Closing the loop through design and engineering

The Circular Construction Lab (CCL) in the Department of Architecture at Cornell AAP houses a design research program that advances the paradigm shift from linear material consumption towards a circular economy within an industrialized construction industry. At the intersection of architecture, engineering, material and computer science, as well as economics, the lab investigates new concepts, methods and processes to (1) design and construct buildings as the material depots for future construction, and (2) activate the potential of the built environment as an 'urban mine' for today's construction. CCL understands architecture as part of a regenerative and restorative cycle and sees design as a vehicle that can advance this ambition with excellence in teaching and research. Through close collaborations with academic, industrial, and legislative/ political partners the lab ensures the relevance of its work and promotes the direct and full-scale implementation of research results towards a more sustainable, low/ no-carbon, circular construction industry.

The Circular Construction Lab is directed by Assistant Professor Felix Heisel.

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  • Catherine Commons Deconstruction Project

    In October 2020, the Circular Construction Lab brought together a group of community organizations as partners on an Engaged Cornell Grant with the “specific aim to investigate the circular potentials of the local built environment.” The team is currently in negotiations with the owners as well as the contractors of the Catherine Commons development project aiming to develop a detailed proposal to deconstruct at least one of the buildings and maximize the direct reuse of materials in a broad coalition of local stakeholders.

  • RhinoCircular shortlisted for Zumtobel Group Award: Prize for Innovation

    We are honored and excited to announce that RhinoCircular has been shortlisted for a Prize for Innovation at the 2021 Zumtobel Group Award for Sustainability and Humanity in the Built Environment. From the public invitation to participate, a total of 220 projects have been registered from 42 countries, all of which stand out for their exceptional quality and originality. In a pre-selection, ten projects have now been shortlisted in each category.

  • New Video about CR0WD’s Collaborative Work in Ithaca and New York

    The Circular Construction Lab is an active member of CR0WD (Circularity, Reuse, and Zero Waste Development), along with the Just Places Lab. Historic Ithaca, Susan Christopherson Community Planning Center, Preservation Association of Central New York, Finger Lakes ReUse, Cortland ReUse, local government officials, among others. This new video presents the work of CR0WD and its members related to developing climate resilience through conservation and circularity in the built environment.

  • Opening Keynote at Decon+Reuse’21

    Felix Heisel has been invited as the opening keynote speaker at this years Deconstruction and Reuse 2021 Conference. Titled Circular Construction: from global aspiration to local implementation, the talk will span topics such as reuse, recycling, circular construction, design for disassembly, survey methods and policy using the Circular Construction Lab’s work and research as case studies.

  • New article: Building a sustainable future

    How can mushrooms be part of sustainable building construction? Felix Heisel, assistant professor in the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP), has one answer. Bringing together Cornell experts in the fields of architecture, biology, ecology, engineering, planning, business, and more, several of Heisel’s current research projects are focused on finding ways to help in the fight against climate change: from creating new building materials that are biodegradable to influencing local policies around deconstruction.

  • Circular Construction in the New York Times

    On September 1st, 2021, the New York Times asked “Why Demolish When You Can Deconstruct?” Felix Heisel contributed to the article with an interview about the need for circular construction.

  • CCL awarded Atkinson Academic Venture Fund for MycoBuilt research

    Exciting news!
    The Circular Construction Lab and its partners have been awarded an Atkinson Academic Venture Fund for its project proposal MycoBuilt: Enabling Circular Construction with Fungi-Based Materials. MycoBuilt represents a cross-disciplinary research collaboration leveraging the expertise of biologists, engineers, architects and economists from Cornell University and external industry partners to develop both new technologies and a new architectural language combining the specific qualities and potential of urban (construction) and rural (agricultural) waste streams with the incredible potential of fungal mycelium.

  • Building from Waste featured in Harvard GSD News

    In his recent article The Architecture of Waste: Is wasting resources a necessary part of the design process?, Alex Anderson looks at the circular economy in the built environment of the USA. We would like to thank for the call-out of our book publication Building From Waste in the article.

