Milestone: The material passport gathers all product data in one place
To create transparency, traceability and provide access to the data that is specific to a particular construction material; this is the purpose of a new material passport, which is supported by a broad industry-wide collaboration. This initiative will pave the way towards building construction becoming a circular process. Read the following interview with two of the people who were key to developing the material passport.
Few people would buy foods or personal care products that lack the appropriate declarations showing they are fit for consumption or use. In our industry, however, we have a complete reverse situation with regard to many of the materials used to construct the buildings where we spend most of our time.
The material passport shows digital data about what building materials actually contain. This allows consultants to choose correctly so as to ensure that materials with (for example) unwanted chemical content are not selected for the building. Anna-Mette Monnelly is Sustainability Director at NREP. She has played a central role in the material passport's development.
"The material passport is crucial to compliance with EU taxonomy, as it ensures documentation, transparency and traceability. The success criterion is that it will become standard procedure to use the material passport to learn more about a particular product, and that it will be used to make a difference to the way we use materials right now."
She continues "recent years have seen increased focus on carbon footprints, which is all well and good, but sustainability involves much more than just that. A material with low carbon emissions can have other unintended effects. We therefore need to know and understand the entire value chain. Sending healthy products in a circular economy can create a real change, but the challenge is initially just to get any data at all. Only then we can change industry practice."
We hope that the material passport, when used in conjunction with building life cycle assessments (Building LCAs), will enable the industry to prepare genuine climate reports for each project.
A broad industry cooperation
The new material passport was launched at the Circular Build Forum in mid-January 2023. While some adjustments still need to be made, the portal (which is also free to use) has now gone public.
The development of the material passport was based on Sustainable Build in 2015, which brought together the entire industry.
"We brought together the parties who wanted to continue working towards introducing a material passport. Troldtekt, who are well ahead of the pack when it comes to documentation, were also involved from the very beginning. Even though there are a lot of parties involved, it has been a very good collaboration across the board with talented, hard-working and trusting people," explains Anna-Mette Monnelly.
Troldtekt has been part of the working group behind the material passport and has thus contributed to the process and tested the software. The following other companies and trade associations are also behind the project: The Danish Association of Construction Clients (DACC), the Danish Construction Centres trade association, Henning Larsen, Lendager Group, Molio, NCC, NREP and SundaHus.
Grundejernes Investeringsfond (The Danish Landowners' Investment Fund), The Kuben Housing Fund and the Danish Construction Centres trade association have been financial backers of the project since 2019.
Buildings should be seen as banks of usable materials
Jan Boström, Head of Sustainability Business Development at the Swedish SundaHus/iBinder Group, also played a central role in the development of the material passport. He reports considerable interest from several different construction industry stakeholders, including suppliers of building materials who have, like Troldtekt, chosen to create a material passport to go with their products.
According to Boström, "the construction industry accounts for a large proportion of the resource utilisation and greenhouse gas emissions produced by our society. If we are to bring about some real changes in this regard, we need to start to consider that buildings are not just a way of consuming larger or smaller quantities of resources, but as 'material banks', so to speak, where the same building materials can be used for a while and then reused elsewhere, while retaining the same value."
Jan Boström adds that "one of the prerequisites for getting to that point is access to relevant data about building materials, not just now, but also when the time comes to reuse them. The material passport will solve this issue. And my hope is that it will bring the entire industry one step closer to true sustainability.
Data must pave the way
Although similar to other standards, the material passport contains data that is not currently included in EPDs, safety data sheets, declarations of performance or CE labelling. Jan Boström explains that the passport's primary strengths are based on stringent data requirements.
"The material passport contains the data we require if we are to be able to choose the right products when considered from a circular perspective. We also need access to this data to ensure safe and efficient use and remanufacturing in the future."
Boström elaborates that "the product data is stored in a structured and standardised XML-based format, which means that it can be safely and efficiently interpreted by all systems that support the format. To help facilitate the dissemination of this information, we have gone with an open-source format that is free for everyone to implement in their software."
Facts and figures: About the material passport
- Danish Association of Construction Clients (DACC), the Danish Construction Centres trade association, Henning Larsen, Lendager Group, Molio, NCC, NREP, SundaHus Material Data and Troldtekt are behind the development of the new material passport.
- Grundejernes Investeringsfond (The Danish Landowners' Investment Fund), The Kuben Housing Fund and the Danish Construction Centres trade association have been financial backers of the project since 2019.
- The material passport is open-source software and free to use. The company that fills in a material passport for its product is responsible for the content.
- Visit the material passport at: The material passport and its value - material passport