We must reflect on our current built environment, particularly the buildings that are not suitable for reuse, so we can truly understand how to design for circularity and carry this wisdom on to our future work. As custodians of our built environment, our sphere of influence is enormous – and we must choose to use it wisely. Collaboration is key: an exciting time lies ahead as we advance towards a Circular Economy.
As I explained in Part 1, Material Passports are identity documents for construction materials: if you have useful information - like the original specification and life history of an element - you’re better placed to consider reusing it. Research has focused on developing the concept for new materials, but at Orms we believe that we need to go beyond this and find a way to safely reuse materials that are already in existence.
The material database is the core of the process, which grows as the project evolves.
For the design team, the database captures information from surveys and other information sources. This information can be selectively imported into the BIM model via a bidirectional link to support the design process. For operations teams, it provides a single location to record or link maintenance information to Operation and Maintenance documents. Physical tags on the built components might consist of a QR code or RFID tag for active elements. When scanned, these would open the relevant record within the database.
Similarly, when the building or structure reaches end-of-life, the physical tags can be scanned to access data about the material and assist with determining its suitability for reuse.
As an industry, we must do better, and the fastest way to achieve this is by sharing our knowledge and collaborating on meaningful solutions.
We are currently running a Material Passports working group to bring together testing, thinking and debate, and to truly collaborate as an industry. I would encourage you to join the chorus of voices advocating for material reuse and finding a way to make it happen.
If you’d like to implement Material Passporting on your project, please get in touch at [email protected]
to join our network. In return, all we ask is that you share your experience, findings and solutions, so that the research can continue to evolve.
About the author
Rachel has extensive experience working with existing buildings. For the past few years, she has engaged in a series of deep research assignments and is utilising this data and knowledge to push the boundaries of sustainable development – both in refurbishment and new build projects. Recently, she led a research piece on material passports as part of a wider Grosvenor Estate Innovation Project into material reuse. Rachel has recently received the 2021 AJ100 Sustainability Champion Award.