A glimpse into the future of materials management in construction

Construction materials Ellis Fox blog

Many main contractors are committed to creating net-zero sites, reducing construction waste and improving management of materials. But it’s not a straight forward task, there are hundreds of elements that need to connect to make this happen. Materials still need to comply with standards and when their history is unknown it’s difficult to validate if they will.

It’s indeed difficult to rewrite the past, but there are suggestions that creating digital materials passports which contain all the relevant data could help determine how materials can be reused in future. If this data can be integrated in to BIM, it may also influence the design and planning of projects. But how best to implement it?

A trial project was recently implemented in London for an office development and it’s a good example of the many things that need to be taken into consideration when materials are to be reused, recycled or repurposed in future. Here are a few key takeaways:

Centralized information

Having the information in a centralized database where various tools and technologies can access it is vital. In other words, an exel spreadsheet is not the ideal solution. A better option is a cloud platform that integrates with BIM and design tools.

Construction and deconstruction

If the life of materials is to be extended, buildings need to be designed in ways that materials can be easily deconstructed without damage. Modular design lends itself to this more than traditional construction methods where materials are mixed and permanently bonded. This means implementing operational changes on site.

Whole life considerations

When looking to achieve net zero, it’s not enough to only know the source and initial carbon footprint of materials. Transportation and storage also factor in, as well as how materials are disposed of when they can no longer be used. Material passports, if correctly implemented, can help track this information and provide data essential to helping main contractors improve their sustainability efforts.

Technical expertise

There is an opportunity for professionals in the industry to leverage their expertise to help design and test ways in which to make materials passports work. Understanding how the industry currently operates, and knowing what the desired future outcome should be, is critical to overcoming challenges to implementation.

Data has a key role to play in helping the construction industry achieve net-zero and it’s innovators who will be leading the way.