A system to record product data for later reuse is being trialled on a live building project in move to create a sustainability database.

An office construction job in London has become a crucial testbed for capturing data on building materials for circular reuse, which could result in a UK-wide database and marketplace for reused products.

The 94,000ft2 Edenica development in the City of London, designed by Fletcher Priest Architects, is pioneering the development of materials passports – digital datasets that describe characteristics of materials, products and components, giving them value during maintenance, recovery and future reuse.

The initiative forms part of the EU project CIRCuIT and involves multidisciplinary consultancy Waterman Group, project manager Third London Wall, and partners including BRE and City of London.

Waterman developed a procurement pathway on Edenica to ensure that key characteristics of building materials are captured and held in a centralised database. This will be used to provide reports on maintenance and potential future reuse during the life of the building and at end of life.

The consultancy is developing a protocol to standardise the process for producing and reporting materials passports, which would be adopted as best practice for responsible development. It also plans to work with policy makers to produce a standardised template for materials passports to apply to all new products.

The project is a critical step in the creation of a functioning circular economy, explains Anastasia Stella at Waterman Building Services who led its development on Edenica: ‘Until now, there have been no tools to allow the creation of materials passports and no standardised framework is applied in the UK,’ she said. ‘We had to start from scratch, defining what they should include, what form they should take, how to organise the information in the database on different levels, and finally, how to use them and update them throughout the building lifecycle.’

Information included in materials passports for Edenica will derive from construction contractors, co-ordinated by main contractor Mace, and based on BIM models, contractors’ records, product specifications and certificates etc.

‘Mace has bought into the concept and will work with us to ensure that as we buy materials and components they are all logged,’ said Mark Terndrup, managing director of building services at Waterman Group. ‘It’s about discipline and starting from procurement, making sure you are clear on all the data you need at the outset of the contract. We’ve been diligent in writing specifications for all this in the tender process so that Mace fully understands the information they have to supply.’

The live project will support the development of an online platform, called Circuland, where materials passports are created, viewed and updated, at both individual building development and city levels.

The structure of the database will follow the RICS NRM classification system level 2 sub-elements, which allows information from materials passports to be interlinked with post-completion circular economy statements and post-construction whole life carbon assessments.

The platform will also feature an online materials stock database/marketplace for the UK, where materials passports for reusable materials are added by demolition contractors when buildings are slated for refurbishment or demolition. These can then be sourced by construction teams planning new projects. ‘The vision is a bit like an Amazon solution with depots for materials for reuse around the UK,’ says Terndrup.

The Edenica development and its associated materials passport database is scheduled for completion in summer 2024.

Words: Stephen Cousins, The RIBA Journal.