden, Romania, Czech Republic, Turkey, Taiwan, Germany itself, and of course Spain.   I seized the opportunity to observe and ask questions about the disassembly process, the reassembly process, and carry out interviews with each of the Solar Decathlon teams. When I arrived at UPV at the start of May, Team Azalea from UPV had finished building their HDU called the Escalà project on campus and had just held their inauguration event. Over the first two weeks of my secondment, I visited the house every day whilst it was slowly disappearing as it was taken apart and loaded onto five trucks headed to Germany, where the team would shortly reassemble it all over again! During this time, I got to know the team members who had bonded immensely during the intense competition period until this point. Before heading to Wuppertal myself, I was able to pilot interview questions covering technical and environmental sustainably aspects of the project with the Azalea team, as well as remotely with the SUM team from TU Delft.   The energy at the Solar Campus in Wuppertal was palpable as the teams were busy reassembling their HDU’s, each had an internal floor area of around 70m2 to give an idea of scale. I quickly got to know each of the projects and schedule interviews with the 16 teams, who kindly volunteered their time during the middle of the hectic reassembly period before the houses were judged and opened to the public. I managed to interview 13 teams on-site (the remaining teams were later interviewed online), including participants from different fields and both students and professors. Each team had a unique solution to the brief which called for either vertical and horizontal extensions or in-fill proposals. It was not only insightful but a pleasure speaking with true pioneering experts in housing designed for disassembly. Now’s time to complete the analysis of all that data!   Check out my Instagram highlights of SDE-22 for some on-the-ground footage.   LCA Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is an increasingly popular methodology and decision-supporting tool used by industry professionals and scholars to measure and compare the environmental impacts of buildings (European Commission, 2010). An LCA can be used to calculate Whole Life Carbon (WLC), which includes both embodied carbon from all the materials, processes, and transport to construct buildings and the operational carbon produced whilst a building is inhabited. WLC assessments are crucial to set environmental targets to decarbonise our building stock. There is currently a big knowledge gap around LCA amongst architectural practitioners and other stakeholders involved in the delivery of housing, partly due to the time-consuming nature of LCA’s. An LCA can be calculated simply with an excel spreadsheet or using various online platforms and plug-ins such as OneClick LCA, but amongst scholars more heavy software is called for, such as SimaPro – which is was what I would be learning to use whilst at UPV. My aim here was to carry out cradle-to-cradle LCA’s of case studies to quantify the benefits of DfD and the consideration of different lifespans for different parts of the building.   Work began on the first case study of a house designed and delivered by my co-supervisor Ignacio Guillén called Edificación Eco-Eficiente, or ‘EEE’, this was awarded a Class A energy rating and was the first single-family home in Spain to achieve the maximum VERDE* rating of 5 leaves. EEE was built using Industrialised Construction and prefabricated 2D elements that were assembled on-site in only 19 days. I was also able to visit the house on the UPV campus, though due to security reasons it can’t be used as a living-lab, which is a shame as it could provide some great in-use data on energy efficiency!   Using Simapro was (and still is) a steep learning curve with an incredible amount of precise and technical information that needs to be included. Imagine having to enter every single built element manually into a software, and not just modelled 3D objects but also coatings such as the surface area of zinc needed to galvanise steel, the grouting between tiles… the list goes on. Needless to say, LCA is an invaluable tool and will contribute greatly to my doctoral research project.     ¡Hasta pronto! I will be seeing my colleagues in Valencia again next month for the VIBRArch conference held by UPV to present my ongoing work on LCA. My secondment was invaluable in learning new skills and creating connections, particularly through the Solar Decathlon competition that I am continuing to follow up. Thank you to everyone at UPV, the Azalea team, and Solar Decathlon participants who provided such positive experiences and research opportunities!      *VERDE is a sustainability certification developed by Green Building Council Spain     Bibliography   Solar Decathlon Europe Competition website and knowledge platform with previous year’s entries   Team Azalea’s Instagram page and website   London Energy Transformation Initative ‘LETI’ provide an excellent embodied carbon primer for further reading on Whole Life Carbon     References European Commission. (2010). ILCD Handbook - General Guide for Life Cycle Assessment: Detailed Guidance (1st ed.). Publications Office of the European Union.  