    Quo Addis? Conflicts of Coexistence at 17th International Architecture Exhibition Venice Biennale

    From 22 May until 21 November 2021, La Biennale will take place in the Arsenale and the Giardini in Venice. The curator Hashim Sarkis calls on architects to imagine spaces in which we can generously live together in different ways, in the context of widening political divides and growing economic inequalities. As part of an intercontinental team spanning ETH Zürich, KIT Karlsruhe, EiABC Addis Ababa and Cornell University, Felix Heisel and Marta H. Wisniewska developed the contribution titled “Quo Addis? Conflicts of Coexistence”. In an urban model of Addis Ababa, the historical and architectural development of the Ethiopian capital from the age of Menelik’s empire in the 19th century until today is depicted in an abstract and at the same time precise and clear way.

  • Input Lecture
    Woods Bagot Digital Craft Exchange
    June 3rd 2021

    Felix Heisel to present at Woods Bagot Digital Craft Exchange

    Felix Heisel has been invited to present the work of the Circular Construction Lab and 2hs architects and engineers at the Digital Craft Exchange organised by Woods Bagot on June 3rd, 2021.

  • Felix Heisel to present at ACSA Teacher’s conference

    Felix Heisel presents two papers at this year’s ACSA Teacher’s Conference, Curriculum for Climate Agency. As a collaboration between the EAAE + ACSA, the event welcomes a range of formats for presentation and communication, from full‐paper and project-based presentations, to workshop‐based interactions, to graphic, visual and/or textual analyses of projects that respond to the 10 scholarship themes.

  • Felix Heisel recipient of inaugural Kuan and Wu Research Fund for Innovation and Sustainability

    Sustainable design and construction require holistic thinking across a wide variety of topics and fields: Socio-cultural, economic, ecological, functional and aesthetic, local as well as global factors must be considered and understood as equivalent and interacting with one another. This complexity makes it impossible to convey simplified recipes and answers, or suggest generally valid applications. Sustainable design and construction are rather the result of an unbiased, critical perspective and, consequently, a personal attitude towards the task – based on empirical values from one’s own experimental activities and a comparatively broad foundational knowledge base on topics of sustainability. Supported generously by the inaugural Kuan and Wu Research Fund for Innovation and Sustainability, The Circular Construction Lab sets out to compile such a knowledge base for the students (and faculty) of Cornell AAP and the Department of Architecture.

  • BBC People fixing the World with Felix Heisel

    On March 23rd, the new episode of BBC’s program People fixing the World addressed the question: How to reuse a demolished building? Producer Charlotte Horn is interviewing Felix Heisel on the subject. Is it possible to construct a new building, just by reusing materials from homes and offices that have been knocked down? That’s the…

  • Public Lecture
    Penn State University
    March 11th, 2021

    Felix Heisel to Lecture at Penn State University

    On March 11th, 2021, Felix Heisel is presenting a lecture titled Prototypological Research towards Circular Construction at the Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture Graduate Research and Innovative Design (GRID) Lecture Series.

  • ‘Die Sendung mit der Maus’ visits UMAR Unit

    For its 50th anniversary episode, “Die Sendung mit der Maus” – Germany’s famous children TV show explaining how the world works – is showcasing strategies and concepts on the question how people will live in the future. Therefore Armin Maiwald, one of the hosts, visited the Urban Mining and Recycling Unit (UMAR) created by Werner Sobek with Dirk E. Hebel and Felix Heisel.

  • Spring 2021 Seminar: The Circular Economy – Science and Business of Construction

    Although there is much theory about the circular economy, implementation has only just started. The circular economy requires a fundamental paradigm shift in the way we design, construct and manage our built environment, but in the construction industry, there is limited data on material availability and specifications, new construction methods and technologies, and viable circular business models. This seminar aims to provide students the opportunity to address these gaps. Starting with local case study analyses, students will map material stocks and flows, stakeholder interests and economic conditions required to realize both the business and science of circular construction.

  • Available for pre-order now: Urban Mining and Circular Construction

    The new book publication by Felix Heisel and Dirk E. Hebel, Urban Mining und kreislaufgerechtes Bauen (Urban Mining and Circular Construction) is available for pre-order in German starting today.

