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Circular construction: London building site trials materials passports

by Sion Geschwindt
Circular construction: London building site trials materials passports

Waterman, a structural engineering firm working on the Edenica office development in London, is trailing special passports that create a digital data set for all the building materials used on the project.

Materials passports are digital data sets that log characteristics of materials and components, giving them value for present use, recovery and future reuse.

The materials passports are being adopted to make it easier to reuse components and materials at the end of the new building’s life, in line with the concept of circular construction. They are part of the development’s wider approach to cutting whole-life carbon and creating a platform for material circularity.

The 94,000 sq ft Edenica building, designed by Fletcher Priest Architects for BauMont Real Estate Capital and YardNine, is under construction in the City of London, with Keltbray currently undertaking preparatory demolition work.

Edenica will act as a pilot project for their implementation and is the first scheme within the City of London to be designed as a storage bank where materials are held for future reuse.

Standardising materials passports

Working alongside project manager Third London Wall, Waterman’s sustainability team has set out the pathway for procurement to ensure the materials passports contain key characteristics of selected building materials held in a database.

This can be used to provide reports on maintenance and potential future reuse over the life of the building and beyond, maximising both material life and whole life value.

Edenica’s materials passports will become a record of the building elements, providing data of the materials, products, and components that have been used. These records will enable the reuse of materials during the building’s operation or at the end of its life, turning the used materials into resources instead of waste.

Waterman’s Anastasia Stella led the development of materials passports on the project
Waterman’s Anastasia Stella led the development of materials passports on the project

Materials passports are seen as a key step in bringing a functioning circular economy to the built environment but, as yet, there is no standardised framework to define the process that should be followed for their production, content or form.

Waterman is now creating a protocol to standardise the process for producing and reporting materials passports across the UK.

It is collaborating with the Building Research Establishment (BRE) and an EU research project called Circular Construction in Regenerative Cities (CIRCuIT). The City of London Corporation is also involved.

The aim is to create a standardised template for materials passports for all new products that can be provided by manufacturers and suppliers.

Waterman’s sustainability associate, Anastasia Stella, who led the development of materials passports at Edenica, said: “It is hugely important that, as construction professionals, we continually try to advance and innovate to help tackle the climate emergency.

Our materials passport initiative shows how even the simplest of concepts can create the potential for a significant reduction in whole-life carbon and optimise re-purposing of materials in the future.” 

Waterman’s specialists used data initially based on input from cost consultant Arcadis. The information that is included in the materials passports derives from the construction contractors. The information is based on 3D models, contractors’ records, product specifications and certificates.

Digitising the process

Waterman’s team is providing technical advice to support the development of an online platform called Circuland which allows the creation, viewing and maintenance of digital materials passports across building, development and city levels.

The platform will be used for the digital storage and viewing of materials passports, and the database’s structure will follow the RICS NRM classification system level 2 sub-elements (RICS, 2021).

This will allow information from the materials passports to be interlinked with post-completion circular economy statements and post-construction whole life carbon assessments.

Further reading:

On behalf of the developers, BauMont Real Estate Capital managing director, Natalie Harrison, said: “Our philosophy when it comes to development and refurbishment projects it to take a ‘use less, waste less’ approach.

“We engage sustainability specialists at the outset of our projects to ensure our desire to deliver buildings with best-in-class ESG credentials is taken into account in the early stages of design.

“This leads to better collaboration and promotes innovation, a good example of this being Waterman’s material passports initiative being delivered at Edenica, which looks beyond policy, setting a new precedent for London.”

What is circular construction?

Circular construction, the application of the circular economy to the construction industry, aims to close building material loops by reusing, sharing, leasing, repairing, refurbishing, upcycling or recycling rather than continuing the traditional take-make-consume-dispose process.

Image: An artist’s impression of the Edenica building (credit: Fletcher Priest Architects)

Read next: Orkney Islands uses digital twins to boost building performance

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