Madaster as an integral solution to achieving circular ambitions

In the transition towards a circular economy, ongoing improvements and innovations are essential — as is making continual adjustments where necessary, on the basis of new insights. This also applies to Madaster, which has been working continuously on its platform since it was launched in 2017. The platform, originally a register solely for materials, has since grown into a versatile platform. One that offers functionality and insights for all stakeholders in Housing & Utility construction (B&U) and Earthworks, Road & Waterway construction (GWW), thus enabling sustainable decisions and value creation — for a healthy planet and successful entrepreneurship.

In addition to information on the material, circular and financial value of registered objects, the Madaster Platform also provides insights that make it possible to monitor progress towards goal achievement and to make adjustments where necessary. One example would be the information on the degree to which a certain product or element can be dismantled or disassembled. This aspect is rapidly developing into an important parameter in the circular building economy. Or what about the ability to automatically calculate an object’s embodied carbon emissions (CO2 footprint). With the projected increase in the world’s population, this is something that is being closely monitored nationally and internationally, as this embedded CO2 will play an increasingly important role in global greenhouse gas reduction.

Regulations on circular construction and environmental impact are gradually becoming more stringent. Developers, owners and managers of real estate and infrastructure are looking for rapid, easy access to information relevant for their property, so that they are able to make timely adjustments. How could Madaster meet this need? What insights can be provided that would make registration on the platform worthwhile to potential users?

We asked Sander Hoek, Director at Madaster and the person responsible for the international roadmap and the further development of the platform:

Why is Madaster, on an international level, increasingly taking on the role of circular management tool?

We want Madaster, as a management tool, to always be in line with European and national goals for climate and environmental protection (Paris Agreement, Green Deal and Circular Economy Action Plan). It is our mission to unburden the Madaster users; to offer one integral solution in which all relevant insights are available at the push of a button. The combination of circularity-focused functionality and a large degree of attention paid to detailed registration and management of data means that Madaster is now being embraced on an international level, as well. Madaster’s international approach is furthermore also appealing to many stakeholders such as investors, developers and manufacturers who, themselves, are also active in several countries.

In 2017, we started as a simple registry of materials. Over time, however, the demand for functional expansion of the platform has grown, enormously. This demand, first of all, came from our users and partners, with their need for one integral solution — a place from which to obtain all relevant information on their assets, and one that provides insights into, for example, circularity, CO2 emissions, product dismantlement, financial value and environmental impact. And beyond that, Madaster is now active in five countries, all of which are using the platform on a local level to realise our shared mission. At these local Madaster organisations, there is a growing demand for new and improved functionalities, so that these organisations are able to accelerate the transition towards a circular economy in their own country.

What type of information can Madaster quickly and accurately provide to property owners and managers?

In the first instance, the information that is provided offers insight into the use of materials and products in a certain building or object — this is the registry function of Madaster. It involves both quantitative and qualitative information, such as on how much and what type of material has been processed or showing which products are incorporated within a building or object and where. This information is then supplemented with that from Madaster’s own database and from links to various external databases and the users’ own database (which they set up themselves); thus, providing more qualitative insights. This may concern the extent to which recycled materials or products are used, information on circularity, CO2 and degree of dismantlement, and the environment-related (LCA) aspects that are associated with these materials and products. This may sound like an enormous level of detail, but with this extensive information on a building or object, the platform is providing its users with insights that are relevant for the entire lifecycle of their property. These insights are described below.

  1. A digital passport in which all information is clearly presented. This appears to appeal to all of our customers. The passport is taking on an increasingly important role, in both national and international debate on related regulations. The Madaster passport ensures that platform users are fully informed and prepared.
  2. Various valuation applications (i.e. financial valuation and the circularity index), with which we are at the beginning of how such applications are implemented by clients, government authorities and Madaster’s customers. It is only the beginning, simply, because not everything has yet been fully defined and entered into statutory rules and regulations. They are the subjects of extensive debate. We ensure that Madaster continues to lead the way and that its applications always comply with the most recent national and international guidelines.
  3. Furthermore, we have noticed a great need for insight into, for example, CO2 emissions and product dismantlement and the possibility of generating detailed product passports. Therefore, we are working on the implementation of a number of new functionalities that meet this need. For example, in the very near future, the platform will have a completely new section on environmental information. Here, users will be able to see, for instance, the amount of carbon emissions embedded within a certain object. Also, the circularity information will be extended with insight into the degree of dismantlement.
  4. Finally, we recently launched a new application that enables producers to add product catalogues. This functionality is in keeping with the great variety of ways in which manufacturers are registering their supply; for example, either on a product level or rather according to the various product components. With this application, we are also taking into account the various national and international data standards, and are also facilitating manufacturers who do not (or, not yet) have all their product data available in detailed and automated form. The new application, of course, also enables digital product passports to be generated for manufacturers and their customers.

