Pre-Use — A Term For Circularity

We like to introduce you to a new term: Pre-Use.

Pre-Use means to use things for something different than what they are intended for — but to leave them completely intact — so the initially intended use is still possible!

EXAMPLES: A jar as a vase, a flower pot as an ashtray, a deposit bottle as a sugar dispenser.

We learned the term from Jan Koerbes from ReFunc who came up with it a few years back and use it similar to the term ‚Pre-Cycling’ by the architecture collective Umschichten.

Umschichten collaborated with the french group BellaStock on a project where they borrowed wooden sticks from a building material store to build an event infrastructure. They didn’t cut or paint the sticks and put nothing in them — they did no harm at all. So when the festival was over the sticks could be returned to the hardware store to be sold.

Some more examples of Pre-Use:

Chess Figures from nuts and bolts (Mifactori)
Chess Figures from nuts and bolts (upcoming @Mifactori)
TA pipe holder from plumbing holds a curtain (found at ZK/U)
Parts from a high level rack, car tires and water pipes as fitness devices (found at ZK/U)
More Examples In This Open Collection

Pre-Use & Circularity — A Perfect Team

Pre-Use is a very good approach to Circularity! A few reasons why:

  • Modularity: Most examples of Pre-Use point to already existing cases of Modularity. And the most beautiful cases of Pre-Use might be the ones, where the Pre-Use version still works after the initially planned use (The flower pot still works as an ashtray before and after it was used for flowers.) We don’t have to invent new modular systems! Pre-Use helps us to find what is already there! Therefore Pre-Use can inspire design for circularity!
dont invent a new modular
One way to hack into existing modular systems: Find them where they were not put purposely.
  • Pre-Use = Re-Use = Reduce: A complex world of products presents a problem for sustainable Circularity. The more different products are there the more complex it becomes to organize repairing, reusing and recycling of parts and materials. Pre-Use might enable us to shrink down complexity. We just need one factory for flowerpots — and not a second one for ashtrays too. PreUse alles to reduce complexity.
Fewer factories = fewer complexity, fewer transport, fewer energy
Fewer factories = fewer complexity, fewer transport, fewer energy
  • Circular Design: Pre-Use points to existing cases of working circular modularity in our already built world — to existing building blocks for a circular lifestyle. This makes it a good thing to look into for circular designers. Sometimes you just need to make some minor modifications to make one object perfect for several uses: Redesign the pipe-holder in the example above so that it looks and works good in both cases for pipes and curtains.
Redesign things to make them “look good” in different use cases.
  • A Good Explanation/Education: Pre-Use makes it easy to explain the most important message for people that want to implement circularity in their life and work: Don’t use anything before you know what will happen with it after the first use phase. Always have a plan for what comes after that is not “throw it in the trash”!
Don’t do anything before you know what you will do next with it.
Don’t do anything before you know what you will do next with it.



The Open Structures and 3erlin Grid idea is a perfect example for PreUse-Design! (Most multi-use modular systems are.) And the Pre-Usability gets bigger with Openness! :-)

And Now: Grow A Collection With Us!

We will play with Pre-Use at Mifactori a lot more and explore it! There is an:

Add To The Open Collection Of Examples

in the OSCEdays forum where you can contribute own Pre-Use ideas and examples and use existing ones in your city.

(And share this article.)

Originally published at Mifactori.