Blog

From Material Passport to Building Passport...and what about a Product Passport?

Author: Marijn Emanuel, Madaster

This week, while driving way back from seeing a builder who is starting to use Madaster, I heard a journalist on BNR radio say: ‘Ah yes, the way the construction sector has the Madaster Platform...’. 

For Madaster, everything began with the book ‘Material Matters’ by Thomas Rau and Sabine Oberhuber, which describes the transition towards a new economic model. A model in which responsibility is taken for raw materials that are incorporated in a building or product, so that they do not end up as waste. This can be prevented by registering materials in a passport and in that way providing them with their own identity. Thus, the idea of a registry for materials within the built environment was conceived, and the Madaster Platform was launched on 20 September 2017. A platform where all property owners are able to create their own material passport, easily and at low cost.  

Madaster started with a so-called ‘Minimal Viable Product’, although this was still greatly to be improved. The main thing was that a start had been made! Many companies and organisations, the so-called Kennedys, supported Madaster in this venture and, in no time, over 1,000,000 m2 of real estate were registered on the Madaster Platform.

Many saw the need for a material passport as a means to accelerate the circular construction economy and also include the government in this endeavour. For example, in early 2018, a transition team led by Elphi Nelissen, in its report the Transition agenda Circular Construction Economy, proposed the implementation of the material passport as a policy measure, and suggested that the decision about whether this measure should be compulsory should ultimately be made by 2020.    According to this transition agenda, government bodies on all levels need to become front runners in the implementation of material passports and recognise existing initiatives such as Madaster and BAMB 2020. Before long, this recommendation was supported by Rijkswaterstaat, Rijksvastgoedbedrijf, De Bouwcampus and NEN, with the launch of Platform CB’23. This platform connects circular ambitions and draws up national building sector agreements. The activities of Platform CB’23 include the development of an unambiguous methodology and format for creating material passports. It distinguishes between ‘material passports, product passports and building passports’ that respectively contain information about the materials, products and the building itself. Within the Passports action team, Madaster has contributed to the guidelines for passports in building construction (Leidraad Paspoorten voor de Bouw 1.0). It is good to see that the basic principle of our Circular Index is also applied in the core method for measuring circularity (Meten van Circulariteit). However, there is still more to be done, which is why we are working on version 2.0 to support the adoption of material passports towards 2020. 

In early 2019, the government decided to stimulate the use of material passports and to further promote this through tax incentives. Via the environmental investment rebate (MIA) and the Arbitrary depreciation of environmental investments (Vamil), entrepreneurs are able to benefit from investment-related deductions of up to 75%. The preconditions for the concept of a material passport is registered in an online platform such as that of Madaster. In order to continue to comply with current and future requirements, development of the Madaster Platform is ongoing. The Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO.nl) opted for this development to be based on practical experience, which is very much in line with the development of the Madaster Platform.  

All these developments to stimulate a sustainable approach to building materials have partly contributed to the Dutch Green Building Council which is to start in 2020 with awarding credits to the registration of materials and products in material passports and building passports, in the BREEAM assessment method. In practice, this means that registering materials in a building passport provides a building with a higher score and that registration becomes a precondition for obtaining the highest score. Is BREEAM Outstanding your ambition? Then register your building in Madaster!

All these measures are based on the process of digital construction systems. Looking at the measures and proposals mentioned above clearly shows the growing data economy — data, and the related knowledge economy, that are inextricably linked to the circular economy. Knowing what you’ve got, so that it won’t be lost. Registration rather than depreciation. This is what Madaster started to do, two years ago. This places certain requirements on the governance of all these data and other information, which Madaster has realised from the start and which explains its supervision by the Madaster Foundation.

However, the recording of information is also the bottleneck; the registration of buildings via a Building Passport only occurs at the end of the process, as is common practice in our current linear building economy. However, the data are created right at the start of the process, where materials are made and subsequently turned into products. The creation of high-quality Building Passports calls for more attention for data accessibility in so-called Product Passports, with the necessary transparency and easy access from a, preferably central, location. The Netherlands is also an open economy, which means most things are imported from other countries, with other regulations and other insights. Therefore, solutions and problems both involve transboundary agreements — or the lack thereof.

This puts certain demands on these Product Passports and, for example, calls for a good national environmental database (NMD) or similar material and product databases that, in turn, comply with international standards. This also provides guidance for the informational demand and development of the various ‘BIM-ILS’, something that the BIM desk is working with, at the moment. This principle should be translated into a ‘Basic ILS for products’, providing insight into the information supplied on product composition (what and how) and aspects such as safety and health. Knowing what you have should become just as important as knowing what it is that you are eating. Materials, products, buildings; health is not only personally and physically important, but is certainly also related to the public interest.

For more than two years now, Madaster has been providing an answer to the various questions and requirements related to circular construction. The concept of the Material Passport, a passport for the construction sector, has definitely become known in 2019, even in the media, and increasingly has also been embedded in regulation, in revenue models and everyday practice. In 2020, the government will be deciding on the cases in which the use of such a system will be mandatory. And if, by that time, a broad support for the Product Passport also were to emerge, with the guarantee of accessibility and the right type of governance... then the established concept of passports for the construction sector will truly take flight!