1.3.2 The Butterfly Diagram

Course subject(s) Module 1. Introduction to Circular Economy for a Sustainable Built Environment

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation was one of the pioneers in promoting the Circular Economy. The theoretical framework that we use for explaining the Circular Built Environment in this course is based on its principles.

Below you can see the Circular Economy concept illustrated by the “butterfly diagram”. Both sides of the diagram are relevant to the built environment: the right side illustrates the technical cycle and closing the loops of resources facilitated by circularity strategies such as reuse, refurbish and recycling; the left side of the diagram shows the biological cycle and the loops and cascades assuring the sustainable management of biological resources and creating renewable flows and stocks. The ultimate aim of this economic model is to minimize the extraction of raw materials and waste generation.

You can access a larger image of the diagram here.


In module 2 we will talk about the clay brick and its part in the technical cycle. Later in the module you will see more information on the bio-based construction materials which take part in the biological cycle.

Creative Commons License
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//.
Back to top