Around 20 participants representing different stakeholders in the construction sector gathered on the 27th of October in Floda, a small town near Gothenburg, Sweden. One of the basics of the living lab process is to take the participants out from the familiar office environment, to the “field” and to the projects where circular economy principles are being implemented. The first living lab meeting was therefore hosted by Garveriet a Swedish pilot-case living lab that strives to become a centre of sustainable development and a hub of ecosystem-inspired businesses.

What is a living lab?

Unlike an ordinary laboratory, where the point is to work in a controlled environment, a living lab is a laboratory based on and operated in the real, uncontrolled environment, i.e. the real environment that we all live and work in, every day. The work starts in reality, with user participation, cooperation in the creation of knowledge and solution development. Therefore it is important that the living lab consists of a mix of actors, resources and activities, in order to ensure that the true focus and end-user perspective is always included.

Focus on awareness-raising activities

The first, introductory meeting, led by Hifab and SP, aimed to generate interest to be part of the living lab events during the following two years and build a foundation to a network working with circular material flow. The first part of the day focused on raising knowledge about industrial symbiosis and FISSACs ambitions and the participants were given a chance to get to know each other, share their experience and understand each other’s perspective for fostering potential future collaboration.

After lunch in a local climate-smart restaurant, the living lab continued with a workshop, “Innovation starts with a question”. So in order to initiate cooperation for creating circular material flow the workshop used formulation of a design question as a discussion method. How can we work together to reduce barriers that today keep us from using more waste as resources? The participants were to analyze both barriers and opportunities and through the findings develop new questions that concretize the problems to work with in future living lab get-togethers.

The day ended in consensus that FISSAC’s living labs can in a longer perspective help to advance the efforts on creating circular material flow in the construction sector. The actors present expressed the need for more awareness-raising activities and more knowledge of good examples of material flow in the industry. The knowledge produced in FISSAC’s other work packages will be useful later in the living lab process. There was also a consensus around the lack of relevant business models, policy instruments and standards. Hifab and SP will address those issues later on as well.

Broad spectrum of stakeholders present

The participating stakeholders represented industry organisations for construction and also cement and concrete. Architects, consultants and research institutes were present, as well as a large property owner, an international construction company and a precast producer. Persons from the hosting Garveriet in Floda attended the meeting, and also a region-financed competence centre for zero-energy buildings.

A second occasion for the Swedish Living lab is scheduled for the end of January 2017. Many other stakeholders who have expressed an interest, but were unable to attend the first meeting, will be invited to participate. A summary of the Living Lab was released.