A new building under construction in the City of London is pioneering the use of ‘materials passports’, designed to improve the ‘circularity’ of the materials used in its construction, facilitating their reuse in coming years by future owners, design teams, manufacturers and contractors.
Designed by Fletcher Priest Architects, the 8,700-square-metre Edenica office development at 100 Fetter Lane is harnessing the latest design techniques to optimise operational energy efficiency and slash embodied carbon. It’s also focusing firmly on the circular economy by adopting so-called materials passports, developed by the sustainability team at engineering and environmental consultancy Waterman.
Materials passports are digital data sets that describe the characteristics of the materials and components used in products and systems, giving them value for present use, recovery and future reuse. Edenica will act as a pilot project for their implementation.
Just as a regular passport provides personal details of an individual’s identity, Edenica’s materials passports will become a snapshot of the building elements’ credentials, providing records 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 valuable resources instead of waste.
According to Waterman, materials passports are a critical step in bringing a functioning circular economy to the built environment. As a new concept in the UK construction industry, there is no current standardised framework to define the process that should be followed for their production, content or form.
Waterman’s sustainability team set out the pathway for procurement that ensured that the materials passports contain the key characteristics of selected building materials held in a centralised 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.
The methodology behind the materials passports initially used data based on input from cost consultants Arcadis. The information included in the passports is derived from the construction contractors based on 3D models of the building, contractors’ records, product specifications and certificates, and the like.
The team at Waterman is providing technical advice to support the development of an online platform called Circuland, which will allow 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 the development’s materials passports. The database’s structure will follow the RICS NRM classification system level 2 sub-elements, allowing information from the materials passports to be interlinked with post-completion circular economy statements and post-construction whole life carbon assessments.
The team is collaborating with CIRCuIT, BRE and the City of London on creating a protocol to standardise the process for producing and reporting materials passports across the UK. The plan is to introduce a standardised template for all new products that can be provided by manufacturers and suppliers. This will aid the tracking of material usage intensity and enable the industry’s progression towards a fully functional circular economy.
‘It is hugely important that, as construction professionals, we continually try to advance and innovate to help tackle the climate emergency,’ said Waterman’s sustainability associate, Anastasia Stella, who led the development of Edenica’s materials passports. ‘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.’
‘Our philosophy when it comes to development and refurbishment projects it to take a “use less, waste less” approach,’ said Natalie Harrison managing director at BauMont Real Estate Capital, one of Edenica’s developers. ‘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.’