What information has become increasingly important, particularly in recent years, to have readily available? Could this be due to changing regulations or those that are expected to be implemented?

The sector is noticeably preparing noticeably itself for the regulations that are coming its way. This is mainly driven by the European climate agenda — a force that is simply irreversible. 

 

EU Member States will all be affected, which also means an increase in government stimulation and control. In the coming years, the EU targets will be further translated into national policies, statutory rules and regulations and obligations. This increasing legislative pressure ultimately will encourage and compel all EU Member States, the construction sector as a whole and all asset owners to contribute to the achievement of the goals set by the EU and the Member States. The rising costs of materials and landfilling, combined with a growing sense of urgency within society, further add to Madaster’s relevance. It is do or die.

We ensure that the Madaster Platform is always in line with these developments. That is why we are continuously implementing new standards or initiatives to do so. An example is Madaster’s link to the Life Cycle Data Network and affiliation with the International Life Cycle Data system, both instigated by the European Commission.

In addition, I would like to mention one other important development that is not directly obvious, but can be noticed when using the platform: the growing number of automatic links to and standardised exchange of data. Through the further development of standards and the increase in open data models, Madaster is able to increasingly provide its users with relevant information on objects, products and materials via ‘Linked Data’. These links and standardisations facilitate easy application of, for example, circularity principles in Madaster. Instead of an expensive exercise, this has become a standard process step in the design, construction and management of buildings and infrastructural projects, including their reconstruction or deconstruction.

Is validation of certain information necessary to be able to use it? How does this work at Madaster?

The need for validated data is logically dependent on the goal that users pursue with their registration in Madaster. For customers whose registration is, for example, still focused on creating their own digital register, validation of the supplied information will not, or not yet, be necessary. We do not want to raise any unnecessary barriers for this group by confronting them with a validation process that they do not need.

On the other hand, we see that, in the circular economy, Madaster’s customers are facing more and more standards, rules and subsidies. In the future, this will only increase and then, of course, validation becomes important. Because without validation, the available information is only reliable to a certain extent and, in any case, will be insufficiently verifiable to be used for certain formal assessment tools, regulations and subsidies. In the interest of transparency, Madaster does not perform such validations itself, but rather chooses to leave this to the specialists, legislators and the managers of calculation tools and subsidies. Similar to how annual accounts are drawn up by an accountant, but checked by an external auditor. Or restaurants providing menus and meals, but Michelin handing out the stars. We find this independent assessment on the basis of clear standards and assessment principles extremely important and are therefore happy to support this in the development, process and functionalities of our platform.

Madaster would like manufacturers to become more involved. Why is that and how do you go about it?

For the circular future, a clear development can be seen towards more accepted national and international tools that will be used in, for example, statutory rules and regulations and subsidies. These instruments are based more and more on the unambiguous recording of product data on the one hand, and on agreements about the exchange of such information between the various parties and systems, on the other.

When looking at the Madaster Platform, a related, important development and expansion of the platform’s functionality can be seen. Where Madaster used to focus mainly on material information, we are now developing more and more functionalities related to specific and detailed product information. This is also why producers and manufacturers are now offered the possibility of creating their own product catalogues in Madaster. They can use a variety of functionalities from there, such as that of creating product passports.
In addition, Madaster has also expanded the registration of product information in accordance with the EN 15804 EPD standard, so that we can offer our users the possibility of registering their object information in accordance with national and/or international standards, exchanging this information with regulatory authorities, or, for example, use the information in subsidy applications or tenders.

Finally, Madaster is currently developing two new insights that are expected to play an increasingly important role in the near future: insight into dismantlement options and insight into embodied carbon emissions.

From register to platform

Development of the Madaster Platform is continuous, because we notice that our customers are increasingly wondering which circular strategy would be best for both the environment and their product or service. And we know that registration alone is not enough. That is why the platform has grown from a mere registry to a versatile platform. One that, in the future, will focus even more on offering customers one integrated solution that provides all the insights and functionalities needed for them to realise their circular ambitions and business models.