Material(s) Bank


Material(s) Banks are repositories or stockpiles of valuable materials that might be recovered. If those materials replace primary resources used during the construction, operation or refurbishment of buildings and their parts, the need for primary resource mining, for example of rare earth elements, can be eliminated.

This idea of urban mining implies effective material reuse and thus the realisation of material loops. Nevertheless, to enable and facilitate the harvesting of materials or building parts, it is necessary to design them in a reversible way.


Alternatively, the term Material(s) Bank might also refer to bank institutions, managing the financial resources they are entrusted, for example by lending them to other individuals and businesses. Like financial resources, it is imaginable to entrust material resources to the building stock; and once materials are retrieved, they might have a higher value due to inflation.

This project has the ambition to implement the vision of ‘buildings as material banks’ during construction and refurbishment projects. Therefore, its outcomes will support their reversible design and the establishment of circular value networks through Materials Passports and Building Information Management.

Related terms

Recovery: the technological process of separating valuable materials or building parts from the building or assembly they were once integrated in, or from waste, in such a way that maintains or increases their value again.

Materials harvesting: recovering materials from the existing stock of building with the aim to reuse, recycle or biodegrade them and realise a technical or biological material loop.

Component harvesting: recovering assemblies of materials from the existing stock of buildings with the aim to reuse or recycle them and realise a technical material loop.

Urban mining: recovering materials or assemblies of materials from the building stock instead of using virgin materials.

Rare earth elements: chemical elements found in the earth’s crust that are vital to many modern technologies but are difficult to find in quantities enabling their economic development.


Electronic Recyclers International (2017). Urban Mining, homepage. Accessed March 2017 via

Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. (2017). Accessed March 2017 via Oxford: Oxford University Press