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In this film, we show four projects that have taken the principle of the circular economy seriously and created astounding results. 

  • Bergans of Norway has developed a sustainable material and a new business model. 
  • Bergen’s Cultural Heritage Management Office has gained modern office premises from three derelict buildings.  
  • Entra, Mad Arkitekter and Scenario interior designers have reused building materials to restore an office block. 
  • Bewi Energy has found a solution that saves the oil industry 100,000 tonnes of plastic waste every year.

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 “These projects show that the circular economy is achievable. We have to change our mindset, practice and behaviour, but this is the future. We hope that the winners of the DOGA Award can inspire others to make the change in their own business,” says Tor Inge Hjemdal, CEO of DOGA

What is the circular economy? 

The circular economy is the principle of an economic system that aims to keep resources in the economy as long as possible. We can achieve that by reducing our consumption of raw materials, waste, emissions and energy consumption, and by keeping materials and products in circulation as long as possible. 

In March 2020, the EU presented its action plan for the circular economy. The flagship of the action plan is its proposal to create regulations for sustainable products.  

In the action plan, it is estimated that up to 80 per cent of a product’s environmental impact during its lifecycle is determined by how it is designed. It is therefore obvious that designers and architects play a particularly important role in the circular economy. This can include ensuring that products are of a high quality with a long lifespan, can be maintained and repaired, and ensuring that nothing goes to waste.   

Read more about the EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan in the government’s EEA Facts and Figures.  

Bergans’ circular business model 

The circular economy is not just about the way we manufacture and build, about materials, resources and reuse. It is just as much about systems and business models that make a circular model possible, and that make it easy for manufacturers and end users to act according to this model.  

Bergans of Norway makes leisurewear and equipment, and bases its work on the long-term perspective, circular economy and circular business models. They have worked with the Finnish fibre manufacturer Spinnova to develop a material based on cellulose, manufactured without the use of harmful chemicals, and with clean water as the only “waste product”. It can also be recycled endlessly, with no loss of quality.  

Using this material, Bergans is now developing a collection that it has called “The Collection of Tomorrow”. As innovative as the textile itself is the circular business model on which the collection is based. Because we do not buy a rucksack, shirt or anorak; instead we buy the materials and work that have gone into the products. When they are worn out, we can hand them back to Bergans for recycling and get something else made from the same material. That makes the collection circular in every way.  

KA13 – reuse is future-oriented and attractive 

The property company Entra, Mad Arkitekter and Scenario interior designers have renovated an office building in Tullinløkka in Oslo by reusing and recycling materials and building components. Kristian Augusts gate 13 (KA13) is a reference project for circular and sustainable building practice. The experience gained here is being used on other projects, and has also been an important part of the work of changing the regulations to make it easier to reuse building materials.  

“In KA13 we wanted to show that reusing building materials is not only possible, but also future-oriented and attractive,” says Åshild W. Bjørvik, lead partner in Mad Oslo. 

It was an enormous job to find suitable materials and bring them together. For example, concrete members from the Government Quarter were used as ceiling beams, while Kværnerbyen supplied the windows, which were available due to an ordering error. And grating panels from the old Tøyen Swimming Baths have been given a new lease of life as railings.  

“But obviously we did not want it to look like patchwork, which meant that architectural and design skills were absolutely vital,” Bjørvik emphasises.

The circular economy is the best friend of cultural heritage 

Instead of moving into a brand-new office building, Bergen’s Cultural Heritage Management Office chose three old buildings in the historic Skostredet pedestrian street when they needed to find new office premises.  

They joined forces with the owner Pallas Eiendom and Arkitektstudio Elfrida Bull Bene, and set to work transforming the dilapidated 18th and 19th century buildings. An important goal was to reuse and reproduce as much as possible of the original architecture, while also needing to incorporate modern infrastructure. The results are unique, beautiful and historic premises that satisfy all the modern requirements for safety, accessibility and indoor climate.  

“In many ways, the circular economy is the best friend of cultural heritage. It involves using things that already exist. We have also addressed important issues like universal access, and the main thing is to have a good architect who knows the rules well enough”, says Johanne Gillow, Director of Cultural Heritage in Bergen.   

A small invention saves tonnes of plastic 

Every year the oil and gas industry throws away 100,000 tonnes of objects known as “protectors” – plastic caps that protect pipe threads during transport. Bewi Energy wanted to do something about that.  

So they got together with EGGS Design to develop a universal protector cap that fits any thread pattern, thereby protecting threads irrespective of patent. This allowed them to cut the number of cap sizes from the current 1,000 to less than 50.  

“These days, we have a use-and-discard mentality. If we look after the plastic, we can use it as a resource,” says Geir Skjevik, CEO of Bewi Energy.  

New business opportunities 

Mads Bruun Høy is a founder and partner of Æra, and initiator of the Floke programme, which takes society’s biggest challenges and creates opportunities for innovation from them. He thinks that the era of use and discard is definitely over, and that we must now seize the opportunities that lie ahead of us.  

“In practice, a circular economy means a lot of new business opportunities. Where we had got used to a linear economy, in which we extract, use and discard, now we have to start designing new services and creating products that can be used again and again and again,” he says. 

Mads Bruun Høy is on DOGA’s awards panel