The next generation about the next generation

Circularity is about passing on a clean, liveable planet to the next generation. It is therefore important to make the new generation aware of the limited availability of raw materials and resources, from a young age. Integrating circularity in educational programmes seems a logical choice. However, how does this work? What are the experiences of students? We asked Maaike van Ierssel, lecturer in architecture and sustainable real estate at Fontys University of Applied Sciences in Eindhoven.

Why has Fontys started using Madaster in its educational programme?

We started using Madaster to make students more aware of the available material choices and the importance of choosing the right materials. A material passport provides insight into the materials used and makes it more real for students. In addition, a good BIM model forms the basis for this and the BIM method allows us to share data and makes building even more fun. We want students to realise that every building is in fact a repository of raw materials.

How does circularity find its way into education in a broader sense?

Our ambition is for circularity to play an important role throughout the curriculum. The 10 R’s of circularity (i.e. Rethink, Redesign, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Refurbish, Remanufacture, Repurpose, Recycle, and Recover) are always applied in our educational programme, because a building can only be circular if, during construction and management, material stocks are kept in a closed loop. We show students that real estate is actually composed of separate tangible assets. In addition, at Fontys, we have a knowledge centre for circular transition and an academic minor in circular economy. This minor is concerned with new business models for the circular economy.

How do you use Madaster in education? What is the added value for you?

We use Madaster purely as a reading tool. The students in real estate do not create their own BIM models but should be able to assess or at least understand them, later on, in their work. Students want to know more and more about it. How they are created and especially how they are classified. That is why we also teach according to the elements of architecture (NL/SfB coding). A material passport gives students insight into how a building is constructed. Buildings are like Lego: it is not difficult, although we do make it difficult, at times. Communication is key and Madaster is the solution in this respect. Everything in one place.

What do students think about this?

As an assignment, students had to read the book Material Matters by Thomas Rau and they also had to explain the workings and purpose of a material passport.

A number of findings from our students:
‘It is quite bizarre how materials are dealt with and how many materials are simply dumped as waste — although they are really still functioning or could be used to serve another purpose. A material passport can definitely help by providing products and materials with an identity, revealing exactly what materials are used in a product and where these materials are located. Before I took this job, I had never heard of Madaster or material passports. Even though I did an internship with a major contractor.’-Brandon Lahaye

‘At first, I found it hard to believe that products are often constructed as an organised problem, but reading on eventually persuaded me. Especially finding the old cartel agreements in Berlin, convinced me of “the product as an organised problem”. It was very shocking to see that it is already so normal in today’s society and how it has developed over the past century. This also makes it difficult to imagine how it should be. Fortunately, Chapter 6 (Madaster and the Materials Passport) presents a substantiated ‘solution’. Giving materials an identity. It is a little strange that, with all the technology that has been around for some time, it was not until in 2017 that something like the material passport emerged. This shows how conservative the real estate/construction market is. Through the ‘circularity index’, they are looking to change the conservative mindset and ensure that it has a studying effect on how buildings are designed in the direction of maximum reuse.’ – Hein Kools

‘In the book, you read about the development from waste to food. I had never thought of it like that before. Of course, I know that waste is a big problem all over the world, but I had never come full circle, as is explained in the book. So, products are made in such a way that producers deliberately install a targeted defect, and, because of this, new products are barely unbroken. When I think about it, this rings true. When you buy a product, the point at which it breaks down is actually already determined. This also results in a large amount of waste, which has a substantial effect on people and the environment. Chapter 1 explains how this came about and the thinking behind it, and when I read it, I realised that this was actually not right. The book also deals with buildings and how they create waste. Many buildings are demolished and the value of the raw materials and resources used to always be written off to zero. That’s why the Material Passport was created. All materials in it are recorded and registered. They all receive their own identity and, in this way, they won’t get lost. To do this, they set up Madaster to store all the passports. I think this is a very good initiative. I myself am very interested in old buildings and, often, these would be demolished. The individual materials were not reused, even though they were still usable. This material passport is also of added value for the future.’– Marjolein van Loon

And we have over 40 more great examples from students. Being introduced to Madaster was an eye opener for everyone. This generation of students is used to sharing, so I am very confident that they will make the construction world more beautiful. Together, we will achieve progress!

 

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