Seminar Series - Sustainability and Circular Economy

02 Jun 2021 - 28 Jul 2021 Wednesdays, various timings Online

A Better World by Design.

A better world with sustainability and circular economy.

A 'Better World' in the 21st century must include sustainable development and human activities.

Sustainability is a complex system-level challenge that requires innovation and collaborations at all fronts.

In this online seminar series, speakers from SUTD and international institutions will share recent progress on sustainability research topics, achieving a circular economy, as well as topics that range from the role of design in achieving a circular economy, circularity in manufacturing, our built environment, life cycle analyses and urban metabolism.

Register here now

Join us and our 9 speakers weekly on Wednesdays.

[2 June, 2pm]
Urban Metabolism in Cities

Associate Professor Lynette Cheah

Engineering Systems and Design (ESD), SUTD

Urban Metabolism (UM) is fundamentally an accounting framework whose goal is to quantify the inflows, outflows, and accumulation of resources (such as materials and energy) in a city. This seminar offers an introduction to UM, reviewing the development of UM research and practice. We then examine the case study of Singapore’s urban metabolism. Finally, current and future opportunities and challenges of UM are discussed. As more and better data sources are becoming available, the examination of system-level resource flows can provide insights towards the development of more sustainable and resilient cities.

About the Speaker
Lynette Cheah is an Associate Professor of Engineering Systems and Design Pillar at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). She directs the Sustainable Urban Mobility research laboratory, which develops data-driven models and tools to reduce the environmental impacts of passenger and urban freight transport. She is currently Associate Editor for the Journal of Industrial Ecology and Review Editor for the UN IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report. More information about her research is available at

[9 June, 3pm]
Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Low-Carbon Powertrains for Heavy-duty Commercial Trucks: A Singapore Case Study

Lih Wei Yeow

Senior Research Engineer, Engineering Systems and Design (ESD), SUTD

Carbon-friendly alternatives to conventional diesel medium- and heavy-duty commercial trucks offer promising solutions to decarbonising the challenging road freight sector. However, the life cycle impacts of alternative fuels and powertrains are context-specific and may not decarbonise road freight.

This talk demonstrates the importance of a life cycle perspective when assessing the environmental performance of proposed alternatives with a case study of medium-duty urban delivery trucks in Singapore. The life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from conventional diesel, diesel hybrid, battery electric (BEV) and hydrogen fuel cell (FCV) powertrains are compared, including emissions from vehicle and fuel production, use phase and end-of-life stages.

Details of the data and methods are presented for adapting the assessment to the local context, taking into account Singapore’s energy supply landscape and local driving activity. Overall, fuel production and component manufacturing and replacement uncertainties remain key factors in the relative advantages of BEVs and FCVs, highlighting the need for context-specific assessments that keep pace with technological development.

About the Speaker
Lih Wei Yeow is a Senior Research Engineer in the Sustainable Urban Mobility Lab at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). His research interests are in transportation and its environmental impacts, and sustainable urban systems. His current work focuses on the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of alternative powertrains for commercial trucks in Singapore. He has also completed work in the field of urban metabolism, analysing construction material flows in Singapore. Lih Wei received his Master of Engineering (Research) and Bachelor of Engineering from the Engineering Systems and Design pillar at SUTD, completing a master’s thesis on the real-world fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of commercial road vehicles in Singapore.

[16 June, 2pm]
Embodied Carbon in the Built Environment: Design-based and Data-driven Approaches

Assistant Professor Michael Budig

Architecture and Sustainable Design (ASD), SUTD

Decarbonisation is one of the pressing challenges in the built environment as the unprecedented growth of cities, particularly in Asia will continue to have a massive environmental impact. Planners, construction industries, governmental agencies and stakeholders will require new approaches to design and respective material choices to minimise the embodied carbon.

Data and tools are fragmented and hardly allow for a holistic integration of knowledge in one platform as the digitalisation in the building industries is still at its infancy. One of the areas that is difficult to measure is the embodied carbon of a building in its planning process, indicated as Global Warming Potential (GWP in kg CO2-eq per kg of material). Most available Carbon Calculators depend on detailed data such as Building Integration Management (BIM) models that are usually only available in later design stages.

Our research at SUTD has developed methods, mathematical models and mock-up computational tools that allow designers to make informed design decisions considering the environmental performance in early design and assessment stages. We have also established a framework for flexible building designs, since demographic changes put additional pressure on how we plan buildings for uncertain futures. Habitation patterns are continuously changing and unforeseen situations such as the 2020 pandemic demand the ability for quick adaptations.

