3.1.3 Building Layers

Course subject(s) Module 3. Building

In this video, Mo Smit shares some insights into the concept of “Shearing Layers”, first developed by the architect Frank Duffy and further elaborated by Stewart Brand. Mo will explore the shearing layers of the BK City – an almost one-hundred-year-old building serving as the Faculty of Architecture and Built Environment at the TU Delft. The building has been transformed and adapted several times, and it is a good example that a building is not one product but rather consists of various layers and components. It becomes clear that during their life-cycle many interventions might be done to increase the circularity of buildings; the design process, however, has the biggest impact.

Building layers


  • The “Shearing layers” concept was first conceived by architect Frank Duffy, and later developed by Steward Brand in his book “How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built”.
  • The shearing layers are: Site, Structure, Skin, Services, Space Plan and Stuff. All of the layers are characterised by different longevity and impact.
  • The understanding of the sharing layers enables us to increase the circularity potential of a building from the start.

Did you know that Stewart Brand is not an architect?

He is a biologist and published the “Whole Earth Catalog” magazine between 1968 and 1972. The magazine included articles and essays on ecology, society, technology, education and self-sufficiency. The catalog discussed topics that are nowadays gaining importance such as system thinking, environmental preservation, efficient use of resources, reducing waste and many more.

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Circular Economy for a Sustainable Built Environment by TU Delft OpenCourseWare is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://online-learning.tudelft.nl/courses/circular-economy-for-a-sustainable-built-environment//.
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