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Blogs 7 feb 2023

Using data to drive circular design

At a time of increasing legislation and regulations on the environment, circularity and disassemblage, such as the EU Taxonomy and BREEAM, it is becoming ever more important to be able to further encourage circular design. Reliable data and insights are needed to compare design choices and make more informed decisions. The Madaster material passport is a clever tool to use for this purpose. Emma Klamer, Sustainability Specialist at Aveco de Bondt, and Sander Beeks, Partnership Manager, explain how it works.

The material passport as a designing tool?

According to Klamer, the material passport is particularly appropriate in the design process when it is used right from the start. Klamer: ‘By starting with a first version of the material passport early in the design phase, you can use the passport’s circularity score to implement design optimisations and keep on improving the score in subsequent rounds of improvement. It really is an interactive process.’

Can you give a practical example of this?

Klamer: ‘For one of the Dutch regional water authorities (‘Aa en Maas’), Aveco de Bondt prepared a material passport for their office building prior to the tendering phase. In this project, we collaborated with another engineering firm that was responsible for the design and for calculating the environmental impact. It was Aveco de Bondt’s job to create the material passport, give circular design advice and calculate the circularity score. For each improvement round, we made design proposals based on this score. These proposals were then also assessed for environmental impact. Thus, an informed choice was ultimately made for each design proposal.”

How did the circularity score lead to improvements in this project?

Klamer says that, after the first version of the material passport, it soon became clear that renovation was not optimally included in the circularity score: ‘The materials that were retained were initially listed as ‘new’ in the material passport and this resulted in a low circularity score. The expected lifetime of the existing premises was 50 years and the building had been completed in 1975. At the time when we prepared the material passport, the building had reached 90% of its useful life. The retained materials were therefore assessed in the material passport as being 90% recycled and 10% new. A second version of the passport was then produced.’ Klamer recounted that a number of design proposals were subsequently assessed for environmental impact and circularity with the aim of increasing the shares of secondary and renewable materials. Klamer: ‘Different types of flooring, wall finishes and ceiling tiles were compared, for example. The choice was made to use as many biobased materials as possible, those with the lowest environmental impact and that would not be harmful to human health.’ This led to a third passport version, and adding end-of-life scenarios for the materials and products used and information on dissassembly options eventually led to the final version of the material passport.

Why is the focus on circular design so important?

According to Beeks, this focus is necessary in order to design a future-proof, value-based building that is fully compliant with rules and regulations, such as the EU Taxonomy. This is also the reason why the development of the Madaster Platform is ongoing: ‘Based on practical experiences, developments in the market and feedback from partners, we continually add new and improved functionalities to the platform and are thus able to generate higher quality material passports. For example, it is now possible to gain insight into the top-10 materials with the highest impact, and thanks to the benchmark functionality, designs can be compared. The material passport enables ongoing improvements to smart designing.’

What new features are planned that will make the material passport even more interesting as a designing tool?

According to Beeks, the focus in the coming period will be on further expanding the existing material and product databases and linking to new ones. Beeks: ‘This will increase the availability of EPD and LCA information on the platform, allowing users to calculate the circular and environmental performance of their existing and yet to be designed real estate objects.’ However, it doesn’t stop there; thanks to the ‘3D Insights’ feature, users will soon be able to visualise their 3D models in terms of circularity and environmental KPIs, for the first time. Beeks: ‘This 3D visualisation allows all user groups to easily determine the best and worst aspects of the design in terms of circularity and environmental impacts. Thus, the focus on circular design will truly become a piece of cake.’ Interested to find out more? Please contact Emma Klamer at eklamer@avecodebondt.nl or Sander Beeks at sander.beeks@madaster.com.

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