Building on the Doughnut

Using the doughnut to rethink the construction industry

Making the Doughnut actionable

Kate Raworth’s doughnut seeks to provide us with the tools necessary to imagine a society where all our social and material needs are met within the ecological boundaries of our planet.  Raworth reminds us of  the original meaning of economics: the art of living well.

With doughnut economics Raworth has also laid down a challenge to anyone who wishes to bring into reality any of the new visions that are possible by looking at the world through the doughnut. How do we go about making actionable steps towards implementing projects or policies which could indeed move us closer to living within the doughnut?

Doughnut economics is a new and dynamic field of study. It allows us to create a new self portrait, an ideal image of the self to inhabit a safe and just society. It allows use to reimagine all of the complex systems that come together to form our economies and social structures and offers a glimpse at what actions are needed to be taken to bring these changes to fruition.

These changes are built on actions and each action will require an enormous amount of support and political will. Kate Raworth has given us the tools to imagine what this could look like, the work now is to begin to draw lines between that future image and the situation in which we find ourselves today. By advocating for change we get a little bit closer to that future and by showing what is possible through research, development and demonstration we are creating the tools for change.

The construction industry

Can the doughnut be useful in rethinking traditional approaches to the construction industry? Our building habits account for a third of all CO2 emissions, if we can solve the problem of energy intensive building materials such as steel and concrete then targets such as the Paris Agreement and ideas of a decarbonbized economy suddenly become a reality.

Our main focus for this project is to make a case for bio-based materials in residential construction projects. What are the alternatives to energy intensive building products such as concrete and steel? How can we make these alternatives more accessible to decision makers in the housing sector? And how can we use the doughnut to illustrate the benefits of bio-based materials when compared to conventional methods?

CO2: The sweet spot

Using this model it should be possible to identify the sweet spot for a commercially viable housing project. Factors include:

  • Location (distance to urban centers in minutes)
  • Use of materials (affordable, durable, climate positive)

  • Urban design (Attractive, safe, pro-social, affordable, owner occupied)

Principles for Putting Doughnut Economics into Practice

The Doughnut Economics Action Lab has developed a set of principles to guide our own evolution and our
choice of collaborators. We placed these principles at heart with the development of the building material impact tool. 

 1. Embrace the 21st century goal. 

  • Aim to meet the needs of all people within the means of the living planet.
  • Seek to align your organisation’s purpose, networks, governance, ownership and finance with this goal. 
  • Expect the work to be challenging, innovative and transformative.

2. See the big picture. 

  • Recognise the potential roles of the household, the commons, the market and the state – and their many synergies – in transforming economies. 
  • Ensure that finance serves the work rather than drives it.

3. Nurture human nature. 

  • Promote diversity, participation, collaboration and reciprocity. 
  • Strengthen community networks and work with a spirit of high trust. 
  • Care for the wellbeing of the team.

4. Think in systems.

  • Experiment, learn, adapt, evolve, and aim for continuous improvement.
  • Be alert to dynamic effects, feedback loops and tipping points.

5. Be distributive. 

  • Work in the spirit of open design and share the value created with all who co-create it. 
  • Be aware of power and seek to redistribute it to improve equity amongst stakeholders.

6. Be regenerative. 

    • Aim to work with and within the cycles of the living world. 
    • Be a sharer, repairer, regenerator, steward. 
    • Reduce travel, minimize flights, be climate and energy smart.

7. Aim to thrive rather than to grow. 

    • Don’t let growth become a goal in itself. 
    • Know when to let the work spread out via others rather than scale up in size.