Circular design, state of the art review: Technical design point of view

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The current take-make-dispose economy is based on the rapid procurement and satisfaction of needs, and does not emphasise on sustainability. The production of goods requires a large number of primary resources (e.g. raw materials, water and energy) that, when end-up as waste, have negative impacts on the environment. As an alternative, the model of circular economy (CE) has been proposed in which products and services are designed in such a way that their components, materials or waste can be reintegrated into the system.

Circular product design makes the extension of product life possible through the loops of maintain/prolong, reuse/redistribute, refurbish, remanufacture and recycle. Materials in the product should be selected and designed to maintain their purity and the product structure should allow reuse, disassembly and reassembly, among others. At the end-of-life, the product, its parts and materials will again become resources. Components are reclaimed in remanufacturing and materials continue their life through recycling.

The concept of CE is complex, and it includes business, technical, legislation and other aspects that all are connected. The literature on circular design focusses on many other things than the technical design and engineering, and, in fact, does not discuss much about the design process and details of technical design in CE. How the requirements are set and what competencies the designer is expected to have blur the boundaries between technical design and other operations, such as business and service planning.

The report is organised as follows. After the introduction in Section 1, the design for X approach is discussed in Section 2. In Sections 3 and 4, respectively, the circular design and the guidelines and strategies for developing circular products are discussed. The frameworks and tools supporting circular design are highlighted in Section 5. Various competencies required by designers are listed in Section 6. Some of the identified challenges in design for CE are discussed in Section 7, and in Section 8, the findings are discussed and conclusions are made.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationEspoo
PublisherVTT Technical Research Centre of Finland
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2021
MoE publication typeD4 Published development or research report or study

Publication series

SeriesVTT Research Report


  • circular design
  • design for X
  • circular design strategies


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