Case studies

Contributions to the case study library


Contributions to the vocabulary


Design for Dissassembly

Industrialised Construction


Area: Design, planning and building

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is the process of creating a set of digital representations which consists of both graphical and non-graphical data for the entire building cycle  (Eastman et al., 2011). This process involves documenting, gathering, organising, and updating this information throughout the whole life cycle of a building from conception to demolition (Eschenbruch & Bodden, 2018). Beyond the demolition stage BIM can also support circular principles; managing the re-use, recovery, and recycling-potential of a building (Akbarieh et al., 2020; Xue et al., 2021). Whilst the concept of BIM as a process is supported by the International Organisation for Standardisation in ISO 19650-1:2018 (ISO, 2018), the National BIM Standard describes BIM as a digital technology (NBIMS-US, 2015). Despite the origins of BIM dating back to the 1970s, it did not become widely adopted by the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry as a computer design tool until the 2000s (Costa, 2017). The digital building information model uses intelligent objects to store information in the form of three-dimensional geometric components along with its functional characteristics such as type, materials, technical properties, or costs (Eschenbruch & Bodden, 2018). This model forms the basis of a shared knowledge resource to support the various digital workflows of multidisciplinary stakeholders (Chong, Lee and Wang, 2017; Barile et al., 2018). Moreover, it serves the purpose of visualisation, clash detection between different building components, code criteria checking, environmental analysis, and cost estimation to name a few (Kamel & Memari, 2019; Krygiel & Nies, 2008). Therefore, utilising BIM can improve construction accuracy and enhance the built asset’s performance (Kubba, 2017; Love et al., 2013). The building information model facilitates the knowledge transfer between experts and project participants to satisfy end-user needs and support early-stage decision-making (Chong et al., 2017; Lu et al., 2017). Therefore, BIM can be considered a transdisciplinary practice as it communicates AEC, computation, and science (Correia et al., 2017). In the AEC industry implementing BIM involves several stages, which are known as BIM maturity models. The maturity here means the extent of the user’s ability to produce and exchange information. These stages are the milestones, or levels, of collaboration and sharing of information that teams, and organisations aspire to. Defining these milestones is the main purpose of the different BIM maturity models that exist nowadays (Succar et al., 2012). The European Commission (EC) encourages step-by-step maturity models starting from BIM level 0 up to 4, to move the industry from a traditional modelling approach towards an open BIM approach. According to the EC, to reach BIM level 4 “all project, operational documentation and history are linked to objects in the model” (European Commission, 2017). Due to growing concerns over the environmental, economic, and social impacts of the built environment, BIM is increasingly used to facilitate various sustainability analyses. In this regard, the concept of Green BIM initiated as the systematic digitalisation of building life cycles to accomplish established sustainability goals (Barile et al., 2018; Wong & Zhou, 2015). As such BIM has been integrated with Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), Life Cycle Costing Analysis (LCCA), and recently with Social Life Cycle Analysis (S-LCA) (Llatas et al., 2020). Today several BIM applications perform sustainability analysis in conjunction with Green Building Rating Systems (Sartori et al., 2021). In relation to housing BIM plays a crucial role in addressing affordability and sustainability issues from creation to maintenance, as well as the beyond end-of-life phases. However, many challenges remain for it to be fully and inclusively integrated within the AEC practice and for the full potential of BIM to be realised.

Created on 16-02-2022

Author: A.Elghandour (ESR4), A.Davis (ESR1)


Area: Design, planning and building

Design for Disassembly (DfD), also referred to as Design for Deconstruction or Construction in Reverse, is the design and planning of the future disassembly of a building, in addition to its assembly (Cruz Rios & Grau, 2019). Disassembly enables the non-destructive recovery of building materials to re-introduce resources back into the supply chain, either for the same function or as a new product. Designing buildings for their future disassembly can reduce both the consumption of new raw materials and the negative environmental impacts associated with the production of new building products, such as embodied carbon. DfD is considered the “ultimate cradle-to-cradle cycle strategy” (Smith, 2010, p.222) that has the potential to maximise the economic value of materials whilst minimising harmful environmental impacts. It is therefore a crucial technical design consideration that supports the transition to a Circular Economy. Additional benefits include increased flexibility and adaptability, optimised maintenance, and retention of heritage (Rios et al., 2015). DfD is based on design principles such as: standardised and interchangeable components and connections, use of non-composite products, dry construction methods, use of prefabrication, mechanical connections as opposed to glues and wet sealants, designing with safety and accessibility in mind, and documentation of materials and methods for disassembly (Crowther, 2005; Guy & Ciarimboli, 2008; Tingley & Davison, 2011). DfD shares commonality with Industrialised Construction, which often centres around off-site prefabrication. Industrialising the production of housing can therefore be more environmentally sustainable and financially attractive if building parts are produced at scale and pre-designed to be taken apart without destroying connecting parts. Disassembly plays an important role in the recovery of building materials based on the 3Rs principle (reduce, reuse, recycle) during the maintenance, renovation, relocation and reassembly, and the end-of-life phases of a building. Whilst a building is in use, different elements are expected to be replaced at the end of their service life, which varies depending on its function. For example, the internal layout of a building changes at a different rate to the building services, and the disassembly of these parts would therefore take place at different points in time. Brand’s (1994) Shearing Layers concept incorporates this time aspect by breaking down a building into six layers, separating the “site”, “structure”, “skin” (building envelope), “services”, “space plan”, and “stuff” (furniture) to account for their varying lifespans. DfD enables the removal, replacement, and reuse of materials throughout the service life of a building, extending it use phase for as long as possible. However, there is less guarantee that a building will be disassembled at the end of its service life, rather than destructively demolished and sent to landfill.

