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  • Romain Poulles

Positive Impact Industry - Regenerative Architecture

.... and "what if the industry was no longer the main problem, but an important part of the solution?”

The industry's dependence on raw materials and certain precious metals is a major constraint and supply management is a highly strategic issue for all of us. 

The linear economy is not resilient.

Despite (or better "because of?") this fragility in terms of raw material supply, this lack of systemic resilience, factories are a crucial part of our economic and social fabric, but their potentially polluting nature has led to significant (and distant) relocations in recent decades. Far from the eyes, far from the heart, the problem is relocated together with the physical structure, relocated and often, as a result, amplified, as environmental and social standards are generally less stringent in host countries.  

No wonder then that factories, symbols of heavy industry and linear economy are often represented by large (grayish) blocks with (toxic) gas ejecting chimneys, with few windows, generally austere and polluting!

Just have a look at the children's drawings - including an illustration by my son William 8 years old below.


A system of CO2 quotas for industrial emitters, liberating penalties for energy suppliers, carbon tax, foreseeable increase in the price of fossil fuels, new expectations of stakeholders, integration of sustainable development criteria in calls for tenders are pushing companies to keep carbon accounting and identify reduction paths.

But what if this reduction in emissions, reduction of pollution, reduction of negative impacts were simply not enough?

What if the industry had to completely reinvent itself!

What if the industry had to completely reinvent itself with a focus on the systematic and holistic creation of positive impacts, and the implementation of a circular economic model, a complete value chain based on the infinite reuse of all resources in contact with the industry! An industry that we are eager to relocate to our regions, even to our residential or mixed-use areas, an industry that has a positive societal, social, environmental and of course economic contribution. 

Beyond those constraints, the implementation of a policy to reduce CO2 emissions is a performance factor for companies: it generates opportunities at all levels of the value chain and increases the ability to innovate.

The model of our current economy is that of a linear economy: extraction, production of a good, use and then end of life and waste production. In this linear model, the waste produced is destined for landfill or incineration, at best with heat recovery. This model generates waste and so-called negative externalities.

The circular economy is an alternative model, which proposes a systemic vision of a territory and its economic, environmental and social issues, and sets itself the objective of producing goods and services while strongly limiting the consumption of raw materials, non-renewable energy, waste and therefore greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Multiple positive impacts

How would a factory be designed that is totally in line with the philosophy of the circular economy? A factory that does not emit CO2 but absorbs it, that uses CO2 as a raw material and emits oxygen, as simply like a tree. A plant that purifies the air instead of polluting it.

A plant that produces more energy than it consumes and is an integral part of a smart energy network operating exclusively on renewable energy.

A plant whose fatal heat is used by neighboring residential or community buildings through equally intelligent heat networks.


A building that does not use drinking water, runs its entire system on rainwater, which it purifies through biological treatment plants before returning it to nature.

It is a building that actively participates in increasing biodiversity in the region, which houses insect hotels, which is a habitat for many species through its roofs and vegetated facades.

It is a building that is part of an ecopark, in which soft mobility is omnipresent, sharing models are generalized, in which neighbors know each other and a community has been built.

It is a building that puts the user, the occupant, at the heart of its operation, in which the quality of the environment is of paramount importance.

Finally, the plant in question is part of a circular value chain. It treats the raw materials, components and products that it handles, manufactures, transforms, repairs, remanufactures or recycles with respect, maintaining its value to the maximum and optimizing the system, constantly improving it, knowing at all times that the processed resources are finished and must return to the value chain in an infinite way. It is a factory in which the concept of waste no longer exists.

It is a factory that brings to its neighborhood, which has multiple positive impacts on the economy, on man, on nature, on the community.

A real and current opportunity

In this period of major ecological crisis, coupled with a health crisis, the benefits of the circular economy are no longer to be demonstrated. It is certainly a beneficial time to take these first steps, to use programs such as "fit4resilience" (https://www.luxinnovation.lu/fr/fit-4-resilience/ ) or "fit4circularity" (https://www.luxinnovation.lu/innovate-in-luxembourg/performance-programmes/fit-4-circularity/)

Even the first measures, which are relatively simple to implement, can lead to an improvement in the carbon impact, in particular thanks to local logistics, a reduction in the consumption of virgin materials, which leads to better control of the cost of materials and secure supplies, the creation of new qualified local jobs, or the anticipation of new regulations and a guarantee of independence in the face of variations in waste disposal prices.

Circular economy, above all value creation

The circular economy creates value by enabling companies to better control the life cycle of products and the impact of their activities on the environment, but also by encouraging them to create innovative services.

Favoring the circular economy requires a lot of technical thinking, R&D and technological development. Given the time and money that this mobilizes, open innovation, collaborative innovation, this ability to open up to its stakeholders (suppliers, customers...), to exchange, is therefore unavoidable, especially on subjects that are often very specific. But it is clearly worth the effort.

In addition, a well-communicated circular economy approach improves the company's image vis-à-vis its stakeholders and is a factor in mobilizing its employees, who are increasingly aware of environmental issues. Companies therefore have everything to gain by moving to the circular economy.

A tale of bisounourships?

Certainly not, but a story to be written together! And like every story, it begins with a first letter on a blank page…

So that our grandchildren will one day read a story that begins with "Once upon a time, there was a linear, polluting, exclusive industrial system, ... »

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