About the Speaker
Michael Budig is Assistant Professor in Architecture and Sustainable Design at SUTD and established the REAL Lab for Research in Renewable and Regenerative Architecture. His research focuses on renewable materials and regenerative architecture. It is driven by computational design and fabrication, and the desire to provide innovative solutions for the decarbonisation and digitalisation in the built environment. His research is exhibited at the International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2021 as part of the Singapore National Pavilion. He held academic positions at MIT, ETH Zurich / FCL Singapore, University of Applied Arts Vienna and University of Innsbruck, and he practiced as an architect and principal of Moll Budig Architecture, a multi-disciplinary office on architecture, urbanism, and design strategies in Austria.

[23 June, 4pm]
The Metabolism of the Economies: From National to Urban Systems

Professor Paulo Ferrao

Instituto Superior Tecnico, University of Lisbon

Socio-economic metabolism dynamics are relevant to identify (un)sustainable development pathways in different economies, by quantifying changes in added value and material flow requirements of critical economic sectors, or the impact of different policy actions in resource consumption. Two models are provided to characterise the use of resources in the economy, one to characterise the metabolism of the economy at a national level, and other to model energy consumption in buildings at an urban level, with single building resolution.

In the first case, a framework to quantify the socio-economic metabolism of nations that can be replicated for a series of years and countries is presented and applied in a case study covering the 2008 economic crisis in Portugal, in which the socio-economic metabolism, the underlying structural changes and the corresponding environmental impacts are effectively characterised. The use of this information for the design of decoupling policies is discussed, in view of promoting sustainable dematerialisation during periods of economic prosperity. The analysis an urban level, is based in an urban digital twin of a city in order to discuss strategies for promoting energy efficiency in buildings, under different policy measures.

About the Speaker
Paulo Ferrão is a Distinguished Professor of Instituto Superior Técnico - University of Lisbon, President of IN+, Center for Innovation, Technology and Policy Research. He is the President of the COST association. He has been the President of Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia from 2016 to 2019, and Director of the MIT-Portugal Program from 1996 to 2016. He is a member of the Environmental Advisory Committee of Rolls-Royce. He has been active in the area of “Sustainable Cities”, where he co-authored a book at MIT-Press on “Sustainable Urban Metabolism”. He is a member of the European Commission Mission Board on “Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities”, and he has been engaged with the U.S. National Academies as a member of the Sustainability Roundtable, the Committee on “Sustainability Linkages in the Federal Government” and the committee of “Pathways to Urban Sustainability: Challenges and Opportunities for the United States”. He has been leading the urban project component in two ADB projects, for which the publication “Urban metabolism of six Asian Cities” emerged. He is author and co-author of nine books and more than hundred peer-reviewed papers published in scientific journals and a variety of book chapters and over hundred papers presented in conferences and invited talks in different domains.

[30 June, 3pm]
Living Forms: Cultivating Building Materials For Sustainable Urban Development

Assistant Professor Christine Yogiaman

Architecture and Sustainable Design (ASD), SUTD

Mycelium composites are being named a promising bio-fabricated material that is in line with a Cradle-to-Cradle approach and present environmental and sustainable possibilities that are in stark contrast to the exhaustive chain of extraction, processing, and subtractive shaping characteristic of current building materials. Bio-fabrication of materials opens up novel opportunity for designers to innovate the functional possibilities of the designed output through variations in fabrication processes. Literature has seen an increased interest in this emerging material design practice that has recently been defined as Growing Design. Our research work expands on the definition of this emerging material design practice, to engage digital design and fabrication procedures in the intersection of biology, craft and design.

The seminar will present work on the cultivation of this new material type – knitted textile mycelium composite that has the capability to augment final material composite properties and provide formal freedom to designers. The seminar will also present a strategy for topologically interlocking mycelium composites assembly system that allows for the integration of repair and replacement procedures as part of a building life cycle. 

About the Speaker
Christine Yogiaman is an Assistant Professor in Architecture and Sustainable Design at SUTD where she develops and coordinates interdisciplinary design courses. As Co-director of Dynamic Assemblies Lab, her work explores design applications such as biomaterial fabrication, Computational Fluid Dynamic simulation, and interactive architectural surfaces. In addition to academic work Christine is also a partner at Yogiaman Tracy Design, a consultancy that creates installations and designs buildings. 

[7 July, 3pm]
Green Composites for Automotive Sustainability

Georgios Koronis

Research Fellow, Engineering Product Development (EPD), SUTD

The use of natural fibers in applications where synthetic fibers are the norm has been growing steadily in recent years. Comparing the structural performance and environmental impact of parts made of natural and synthetic fibers becomes increasingly important for both industry and education. However, it is not always clear the advantages of one type of fiber versus another.

My work discusses the advantages and disadvantages of using natural fibers and synthetic fibers and compares the structural performance of parts made of each of these fibers and their environmental impact. In this talk, aspects of suitability for the candidate elements in terms of mechanical properties will be presented. An intermediate environmental assessment assists in selecting materials and adjusting manufacturing parameters that would minimise the energy spent and the CO2 emissions.

