The digital potential in creating a circular construction economy

The construction and maintenance of housing, offices, roads, and other infrastructure represent the third-largest resource footprint in the Netherlands (at 32 million tonnes). The sector also accounts for the highest level of raw material consumption across all sectors (at nearly 29 million tonnes). Scenarios for creating a more circular construction economy have to date included two main strategies: calls for zero demolition and radical changes in the ways we produce buildings. 

A review by Paul W Chan, Catherine De Wolf, and Alexander Koutamanis of Technische Universiteit Delft indicates the promising potential of using digital technologies (e.g. in digital twins integrated with BIM and materials passport, digital platforms, and service-based business models) to better capture data about the quantity, quality, location, and circular value of reusable materials in buildings and to create a viable digital marketplace for circular products and services. However, this is still at a nascent stage of development. 

Efforts to date have largely focussed on the supply side. There is therefore scope to drive and strengthen demand for circular building solutions. To this end, the public sector and government agencies play a critical role, both as a major client of the construction sector and as regulators that can shape mandate and control information standards. In so doing, better (near) real-time decisions can be made that contribute to the extension of the useful life of buildings and building materials. 

A number of recommendations are presented in the paper:

  • Creating a thriving (digital) marketplace for secondary materials.
  • Through-life information management process for design, construction, and asset management. 
  • Training and education.
  • Whole of government approach: the public sector is an influential actor in the construction sector. 

Source: A review by Paul W Chan, Catherine De Wolf, and Alexander Koutamanis 

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