The Re-Use Atlas – Duncan Baker-Brown, RIBA Publishing

This new book by architect, writer and environmental activist Duncan Baker-Brown could well become an important reference for designers who want to persuade their clients to move away from using, to re-using resources. With the current era now being termed the Anthropocene, because humans are the dominant influence on the environment, the book is both timely and necessary.

It’s hailed by big names such as RIBA President Elect Ben Derbyshire, who commented on the author’s concept of “mining the Anthropocene” as “nicely capturing the concept that humans are moving beyond impacting on Earth’s surface and atmosphere to its crust is “well-observed and game-changing.” He added: “He is a leading thinker who also demonstrates the way forward in practice, which is what the best architects do.”

Professor Dr Michael Braungart (co-author of Cradle to Cradle) said that that “readers will be reminded that anticipating how something could be re-used at the point when it is first designed is now everyone’s responsibility.” And Mark Midownik, professor of Materials and Society at University College London called it “an inspirational book” which could “trigger a revolution in design.”

The publishers call the book a “highly illustrated atlas,” describing four distinct steps from a linear economy to a circular economy (recycle, reuse, reduce, closed loop). It features over 20 detailed case studies describing design exemplars from various sectors such ranging from architecture to fashion design, product design, interior architecture and urban design. The book intends to “show designers how they can successfully navigate and exploit the emerging field of resource management and the circular economy.”

Clearly written and presented, the book begins with the compelling reasons why architects, clients and in fact the whole of humanity has to consider resource use more deeply. The author makes a strong case that product design and construction as much as architecture needs to take end-of-life into account far more thoroughly than it does.

While the true closed-loop approaches highlighted in the book may seem out of reach to some readers, the many case studies presented in the substantial second part, ‘Circular Inspirations,’ allow professionals to see whether or not they could apply the concepts to their own projects. And the book doesn’t present everything as a sunny world of unlimited possibilities, it includes useful lessons learned, such as from reusing second-hand timber.

The author has applied his knowledge from a long career of working on sustainability-driven projects, from Greenwich Millennium Village (working with Ralph Erskine to Channel 4’s The House that Kevin Built with Kevin McCloud, the first new UK house with an A+ energy certificate, and the Brighton Waste House.

This information-packed, practical book is sure to provide an indispensable resource for anyone looking to truly take part in the circular economy.