Let’s Build your Circular City

Currently, humans produce WAY too much waste.

We make products, consume them and then chuck them away, littering our planet in the process. But what if there was a different way to do things?

In the natural world, there isn’t any rubbish or landfill. Energy is provided by the Sun, one species’ waste is another’s food and when things die, their nutrients return to the soil — in a circle of life.

Inspired by the natural world — A circular city works in this way. We need to keep goods and ingredients in use and share resources to eliminate waste and regenerate rather than demolish buildings and rebuild new ones.

So let’s build our own circular city!

We’ll discuss what our city needs, make plans, design each piece of a puzzle and stitch them all together.

Circular City Principles


What is a circular city?

A Normal City takes in people, money and resources and produces waste.


A Circular City reuses and recycles these things, eliminating waste.

Step by step

Step 1: Use Reusable Resources

–  First of all you need to find materials to create your building.

–  Try to reduce waste where you can and use reusable and recycled resources.

–  This could be old cardboard, string, paper, felt. Where possible use materials that are headed for the bin and avoid new materials.

–  If you use items such a cereal boxes, use the inside of the box to hide all the logos and packaging so that you can colour/draw on it yourself.

Step 2: Build on a 30cmx30cm Plot

– Each team has its own plot to build on but let’s discuss first what a city needs before designing. A city needs as much diversity as possible.

– Here are some ideas but you can of course be as creative and imaginative as you want:

• School • House • Tower • Allotment • Farm • Lake • Town Hall • Playground • Library • Sport Centre • Cinema • Park • Office • Shop • Recycling Plant • Museum • Theatre • Place of Worship

Step 3: Use the Nets Provided as a Template

–  Use the nets as examples on how to fold and cut your materials to make structures/blocks for your design.

–  To help, you can print off the nets below and trace them onto the back of the material.

– Combine nets together to make your design taller and wider.

– You can use lots of different types to create more fun structures and shapes.

Step 4: Colour in the Nets

–  To make your building recognisable, you will want to add your own style to it.

–  Using materials such as coloured card can help to add some identity to your design.

–  Use pens, pencils, paint and anything else you can think of to draw windows, doors, signs and anything else you want onto your building to make it more recognisable.

Step 5: Attach Nets Together

–  Once you have created your nets for your structure, you need to combine them to give your design the height and width you want.

–  To do this you will need to fix them together so that your structure is strong.

–  Try to reduce waste and secure items using safety clips, strings, marshmallows or even fold materials together.

Step 6: Build like a Zero Waster

–  Use materials already in your possession, as long as they can stick on paper.

–  Use materials found in nature & earth friendly stationary such as craft tape/glue and soy/beeswax crayons.


–  Avoid waste as much as possible.

–  If you cut a piece of card try to use the off-cut. For example if you cut out card to create a tree, use the off-cut to create a window or a door.

– This is how a circular city works. Where possible, nothing is wasted.

Step 7: Use Alternative Materials

–  Once you have an overall building shape/design, look at how you can be more creative with your site.

–  Using materials such as paper straws, sticks and marshmallows can help you to create different structures.

–  This can create parts to your building that make it exciting and interesting.

–  These can be used to create frames, gates, roofs, balconies, wind turbines.

Step 8: Combine to Create your Building

–  Once you have all your items made, finish piecing everything together.

–  Think about if you need anything else on your 30cmx30cm site, such as a garden, a fence, or a path.

–  Use any leftover material or cut-outs to do this.

–  Once you have finished, make sure the project is secure enough to move it around for later.

Step 9: Attach the Plots Together

– Download and print this City Plan:

–  Once you have completed your building, take it into class to combine with classmates buildings.

–  Discuss the projects with each other to understand what you want your circular city to look like. Decide if you want roads, greenspace, rivers, lakes within your city plan.

–  Use the template as a plan to understand where the different parts of the city are located to create a diverse and exciting city plan.

–  Once you have decided where everything goes, put them together and name your new city.

–  Use this to understand how your own city works.

This activity was designed by Ben Warren and Jordon Lambert of BDP

“BDP is a major international, interdisciplinary practice of architects, designers, engineers and urbanists; embracing all the skills needed to provide an integrated, comprehensive service.

We work closely with users, clients and the community to create special places for living, working, shopping, culture and learning across the world.

Founded in 1961, we now have studios across the UK, Ireland, Netherlands, the MENA region, India, Singapore, Canada and China. BDP has a leading track record in all major sectors including health, education, workplace, retail, urbanism, heritage, housing, transport, leisure, public safety, technology and research.

BDP employs 1200 people, making the practice the largest architect-led firms in Europe. We have won over 700 design awards for our work across many sectors, including awards for work of unique scale and scope.

We combine expertise across disciplines, locations, sectors and all major building types to deliver a truly integrated way of working — resulting in high quality, effective and inspiring built spaces.”


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