Author: Germien Cox, Madaster

Having a vision, in itself, is not sufficient to induce change. Corporate advisor and specialist in circular business models Pablo van den Bosch knows this as no other. When he first met Thomas Rau, he was impressed by his vision, but did not immediately know how to interpret a statement such as ‘waste is material without an identity’. Thomas Rau challenged Pablo van den Bosch to think about the financial impact of the use of materials within a closed system, and this was the start of their collaboration.

No more waste in a world where production and consumption are in abundance, raw materials are becoming scarcer and mountains of waste continue to grow. How realistic is this? ‘It is unrealistic to think that things will solve themselves, as, in our current economy, business models are minimally taxed for non-durable use of materials and the creation of waste. Change will be triggered by the possibilities of creating new, even better business models that do not produce waste, but instead eliminate it because they consider waste a resource. Those new business models need to be created from a publicly available source of insight into and overview of materials, components and products. The need for such a public source of information has been our inspiration for creating Madaster.’

An independent public platform, on which every user can create a material passport. How does it work? Pablo van den Bosch explains: ‘With one push of a button, data from digital 3D construction models — the so-called BIM models— can be uploaded to a secure web page. This principally concerns information about the following: what are the origins of the materials, components and products; in which quantities have they been applied; how have they been processed and/or mounted; what is their current location; and what would be their reuse and financial value, over time? In the absence of a BIM model, dossiers can be filled with any information that is available, such as drawings, photographs, calculation sheets and/or the most recently applied materials during major maintenance and repairs. In this way, over the course of time, an increasingly complete picture of a certain built environment emerges.’

How can all this data be used, in practice, and who would find such a material passport truly interesting? Pablo van de Bosch replies: ‘The information in a material passport may help building owners, designers and builders in their designing, construction or utilisation of buildings. In addition, on the basis of the material passport, financing companies will be able to include the value of materials in the total valuation of the object in question, which also means that they are not fully dependent on the market. This creates a new dimension for valuation of our real estate, to the benefit of the circular economy.’

Meanwhile, a multitude of stakeholders from public, financial and construction sectors have already joined, and, together, they are contributing to the development of the material passport. For example, financing companies and accountants provide an indication of the information on which they could base the value of circularity, and clients reveal the basis on which they would give preference to circular projects. Pablo van den Bosch states: ‘Thanks to the contribution of these so-called Kennedys, in both financial and practical regard, an online library is created, and the material passport can be optimised, in an ongoing process.’