Structural designers' efforts to reduce environmental impacts traditionally consist of developing systems that minimise material quantities or use low-impact materials. A third strategy is currently (re)emerging: the reuse of structural components over multiple service lives and in new layouts.
Still in its infancy, this circular economy strategy disrupts structural design practice in many ways: rather than manufacturing components after the design of a system, the system is synthesised from a given stock of reclaimed components; versatility, reversibility and transformability become hard requirements for all loadbearing systems and components; costs, performance and environmental assessments span multiple service lifecycles.
There is consequently a sudden lack of expertise, design tools, technological solutions and relevant metrics. This article contextualises the effects of the circular industrial economy upon structural design practice and reviews recent and future developments in the field.