We must focus on making the most of building materials that already exist, says Rachel Hoolahan of Orms 

Rachel Hoolahan - Headshot

A circular economy is a necessity not a choice. Material passports offer an opportunity to gather and organise data about the materials within a building to facilitate their effective recovery and reuse at the end of the building’s life. They can inform the initial choice of materials, products and components most suited for later reuse. 

Research has largely focused on gathering data on new products, for future reuse. However, 80% of buildings that exist today will still be there in 2050, so it is vital that we make the most of materials that already exist.

At Orms we set a goal to develop an open source methodology to material passporting for existing buildings that would be accessible to design teams of all sizes and capabilities. Our strategy centres around the development of a material database, with material passports acting as a user interface to filter relevant information for the reader.

The database is the core of the circular process, which grows as the project evolves. For the design team, it captures information from surveys and information sources. This can be selectively imported into the BIM model via a bidirectional link to support the design process.

For operations teams, it provides a single location to record or link maintenance information to those who need it. Physical tags on the built components will consist of a QR code or RFID tag for active elements. When scanned, these will open the relevant record within the database.

If you are interested in implementing material passporting on your project, please get in touch at materialpassports@orms.co.uk. In return, we will ask you to share your experience, findings and solutions so the research can continue to evolve.

Rachel Hoolahan is an architect and sustainability co-ordinator at Orms 

Ideas for positive change


This is part of our Countdown to Cop26 coverage in the lead up to the world climate conference in Glasgow in Novermber. We will be publishing more big ideas about ways to tackle the climate emergency over the coming weeks and you can find more here.

Do please send us your own thoughts about how to make construction greener! Email us, using the subject line “Cop26 ideas”, at newsdesk@assemblemediagroup.co.uk