One might wonder why it doesn’t already exist: a land registry for materials. In 2017 Madaster, Utrecht region based, was founded: a company that creates ‘material passports’ for buildings, making every building’s construction transparent. After expansion in European countries, they are also tying with Taiwan. “Our mission is to eliminate waste by giving it an identity,” says Rob Oomen, partnership manager at Madaster.
The platform, which was created by Thomas Rau, went online in September 2017 and two million square metres have already been registered since then. From the very beginning, the plan had awakened a lot of enthusiasm. Large companies from various sectors – including Heijmans, Deloitte and Rabobank – have supported the platform from the start and gave it a first development boost by making a one-off donation.
The idea is simple, although innovative. A lot of new buildings have a 3D construction drawing, a so-called BIM: Building Information Model. This construction drawing is uploaded in Madaster, which compares it to its own database of identified materials. The result is a passport, which indicates exactly what material has been used, but also, e.g., what the quality and value of the material is.
The passport makes a circular economy easier to conduct, since it shows how the material could be reused. According to Oomen, this is necessary, as at some point our raw materials will be exhausted. “The whole world has an interest to manage this. Individuals and companies can subscribe to Madaster. Buildings that do not have a 3D building drawing, because for example they have been built a long time ago, can collect the ‘ingredients’ for a complete passport in a format provided.
Also, it is not just sustainability that motivates Madaster. According to Madaster, by logging the constructions’ components, the safety of buildings can also be improved. Think for example of the parking garage in Eindhoven that collapsed or the apartment building in London that caught fire. A passport makes it possible to trace these constructions rapidly.
Madaster has not gone unnoticed overseas. “In Switzerland, they are already working on a Swiss Madaster. We are also conversing with Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Finland and Norway”, says Oomen. But then unexpectedly, Taiwan was brought to their attention, a country that the company initially did not consider.
“Taiwan is very externally orientated,” explains Simone Sars, Business Development Manager Asia. “There are only a limited number of assets and resources in Taiwan. This is why a circularity notion is addressed as an essential matter.”
Sars is a sinologist and is therefore affiliated with Madaster, to use her knowledge of Asia to establish things over there. Madaster is part of a Dutch trade mission that voyages to Taiwan in the end of March. Madaster signs two declarations of intent for cooperation in Taiwan. The objective is to show two demonstrations of material passports in Taiwan. “By doing so, we hope to win the confidence of the Taiwanese about its workings”, says Sars.
If the contacts in Taiwan remain interested, it will be a huge undertaking to translate a Dutch Madaster into a Taiwanese version. Sars explains: “They have a different coding system there for example, and it has to be completely translated into Chinese.”
Sars and Oomen hope that this will be a stepping stone to the rest of the Asian market. “Madaster has a public interest,” says Oomen. “If we want to eliminate waste, we firstly have to give it an identity and we need a system change to do so.”