A circular approach

Thinking the city differently

The model of urban development founded solely on consumption of land and resources is today showing its limitations. To reinvent the city, the Kirchberg Fund is taking inspiration from the circular economy. Renewable energy, soft mobility, short-distance trips, flexible buildings – the aim is always the same: closing the loop, to make districts resilient.



Together with the Luxembourg agency +ImpaKT and in collaboration with the American architect William McDonough, the Fund has developed its visions and objectives to provide a framework for its future designs, thereby expressing its desire to live up to its responsibility and to pass on a positive heritage to future generations. This global strategy – which signifies a true paradigm shift – relates to housing, the development of the outdoor spaces, mobility and the diversity of local businesses. To deploy it, the Kirchberg Fund is taking inspiration from the principles of the circular economy, and more specifically the “cradle to cradle” (C2C) philosophy founded by William McDonough, the co-author of the book of that name.

McDonough posits an “eco-effectiveness” that no longer puts economic growth and the environment in opposition to one another. Rather than reducing consumption or delaying its devastating effect on the environment, McDonough suggests adopting a system that imitates the balance in natural ecosystems and allows materials to be regenerated infinitely, without loss of quality. He describes a system where each stage in the lifecycle of a product is considered when it is designed.

The linear economy, which currently defines how our society operates, is characterised by a systematic destruction of value: the extraction of raw materials is followed by the production and use of a product which ultimately becomes waste. In a circular economy based on the principles of C2C, nothing is thrown away, nothing is lost, and used materials become “the nutrients” for new products, retaining their value. Thus a building becomes a veritable store of materials for the future.

The Fund therefore intends to foster the development of responsible projects, with a positive impact, both for the site and for its users. The idea is to do good (as opposed to “less bad”), and to pass on a positive heritage to future generations. 



Given this logic, it is vital to initiate construction projects in a different way. It is no longer simply a question of discussing the number and floor areas of the real estate units and their profitability, but of starting with their qualities. What materials should be used, to create healthy homes? What systems make it possible to collect rainwater and to reuse different qualities of water? What means are available to the engineers to ensure that buildings produce energy, instead of merely consuming it? What are the most flexible models of building in terms of time and adaptability to the needs of future generations of residents? How can certain equipment be shared? What external developments contribute to the well-being of people and nature?

The challenge is to make the districts ready for the changes of tomorrow, more flexible and therefore resilient. The city of tomorrow should adapt readily to economic, demographic, climatic, and health upheavals, etc.

For the development of the new districts, the Fund has defined values and objectives in order to encourage projects with a positive impact on quality of life, which bring value-added for human beings and nature, in place of projects which only satisfy minimum criteria. The vision: Living well in an urban setting in symbiosis with its environment. 

At the planning stage, these objectives translate into a “roadmap” for each project that maps out the following issues: air, water, food, construction, well-being and happiness, nature, energy, mobility and money. Strategies and performance indicators are described there in detail.


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