  • Felix Heisel to speak at the Industrialized Construction Forum

    Felix Heisel will be speaking at the 7th Annual CIFE Industrialized Construction Forum organised by the Center for Integrated Facility Engineering CIFE of Stanford University. The conference this year will be held via Zoom on Tuesday & Wednesday, January 26-27, 2021 from 8:00 – 13:00 US Pacific Standard Time (PST).

  • CI:RCLE – Circular Ithaca: Researching Construction in the Local Economy

    The Circular Construction Lab, together with the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business has been awarded an Engaged Cornell public purpose research grant. We are happy and proud, and excited to combine our research and teaching within this exciting project!

  • New book publication: The Architecture of Waste

    Edited by Caroline O’Donnell and Dillon Pranger, The Architecture of Waste is a necessary reference for rethinking the traditional role of the architect and challenging the discipline to address urgent material issues within the larger design process. The book includes two chapters by Felix Heisel: New Deconstruction and Economics for a Circular Economy.

  • Felix Heisel founding member of CROWD: Circularity, Reuse and Zero Waste Development

    The Circular Construction Lab is a founding member of CR0WD: Circularity, Reuse and Zero Waste Development, which is comprised of Historic Ithaca/Significant Elements, the Susan Christopherson Community Planning Center, the Circular Construction Lab and the Just Places Lab of Cornell University, Finger Lakes Reuse, and Cortland Reuse.

  • Silver linings: Innovation, kits, tech animate a hybrid semester

    The Cornell Chronicle reports on teaching innovation at the Cornell Department of Architecture, using the First Year BArch Design Studio by Felix Heisel and Sasa Zivkovic as an example. Titled Rising together as a community, the article focuses on newly developed teaching methodologies and pedagogic goals for hybrid design studios, addressing in-person, remote and online students simultaneously.

  • Input Lecture
    Tulane School of Architecture
    October 21st, 2020

    Felix Heisel to lecture at Tulane School of Architecture

    As part of the “Addis Ababa River City: The Upper Kebena River Project”, Felix Heisel will be speaking at Tulane University of Architecture in New Orleans on October 21st, 2020. His talk will address lessons drawn from research into informal processes and social networks within Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital from 2011-2020.

  • ‘RhinoCircular: Development and Testing of a Circularity Indicator Tool’ at AIA ACSA Intersections Conference: Carbon

    Felix Heisel and Cameron Nelson present their paper RhinoCircular: Development and Testing of a Circularity Indicator Tool for Application in Early Design Phases and Architectural Education at the AIA ACSA Intersections Conference: Carbon on October 1st, 2020.

  • Public Lecture
    Cornell Engineering Ezra Roundtable
    September 25th, 2020

    Felix Heisel to lecture at the Ezra Roundtable Series

    Circular construction promotes a paradigm shift in how we design, construct, and operate buildings, and in the way resources are being managed within the built environment. This seminar will highlight ongoing research projects of the Circular Construction Lab at Cornell AAP and discuss systemic changes to today’s construction industry.

  • MEL Magazine publishes interview with Felix Heisel and Marta H. Wisniewska

    MEL Magazine asks the question: Can the Construction Industry solve the World’s plastic crisis? Felix Heisel, architect and director of the Circular Construction Lab at Cornell University, emphasizing the need for big-picture solutions. “What we need is a paradigm shift in how we construct and design.”

  • CCL exhibits at ‘Enough is Enough’ BetaCity 2020 – Timișoara Architecture Biennial

    The Circular Construction Lab and its partners exhibit three projects at this years Timișoara Architecture Biennial, BETA 2020. The exhibition is curated by Ilka Ruby, Brîndușa Tudor and Anca Cioarec and will open its doors between September 25th and October 25th in Timișoara, Romania.

    Mehr.WERT.Pavillon has moved to permanent site

    With the end of the German Federal Garden Show , the Mehr.WERT.Pavillon by 2hs Architekten und Ingenieur PartGmbB and KIT Karlsruhe has been relocated to a permanent location at the head of Bleichinselbrücke, the bridge leading into the new city quarter Neckarbogen in Heilbronn.

