Author: Germien Cox, Madaster
If we can believe the news, we are all convinced that we want a circular economy: an economy in which finite resources of raw materials are not depleted and in which waste materials are completely reused. After all, waste is material without identity, as Thomas Rau tells us. It is obvious that there is a need for a publicly available source of insight and overview in materials, components and products. This need inspired Madaster and was the starting signal for the construction of a platform that functions as a public online library of materials in a constructed environment. Is it difficult to build such an online library?
The fact that building such a public online library of materials does not happen overnight becomes apparent when I speak to platform architect Sander Bosman. Since its start in January 2017, approximately 11,000 hours have already been spent on building the platform. Today, around 15 people continuously work on the platform, including software architects, developers, testers and consultants. The Madaster platform has more than a hundred users and no less than 250,000 m2 of floor space registered, including various real estate properties of Arup, the Municipality of Barendrecht, JP van Eesteren, IMd Raadgevende Ingenieurs, Schiphol Real Estate, VORM Holding, ABN AMRO Bank N. V. and Erasmus MC.
New functionalities are introduced and changes are implemented each quarter. Does the development team come up with all these new functionalities on its own? Sander Bosman answers: "Regular expert sessions are organised together with Kennedy's and other relevant market players, such as Copper8, to translate concepts such as ‘sustainability’ into measurable values for the platform. This ultimately led to a circular tab within the platform. Now we are going to focus on the development of the financial valuation within the platform, which provides more insight into the financial value of materials and buildings. To do so, we will first turn to the market. Where is the need and how can we - within our vision - cleverly translate it into the Madaster platform?”
The platform is developed for and by the market. Is there an example of a recently renewed or improved functionality that can be directly traced back to a need in the market? Sander Bosman continues: "The dossier functionality is a direct result of market demand. With regard to energy certification, a clear classification of documents is essential for many companies. Thanks to the dossier functionality, documents can now be easily accommodated in Madaster and, for example, arranged per life phase of a building: design phase, construction phase, management phase, demolition phase, etcetera.”
Being able to respond quickly to market demand is of course essential for a development team. How long does it take to develop, test and implement a new functionality? Sander Bosman answers: “We work in three-week sprints in which a new functionality is developed and tested. Depending on the size of a particular functionality, one or more functionalities are developed during a sprint. Testing is both automatic and manual”. This is indeed quite fast.
Can you also give us an example of a market demand that is more difficult to translate to the platform? Sander Bosman: “For a demolition tender, the Erasmus MC, for example, wants to know what materials are in the building, but also where all their products are located in the building. After all, removing one hundred sinks on the fifth floor is far more difficult than removing the same number on the ground floor. By registering this in Madaster, demolition companies can find all the information they need so they can start an appropriate tender procedure. Sounds logical and above all very convenient for all parties involved. Why does translating such a question to the Madaster platform take more time than a three-week sprint? Sander Bosman continues: “At Madaster, the focus is now mainly on materials rather than products. However, this question has led us to decide to continue to develop this in the near future. In reality, registration of products and their location in a building is also simply necessary to be able to do business in a circular way.”
The market ensures that we, as a development team, are constantly challenged to develop and implement desired functionalities in the platform within the context of Madaster
The market clearly keeps the development team busy and if we can believe Sander, this is mainly reflected in the upcoming releases. Sander explains: "We are now busy updating the materials and products database in Madaster. This is a result of what we have observed in the market, but also in preparation of the platform for links to external databases such as the National Environmental Database (NMD). Thanks to links with reliable sources including NMD, we can reuse and integrate circularity information, such as lifespan and recycling rate, into the platform. In addition, we also want to link reliable financial sources in order to be able to properly account for the financial valuation. An interface (API) is currently being developed to exchange information with external parties. The first version will be launched in the first half of 2018.”
The question arises whether, given the complexity and multiplicity of data, it is interesting to seek collaboration with similar platforms. Sander replies: "We are open to collaborating with similar platforms and external parties to explore integration opportunities and develop additional functionalities together. A good example of this is a link with W/E advisors for calculating an Environmental Performance Buildings (MPG) score, which we are currently working on together.”
What is the biggest challenge for the development team? Sander Bosman replies: "On the one hand, this concerns scalability and, on the other hand, safety. Thanks to cloud technology, we can of course in theory scale up to unlimited levels. However, it is our task to ensure that the platform remains in place for worldwide use. In addition, it is of course essential that safety is guaranteed and that data is only accessible to those who are justifiably able to do so. The market ensures that we, as a development team, are constantly challenged to develop and implement desired functionalities in the platform within the context of Madaster.”