Created on 18-10-2023

Author: A.Davis (ESR1)


Area: Design, planning and building

Industrialised Construction, also referred to as Modern Methods of Construction in the UK (Ministry of Housing, 2019) and Conceptueel Bouwen (Conceptual Building) in the Netherlands (NCB, n.d.), is a broad and dynamic term encompassing innovative techniques and processes that are transforming the construction industry (Lessing, 2006; Smith & Quale, 2017). It is a product-based approach that reinforces continuous improvement, rather than a project-based one, and emphasises the use of standardised components and systems to improve build quality and achieve sustainability goals (Kieran & Timberlake, 2004).  Industrialised Construction can be based on using a kit-of parts and is often likened to a LEGO set, as well as the automotive industry's assembly line and lean production. Industrialisation in the construction sector presents a paradigm shift, driven by advancements in technology (Bock & Linner, 2015). It involves both off-site and on-site processes, with a significant portion occurring in factory-controlled conditions (Andersson & Lessing, 2017). Off-site construction entails the prefabrication of building components manufactured using a combination of two-dimensional (2D), three-dimensional (3D), and hybrid methods, where traditional construction techniques meet cutting-edge technologies such as robotic automation. Industrialised construction is not limited to off-site production, it also encompasses on-site production, including the emerging use of 3D printing or the deployment of temporary or mobile factories. Industrialised Construction increasingly leverages digital and industry 4.0 technologies, such as Building Information Modelling (BIM), Internet of Things, big data, and predictive analysis (Qi et al., 2021). These processes and digital tools enable accurate planning, simulation, and optimisation of construction processes, resulting in enhanced productivity, quality, and resource management. It is important to stress that Industrialised Construction is not only about the physical construction methods, but also the intangible processes involved in the design and delivery of buildings. Industrialised construction offers several benefits across economic, social, and environmental dimensions. From an economic perspective, it reduces construction time and costs in comparison to traditional methods, while providing safer working conditions and eliminates delays due to adverse weather. By employing standardisation and efficient manufacturing processes, it enables affordable and social housing projects to be delivered in a shorter timeframe through economies of scale (Frandsen, 2017). On the social front, Industrialised Construction can enable mass customisation and customer-centric approaches, to provide more flexible solutions while maintaining economic feasibility (Piller, 2004). From an environmental standpoint, industrialised construction minimises waste generation during production by optimising material usage and facilitates the incorporation of Design for Disassembly (Crowther, 2005) and the potential reusability of building elements, promoting both flexibility and a Circular Economy (EC, 2020). This capability aligns with the principles of cradle-to-cradle design, wherein materials and components are continuously repurposed to reduce resource depletion and waste accumulation. Challenges remain in terms of overcoming misconceptions and gaining social acceptance, the slow digital transformation of the construction industry, high factory set-up costs, the lack of interdisciplinary integration of stakeholders from the initial stages, and adapting to unconventional workflows. However, Industrialised Construction will undoubtedly shape the future of the built environment, providing solutions for the increasing demand for sustainable and affordable housing (Bertram et al., 2019).

Created on 09-11-2023

Author: C.Martín (ESR14), A.Davis (ESR1)


Area: Community participation

Transdisciplinarity is a research methodology crossing several disciplinary boundaries, creating a holistic approach to solve complex problems. A transdisciplinary approach fosters bottom-up collaboration, provides an environment for mutual learning, and enhances the knowledge of all participants (Klein et al., 2001, Summary and Synthesis). Transdisciplinarity is a relatively young term, first used just over fifty years ago at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) congress by Jean Piaget, who described it in a broader sense as “a higher stage succeeding interdisciplinary relationships…without any firm boundaries between disciplines” (Piaget, 1972, p.135). Transdisciplinarity goes beyond interdisciplinarity through a fusion of academic and non- academic knowledge, theory and practice, discipline and profession (Doucet & Janssens, 2011). Stokols (2006) asserts transdisciplinarity is inextricability linked to action research; a term coined by Lewin (1946) as comparative research leading to social action. Lewin sought to empower and enhance the self-esteem of participants, which included residents of minority communities, through horizontal and democratic exchange between the researcher and participants. Familiar devices rooted in action research, such as surveys, questionnaires, and interviews are common in transdisciplinary research (Klein et al., 2001). A transdisciplinarity approach has been used to address complex global concerns in recent decades, beginning with climate change and extending into many areas including socio-political problems (Bernstein, 2015). Lawrence et al. (2010) stress that in addressing community related issues such as housing, it is crucial a transdisciplinary approach is adopted not only to integrate various expert opinions but to ensure the inclusion of affected communities such as the residents themselves. Housing is a complex social issue, therefore requiring such an approach to foster participation of non-academics to provide socially relevant solutions. Salama (2011) advocates for the use of transdisciplinarity in the creation of affordable and sustainable housing, which is often restricted by stakeholders working in silos, the oversimplification of housing-related issues, and a disconnect from local communities.

Created on 05-07-2022

Author: A.Davis (ESR1)



Davis, A. (2022, August). Designing housing to meet circular goals: industrialised construction in combination with design for disassembly. In New Housing Researchers Colloquium (NHRC) at the European Network for Housing Research (ENHR) Conference 2022, Barcelona, Spain.

Posted on 31-08-2022



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