About the Speaker
Georgios is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Aviation Cluster of Singapore University of Technology and Design. His primary research focuses on three major areas, composite materials design development, design creativity, and design innovation. For his current project he has been performing experimental research on green composites, comparing the structural performance of parts made of natural fibers and their environmental impact. Georgios received his PhD from the Superior Technical Institute at the University of Lisbon in 2014. After his PhD, he has been transforming ideas into real products by creatively using new Technologies, Sciences, and Arts, to deliver suitable engineering solutions for applications in areas covered by Product Design and Industrial Design.

[14 July, 4pm]
The Role of Design in Circular Economy

Ana Espada

Research Fellow, UTOP Driving Circularity

An overall perspective of today’s reality: unprecedented challenges and the call for urgent action. The European Green Deal a paradigm-shifting in politics on the EU level and the brief link to UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Discussion on the role of design in this shift from linear to a circular economy, based on a plastic packaging case study - Wisepack.

About the Speaker
Ana is a Portuguese Circular-Systems Designer with an entrepreneurial spirit who has worked for more than 20 years in companies, universities and government agencies. She is passionate about innovation, new technologies and supports business through innovative processes. Her career led Ana to specialise in circular economy processes, an area in which she currently works as a consultant at UTOP Driving Circularity and as a professor at ISMAT. She has an international and intercultural approach to support companies and students in the transition from a linear to a circular economy, mapping out design strategies and circular business models. Ana is a coach at EIT Climate KIC, an appraiser at EIT Raw Materials KIC and a mentor of startups for Circular Economy at Startit KBC in Brussels, Belgium.

[21 July, 3pm]
Water Circularity Assessment and Policy Implications for Singapore

Mohit Arora

Postdoc Research Fellow, University of Edinburgh

With significant efforts made to consider water reuse in cities including Singapore, a robust and replicable framework is needed to quantify the degree of urban water circularity and its impacts from a systems perspective. A quantitative urban water circularity framework can benchmark the progress and compare the impacts of water circularity policies across cities.

In that pursuit, we bring together concepts of resource circularity and material flow analysis (MFA) to develop a demand- and discharge-driven water circularity assessment framework for cities. The framework integrates anthropogenic water flow data based on the water demand in an urban system and treated wastewater discharge for primary water demand substitution. Leveraging the water mass balance, we apply the framework in evaluating the state of water circularity in Singapore from 2015 to 2019. Overall, water circularity has been steadily increasing, with 24.9% of total water demand fulfilled by secondary flows in 2019, potentially reaching 39.6% at maximum water recycling capacity.

Finally, we discuss the wider implications of water circularity assessments for energy, the environment, and urban water infrastructure and policy. Overall, this study provides a quantitative tool to assess the scale of water circularity within engineered urban water infrastructure and its application to develop macro-level water systems planning and policy insights.

About the Speaker
Mohit works as a Research Associate at the University of Edinburgh and Honorary Research Associate at the Imperial College London. He received his PhD from Singapore University of Technology and Design and worked at the United Nations to push circular economy in Southeast Asia. His research focuses on circular economy assessment, material efficiency interventions and net zero emission strategies for cities and industries. He has a keen interest in sustainability research and policy interventions targeted to improve living standards in the developing world.

[28 July, 3pm]
Design Optimisation for Circularity

Assistant Professor Peter Ortner

Architecture and Sustainable Design (ASD), SUTD

This lecture asks how designers can reduce the waste produced by their buildings and products by implementing computational optimisation within a design for circularity framework. Circular Economy is an idea that proposes moving from a ‘take-make-use-dispose’ linear economy toward a zero-waste future, where waste outputs are safely recycled as inputs for new products. In recent years there has been a proliferation of frameworks for circular design, which assist designers to develop products for a circular economy. These frameworks, however, remain generic and provide limited guidance on how to implement computational design techniques like optimisation.

In parallel, a variety of circularity indicators for products have also been introduced to provide quantitative assessment of attributes that reflect or contribute to a circular economy. To date no single circularity indicator has become standard and many indicators present an incomplete or biased reflection of circularity. Building on an overview of existing circular design frameworks and circularity indicators, this lecture proposes a method for introducing evolutionary multi-objective optimization into design for circularity. Examples from case studies are shared to illustrate the framework’s ability to generate both better performing designs and to assist the designer in navigating contradictions between circularity objectives.

About the Speaker
Peter Ortner is Assistant Professor and MArch and PhD Coordinator for Architecture and Sustainable Design at the Singapore University of Technology and Design. Peter’s research leverages computational techniques to create sustainable buildings and urban designs. His current research introduces optimisation into the process of design for circularity and urban design, augmenting the ability of the architect to contribute to zero-waste, carbon neutral cities. Predicting urban metabolism data during design process is also an on-going research pursuit. In recent research Peter has applied computational design to challenges of urban resilience and automated mobility. His doctoral research at the EPFL built on insights from critical data studies and computational design to elucidate the changing role of architecture and architect in complex, data-driven urban systems.