Change in collaboration across all actors:
- from a chain to a network
Within the current building supply chain a fairly good collaboration already exists between product manufacturers, architects, energineering firms and building contractors. In the design and construction stages a lot of technical and financial product and building information is exchanged between these actors – though often only in one direction. However, once the building is erected and passed over from one owner or user to another, building and product data often gets lost and old partnerships are forgotten, leaving new building owners/users, facility managers and demolition contractors with limited information on how to properly operate and refurbish the building and repurpose building components and materials.
Circular economy within the built environment requires strong interaction between all main stakeholders within the design, construction, use, refurbish and repurposing phases.
For example, a facility manager (if present) should keep track of all changes within the building (from repair works, to retrofits and transformation actions) and provide this information to new owners and users. Demolition and deconstruction contractors can use this information to find potential candidates willing to recover building components and materials for other useful applications.
It is fair to say that a circular and reversible built environment can only be supported by a highly interconnected value network. Because of the magnitude of information and variety of stakeholders within the building value network, a digital way of collecting, handling and exchanging data seems indispensable.
What is the reward on the long term?
- Towards digital ‘storage’ and ‘exchange’ of building information (now, past and potential future scenarios) of a changing building stock, instead of information that is lost over time or gets lost throughout the value chain. Building Information Management (BIM), i.e. the process of designing, constructing and operating a building with the use of electronic object-orientated information or building information models, will play an important role in this. Through BIM, actors within the value network of the building will anticipate both easy-to-plan and unpredictable changes, through the exchange of shared 3D models and the intelligent, structured data attached to them.
- Towards cognitive buildings, in which the building performance is constantly monitored and optimized, taking into account user behaviour and functional changes within the building. In most current buildings performance aspects such as energy and water consumption, operational waste and indoor air emissions are rarely or not monitored on a regular basis. Furthermore, the real performance is usually not in line with calculations and estimations within the design stage. A major reason is the lack of insights in operational activities and real user behavior. Buildings that are linked to Internet of Things (IoT) devices and a machine learning system will have the ability (1) to provide insights, (2) to learn and interact naturally with humans, and (3) to act and deploy changes to building operations. (IBM Global Business Services, 2016)
- Towards traceable information on the history and current use of building components and materials, in order to stimulate reuse and recycling. Today, reuse of building components and high-value recycling of building materials is still limited due to a lack of information on the original product design, the composition and how it was used during its previous service life(s). However, keeping this kind of information available for future stakeholders will create trust within the value network and increase repurposing options.
 IBM Global Business Services (2016), White paper – Embracing the Internet of Things in the new era of cognitive buildings, October 2016, USA, 8p., accessed on November 13th 2016 through https://ibm.ent.box.com/s/ieuoxqj58pl7q0v9etmirrkd96i27wng
Why isn’t it so easy to initiate change today?
- Data sharing is a complex process requiring effective rules and controls to be defined to ensure secure and reliable transactions. However, the development of BIM has been uneven across the EU and the rest of the world, with vastly different levels of adoption and standardisation in different countries.
- Artificial/Augmented Intelligence within the built environment is still in its infancy. There is a vibrant societal debate on whether machine learning will lead to user-centred
- Initiating a certification process for reclaimed building products could destroy informal initiatives to recuperate existing building components within the building stock.
Which actions are needed?
(L = long-term perspective; S = short-term perspective; B = within the BAMB Project)
- In September 2015 a new European standardisation committee (CEN/TC 442 on BIM) was established to develop common European standards for BIM (S). The committee aims at the development of a structured set of standards, specifications and reports which specify methodologies to define, describe, exchange, monitor, record and securely handle asset data, semantics and processes with links to geospatial and other external data. (CEN, 2015)
- Development of “BIM for circularity” software (S) to support architects and engineering offices in reversible building design and exchange data to perform a circular building assessment.
- Within some European countries such as the UK, Netherlands, Denmark, Finland and Norway the use of BIM is already required for publicly funded building projects. One way to further stimulate the uptake of BIM is through a stepwise regulation (S–L).
- Development (S) and adoption (S) of Materials Passport standard(s) aiming at (1) harmonising basic dataset requirement of materials passports, (2) allowing complementary and compatible use of data from different (materials passport) platforms.
- Pilot projects need to be initiated (B–S) in which all stakeholders within the ecosystem, including property owners and users, are motivated to co-create within the design and transformation process.
- Simplifying the data collection process through the development of quick-scan instruments (S–L) for new as well as for existing buildings. In order to determine some thermal characteristics of buildings and their elements already some scanning techniques, such as thermal spectroscopy and blower door testing are used. Expanding it with scanning techniques for the material composition of existing buildings would allow building professionals to better repurpose the building and its components.
- Development (S) and implementation (L) of digital twins (i.e. virtual 3D reality models) and digital logs (listings of current, past and future use of the building and its parts), allowing: (1) different stakeholders within the value network to visualise, plan and prepare possible building transformations and (2) tracking and tracing building components and providing valuable information for future replacement, remanufacturing and repurposing.
 CEN. (2015). CEN/TC 442 Business Plan. CEN.