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Blogs 18 jan 2023

A city as a series of temporary events

Since launching in 2017 in the Netherlands, Madaster is now used in six European countries. Globally as much as 17 million square meters of gross floor area is registered in the ‘land register of materials’.
More and more parties in the industry chain realise that circularity is not a temporary hype, but the new standard. It has led to the Madaster platform growing from a minimum viable product to an integrated and versatile platform over the past five years. A platform that has also responded to the introduction of legislation such as the EU Taxonomy. Unsurprisingly, Madaster is also gaining ground in the UK. A great example is the award of Building Research Establishment (BRE) innovation credit to British Land– one of the UK’s largest property development and investment companies, for the first large-scale use of a materials passport. According to our UK intern, Ewan Malloch, we should think of a city as a series of temporary ‘events’. He wrote a thesis on this topic and recently successfully completed a postgraduate Master of Arts in Architectural and Urban Design at the University of Brighton. Now he is actively looking for urban design opportunities in the London area.

Considering a city as a series of temporary events?

If we consider a city as simply a series of ‘events’ in time, how does this impact the way we design, and can it lead to more sustainable outcomes? Many of the materials used in modern developments have a much longer functional lifespan than the life cycle of the buildings they constitute. Although the ‘event’ of that building may end, the operational materials should not be wasted but instead be used in new ‘events’, new developments. Understanding the city as a mineable entity brings a new locality to construction materials. The geology of a place is no longer just the rock beneath our feet, it now incorporates the material that was transported here and used in the construction of buildings. Granite from Scotland, marble from Italy, steel from China – all become part of a new localised city ‘event’ geology. If we were able to accurately map and catalogue these existing materials by providing them with a permanent identity using a material passporting platform such as Madaster, this information in conjunction with technological advances and adoption of Digital Twins and BIM has the potential to revolutionise our place making and allow for previously unsustainable processes to continue in a sustainable way.

What is the state of circularity within the UK construction and real estate sector?

Circularity in the UK construction and real estate sector is an active and vibrant conversation. We’re in a position where the promotion of sustainable goals now seems to be a necessity for this sector and substantial efforts are being made to make circularity the standard and not just a hot topic of conversation. A surprising positive that can be taken from the UK’s exit from the European Union is that there is now a need for legislative reformation. This, in conjunction with the growing acceptance of circularity, provides a real opportunity to enforce circular practices from a governmental standpoint. The impending touch down of Madaster on the UK market fills me with a lot of confidence. I believe it illustrates that there is a desire in the UK to adopt and commit to circular processes. My experience from the short time that I have been a member of the Madaster team is that the UK harbours a continually growing demand for the data and services that the Madaster platform provides. Whether that is due to growing pressure from sustainably conscious clients, or investors aiming to meet ESG criteria, or company’s striving to reach sustainability goals or because of new regulatory mandates, a lot of value has been attributed to circularity measurements, embodied carbon data and material identity.

What is needed for circularity to be widely adopted in the UK?

Environmental regulation is driving change in the UK, potentially faster than large parts of Europe. However, if we want to see UK circularity adopted further in the short term, more rigorous regulatory enforcement is needed. Accessibility to the tools that enable circularity in architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) that don’t inhibit growth is also important. There are members of the industry that are willing to go through a period of change and accept that it might require compromise. However, for large scale adoption, economically sensible pathways leading to circularity will be vital. Madaster recognise this and over the last 5 years have developed a platform that not only facilitates and aids the transition to circularity but also presents new economic opportunities and benefits for their partners and clients through the data they collect. Madaster’s approach is a good one for a UK market. The commitment of key influential pioneer companies could really aid efforts in bringing circularity to the forefront of standardisation in the AEC sector. The market is driven by a relatively small number of companies and so having these people on board and being proactive will really increase the speed at which the whole industry moves.

Why are you looking for urban design opportunities in the London area?

Following the completion of my undergraduate degree in architecture at the University of Edinburgh I decided to pursue a master’s degree in Architectural and Urban Design at the University of Brighton. This reflected the direction of my interests at the time and my desire to explore the built environment at a different scale. The same reasoning also applied to my relocation to London – a change in scale and a new challenge. London is also the hub for AEC industries in the UK and, as I’ve found already, is well positioned to enable work with multinational companies such as Madaster.

What do you hope to achieve with your internship at Madaster?

I’m really excited to be a part of the Madaster team, I have strong ambitions to be involved with Madaster further in the future. After the success of 1 Broadway and the resulting Building Research Establishment (BRE) Innovation credit award to British Land, I’m keen to be actively involved in the inception of many more exciting partnerships and projects here in the UK. It’s a rare and exciting opportunity to be involved at such an early stage, especially with an industry leader, I hope that I can provide meaningful and productive support to Madaster as they look to start this new chapter. Hopefully together we can make 2023 an especially exciting year by building new relationships in the UK and adding to the increasing number of projects registered on the platform. If you’re interested in finding out more about the rollout of Madaster and/or would like to learn more about how Madaster could help you, you can contact me at ewan.malloch@madaster.com or find me on LinkedIn.  

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