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Blogs 20 oct 2023

Material Passports

 UK Product Manager, Ewan Malloch shares his thoughts on how material passports can help to facilitate a circular economy.

“Waste is material without an identity… 

We can only prevent materials from becoming anonymous waste by giving them a sustainable, recorded, documented, and archived identity. Only by ‘capturing’ our physical world in data, we can organise finite resources in such a way that they remain accessible to us permanently.”  – Thomas Rau

What are materials passports?

Passports are a trusted concept that most can understand. They are a tool that verifies people’s identity and through doing so enable access to a wide range of activities from travel to bank accounts.

Material passports, at their core, do the same thing – they are a digital identity card for materials, documenting their composition, quality, origin, and potential for reuse or recycling. They can range in scale, from product level to building level. Information contained within passports can also be aggregated to generate insights across a portfolio or a geographical area.

How can materials passports support a circular built environment?

Knowing what’s in our built environment is the first and most essential step towards circularity in the industry:

  • Building transformation and life extension: With detailed information about a building’s materials, maintenance and repair work can be carried out more efficiently. Materials with a known history are easier to maintain, extend their lifespan, and postpone the need for replacements.
  • Facilitating Reuse and Recycling: Materials passports enable easier identification and extraction of reusable materials from deconstructed or renovated buildings. This simplifies the process of reusing components, reducing the demand for new resources and minimizing waste.

Material passports are not static things, once the materials have been registered, the data can be used in a wide range of applications.

1. Connecting the industry

Material passports provide a central, easily accessible source of information for the entire construction chain. Every industry stakeholder can engage, contribute to, and access key material information. Connecting the industry with trustworthy reliable data is key to unlocking circularity throughout the chain.

2. Environmental Insights

Using the information registered in a material passport we can generate a wide range of environmental insights. Insights such as circularity index scores, embodied carbon, and detachability. This information is essential for certification, benchmarking and ensuring the sustainable viability of developments. This information also has practical applications at the design stage. Problematic materials from a circularity standpoint or elements with high embodied carbon can be easily identified, tracked, and managed with end of life in mind.

3. Financial Value

Material Passports can provide residual financial calculations for the materials already present within our built environment. For manufacturers, knowing where their products and materials are being applied can help to facilitate buy back and re-certification business models. Monitoring building data also helps landowners to understand the performance of their assets. Allowing them to make an informed decision between deconstruction and retrofit for instance.

Nurturing a circular economy all starts with registering and documenting the materials within our built environment. The Madaster platform facilitates this for products, buildings or portfolios.

Get in touch to learn more about how material passports can help deliver your circular objectives.

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