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Building conservation and the circular economy: a theoretical consideration

Satu Huuhka (School of Architecture, Tampere University, Tampere, Finland)
Inge Vestergaard (Aarhus School of Architecture, Aarhus, Denmark)

Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development

ISSN: 2044-1266

Article publication date: 28 November 2019

Issue publication date: 15 January 2020




The purpose of this paper is to discuss the relation between building conservation and circular economy (CE), which are often erroneously seen as inherently contradictory to one another.


The work draws from a comparative approach. The paper reviews a body of literature on architectural conservation and CE to establish an understanding on the state-of-the-art for both disciplines separately. Then, the relation between thereof is developed through a theoretical discourse.


Both architectural conservation and CE aim at safeguarding value, although they define “value” differently. Fabric-focused conservation and CE favor minimal intervention to material, albeit they arrive at this conclusion from different bases. Consequently, both approaches struggle with the low cost of virgin resource extraction and waste production and the high cost of human labor in contemporary Western societies. CE could be harnessed for building conservation by adopting its vocabulary and methodology, such as lifecycle assessment and material flow analysis. Transitioning toward CE can help increase the preservation of built heritage while redefining what is meant by “heritage” and “waste.”


Prior to this paper, there have been no articles addressing the relationship of the concepts explicitly and to this extent. The paper provides a theoretical basis for further discourse and outlines some implications of CE for the construction and built heritage disciplines.



Huuhka, S. and Vestergaard, I. (2020), "Building conservation and the circular economy: a theoretical consideration", Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 29-40.



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