SundaHus: Data is the basis for material banks

“Sending harmful chemicals into a natural cycle is like pouring sand into clockwork,” says Lisa Elfström, CEO, SundaHus. It is important for property owners to be aware of the materials being used so that as much as of them as possible can be safely recycled.

This is the type of overview that SundaHus Material Data provides. Using the database, the parties involved in a building project can make documented choices of sound materials.

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Half of the buildings we will live in, work in or visit in the year 2050 are yet to be built. To ensure they are built in keeping with the green transformation, the construction industry must stop consuming large volumes of natural raw materials and spewing out mountains of waste.

Instead, the industry needs to create more ways of recirculating spent building materials. But it is also imperative that these materials are in good condition and do not contain harmful chemicals.

“Putting toxins into a natural cycle is like pouring sand into clockwork. In other words, non-toxic flows comprise a crucial building block of a circular economy,” says Lisa Elfström, CEO, SundaHus.

SundaHus has been working to make the built environment healthier since 1990. In Sweden and the EU, the company has taken the lead in the debate about providing products with materials passports – and turning buildings into material banks.

“We envisage buildings as material banks: ‘stocks’ of valuable, high-quality materials that are easy to separate and recycle. In our view, a materials passport can reduce the volume of waste generated by the construction industry and increase the long-term value of buildings and their components. We also believe that the information provided in the passports, including the chemical content of the materials, can lay the groundwork for the circular economy,” Lisa Elfström says.

Everything revolves around the property owner

But how can property owners keep track when it is architects who design the project, contractors who manage the construction phase, subcontractors who buy the materials, and perhaps a property company that takes care of managing the completed building? SundaHus has the solution to this with its online system SundaHus Material Data.

“SundaHus makes it easy for everyone involved in the construction process to find out whether a product meets the project’s specific environmental requirements and to create a ‘logbook’ or material bank for the building. SundaHus believes that by simplifying conscious product choices, which requires neither expert knowledge nor a great deal of time, we lower the threshold for this to happen,” Lisa Elfström explains.

“If we want to bring buildings into the circular economy, we need to focus on the needs of the property owners. Going forward, they’re the end users of the information that will be needed for the reclamation of materials,” she continues.

In practice, the developer will usually be the one to create the individual project using a SundaHus Material Data licence. Architects, contractors and other players will be able to access it, e.g. to widen the selection of products and product quantities at specific locations in a building. Simple icons make it possible for you to see whether a selected product meets the project’s environmental requirements, including whether it complies with a selected sustainability certification such as Miljöbyggnad or BREEAM.

Later on, when a building needs to be maintained or demolished and disposed of, the owner will still have access to the data entered – thus realising the idea of material banks.

Based on accurate product assessments

The basis for SundaHus’ database and circular principles is made up of up-to-date data on the individual building materials. The database contains over 45,000 products, divided into five classes: A, B, C+, C- and D.

SundaHus has its own chemists who classify the products according to precise criteria. Troldtekt has an A rating, which is the best. It simply means that the acoustic panels have a minimal impact on human health and the environment. The A rating requires, among other things, a very low emission of volatile chemical substances and a minimal strain on natural resources.

“The underlying product information is important for us because it enables us to make our assessments and enter the information into our system. Sweden has a long history of providing various types of building-product declarations that contain this information. Our role is to structure, convey and refine the tasks so that property owners can construct non-toxic buildings with long-term value,” Lisa Elfström says, adding:

“In other words, we help property owners create material banks, not just buildings.”

PHOTO:
Lisa Elfström,
CEO, SundaHus

Lisa Elfström, CEO, SundaHus: Data is the basis for material banks

FACTS: About SundaHus

  • SundaHus i Linköping AB was founded in 1990 as a consulting company for the improvement of indoor environmental quality. Today the company is a leading player in the field of health and environmental assessments of building materials.
  • With an online system and qualified counselling, SundaHus is a comprehensive solution for systematic efforts to phase out hazardous substances throughout a building’s lifecycle.
  • SundaHus was one of 15 partners in the EU-funded project BAMB (Buildings as Material Banks) and was responsible for developing materials passports.

THEME: Building health and indoor climate

Although sustainable building is on the rise, large quantities of the harmful substances in building materials still manage to slip through into new and refurbished buildings.

In a new online theme from Troldtekt A/S, experts present their views on material health and indoor climate – and possible solutions to the challenges.

>> Read further theme articles here

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