In the Netherlands, the construction industry consumes half of all raw materials used in the country.  Additionally, almost a quarter of used materials enter the waste stream, not accounting for the additional 11 billion kilograms of materials that come out of demolition, making it the biggest contributor to waste.

In response, the Royal Dutch Institute for Standardisations has brought together a consortium of companies and organisations involved in the construction industry to produce framework for circular construction. This framework consists of guidelines for measuring the circularity of buildings and a passport for recording the materials used in these buildings.

The measurement method can standardise the indicators for circular construction and make measurements comparable. The materials passport can help companies understand better what materials are available for reuse when a building must be taken down.

One of the key goals of the framework is that it should be usable by the entire construction industry. However, the guidelines are written by experts for experts and, hence, missed some critical points of explanation that undermined its usability for layman. Therefore, we aimed to advise Platform CB’23 on how their guidelines could be made more usable and truly meet their ambition of standardising circular practices in the construction industry.

We gathered insights on the usability of the guide documents by performing a case study of designs for a new building to be constructed on the Amsterdam Science Park campus. Furthermore, we collected survey results from 22 industry experts and interviewed an additional 13 people to get a better view of perspectives from different parts of the industry, understand what is currently done for circularity and what could be better about the current infrastructure.

Our key conclusions:

  • Platform CB’23 needs to be more concrete with providing external resources of information, particularly with regard to guiding users in performing circularity measurements.
  • The results of measuring the circularity of a building can be difficult to interpret from the numbers alone. A benchmark for circular construction can provide a more understandable comparison for the results of a calculation. This could be combined with visualisations to enhance the readability of results.
  • Platform CB’23 has an opportunity to tackle the issue of decentralised processes in the Dutch construction industry. Instead of allowing the market to develop their own tools, Platform CB’23 could develop a centralised, integrated software that will provide a fair playing ground and encourage smaller businesses to make the transition.

Feline de Wit and Samuel Natarajan