  • From shed to spatial object

    The student exercise ‘Vom Gartenhaus zum Räumling’ aims to validate the potential of the urban mine. Using a garden shed near Karlsruhe as material depot, we carefully deconstructed the house and diligently documented each element. As a group, the students then designed a spatial installation utilizing only the harvested elements and no glue or permanent fixtures. After all, also this installation had to be designed for disassembly, providing building materials for yet another structure.

  • UMAR Unit at Expo 2020

    The Urban Mining and Recycling Unit (UMAR) will be featured at the German Pavilion at the Expo 2020 in Dubai as part of the Future City Lab. The exhibition will be based around the research on circular materials and their construction details done by CCL and the Professorship of Sustainable Construction at KIT Karlsruhe.

  • New Article published in Journal Sustainability

    Kakkos, Efstathios, Felix Heisel, Dirk E. Hebel, and Roland Hischier. 2020. “Towards Urban Mining—Estimating the Potential Environmental Benefits by Applying an Alternative Construction Practice. A Case Study from Switzerland.” Sustainability 12 (12): 5041.

  • Jan Matthies and Andrea Santos Rodriguez win Urban Mining Student Award

    This year the planning task of the German-wide, open student competition was to plan a travelling school project for Cologne in order to cope with the immense investment backlog regarding reorganization measures in German schools. The design of students Jan Matthies and Andrea Santos Rodríguez convinced the jury mostly by their consequent use of existing building elements coming from the urban mine and their ability to create unique and high quality spatial arrangements adequate for young children.

  • BAU 2021 announced key themes resources and recycling by referencing UMAR unit

    The World’s leading trade fair for architecture, materials and aystems has just announced its key themes for BAU 2021: Resources and Recycling. While this in itself is exciting, the press release describes the UMAR Unit by Werner Sobek with Dirk E. Hebel and Felix Heisel as the exemplary project on how urban mining and recycling should be done today. Thank you BAU München!

  • Input Lecture
    Monash University & RMIT University
    May 28, 2020

    Felix Heisel invited to lecture at Monash & RMIT University

    Felix Heisel has been invited to hold an input lecture for students of Monash University and RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. Titled Informality and Circularity, the talk with address challenges and chances of circular construction in the specific setting of informality.

  • Panel Discussion Symposium
    New Date: December 03/04, 2020

    Felix Heisel invited to moderate Symposium in Karlsruhe

    Felix Heisel has been invited to moderate the panel discussion of the upcoming symposium, organized by the Professorship of Sustainable Construction at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany.

  • Early-Design Plugin: RhinoCircular

    CCL has began development of a Rhinoceros / Grasshopper Plugin named RhinoCircular to evaluate material circularity in the early phases of building / concept design. The tool is targeting students and professionals alike – and will be used in Cornell AAP’s architecture education, as well as CCL’s research.

  • Quo Addis? 2020 Venice Biennale

    Felix Heisel and Marta H. Wisniewska together with Marc Angelil of ETH Zürich, Dirk E. Hebel of KIT Karlsruhe and Bisrat Kifle of EiABC in Addis Ababa are presenting their long-standing research on Ethiopia and its capital Addis Ababa at the Venice Biennale 2020.

  • Madaster Education Platform at Cornell AAP

    MoU signed with Madaster Education Platform

    Select design studio courses in the Department of Architecture and the lab’s research will assess and evaluate the Madaster Educational Platform based on their effect on teaching circular design and construction.

  • Public Lecture
    Sustainable Building Materials Summit
    New Date: Spring 2021

    Felix Heisel invited to lecture at Sustainable Building Materials Summit in Karlsruhe

    Felix Heisel has been invited to lecture at the Sustainable Building Materials Summit and Exhibition in Karlsruhe. The talk Kreislaufgerechtes Bauen – Entwerfen, Konstruieren und Bewirtschaften des Materiallagers Stadt will discuss the importance of a paradigm shift in architectural design when understanding the built environment as the resource for future construction.

  • UMAR Unit featured in two Swiss documentaries this month

    Swiss television channel SRF1 is broadcasting two new documentaries in March 2020, both featuring the prototypology Urban Mining and Recycling (UMAR) by Werner Sobek with Dirk E. Hebel and Felix Heisel.