Circular Make Spaces in Redistributed Manufacturing

The Circular Makespaces project is one of two Level 1 feasibility studies on Future Makespaces in Redistributed Manufacturing, a two-year ESPRC funded research project run by the Royal College of Art in London. Through Circular Makespaces we are seeking to develop new insights and knowledge of circular practices within makespaces. This research will support a more holistic understanding on what current circular practices exist, the wider role of makespaces (and their stakeholders) within a circular economy and redistributed manufacturing. The research will act as the first step in the development of further work in this area.

MAKESPACES have the potential to contribute – through physical and relational goods – to a new economy that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. While we expect that Makespaces are characteristic in our vision for a circular economy, there is little evidence to support this.

The overarching research question driving the Circular Makespaces project seeks insights on: ‘How can we prevent the proliferation of 'crapjects’ and encourage the integration of effective, economic-, environmental- and social sustainable strategies in emerging makespaces?’ The terms 'crapject' is coined by Scott Smith, of the Changeist, and refers to the uniquely useless stuff spawned by the rise of 3D printing. Allison Arieff, wrote an eloquent piece on this phenomenon on Medium, entitled 'Yes We Can. But Should We?', as Will Holman outlines in his insightful blogpost on Object Guerilla. We are looking to see How should we? While some research has already been undertaken to map out and review the activities and value of Makespaces today, little of this research explores the Makespace communities from a circular economy viewpoint.

This research will uncover triggers for circular practices to become embedded within Makespaces, to inform the wider context of ‘systemic’ redistributed manufacturing that is connected to it’s local, as well as it’s global, context. The research is a feasibility pilot study, exploratory in nature, seeking experts and pioneering cases to begin to uncover insights on circular makespaces.

Research will be undertaken in two stages:

Phase I 
‘Setting the CE Lens’ through identifying a set of criteria relevant to circularity in makespaces – through expert insights and a high level literature summary.
Outcome: Develop an initial working definition, framework and set of criteria to inform Circularity in Makespaces

Phase II 
‘Focusing our Lens’ through an enquiry on attitudes and knowledge about circularity at a small number of current Makespaces (2 - 4). 
Outcomes: Real world case studies; testing ideas and sharing insights through a workshop and initial concept (for further development)

Grit Hartung –  Research Associate, (Communication) Designer Researcher 
Sharon Prendeville – Research Associate, Design Researcher
Erica Purvis – Sustainable Design Engineer
Clare Brass –  Co-Investigator, Head of SustainRCA
Ashley Hall –  Co-Investigator, Professor of Design Innovation and deputy head of the Innovation Design Engineering programme at the RCA

"'Eventually, everything connects – people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key to quality per se.…'" Eames