Information delivery model for a circular design process of buildings with mineral building material

  • Vernetzungsmodell für einen zirkulären Planungsprozess von Gebäuden aus mineralischen Bauprodukten

Zabek, Magdalena Ewa; Hildebrand, Linda (Thesis advisor); Klein, Tillman (Thesis advisor)

Aachen : RWTH Aachen University (2022, 2023)
Dissertation / PhD Thesis

Dissertation, Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen, 2022


Preserving the natural environment puts growing pressure on the built environment. In this regard transforming the linear economy into a circular economy (CE) appears to be a promising opportunity to reduce environmental impact and resource depletion. As the construction industry is the most resource-intensive industry, with millions of tons of raw materials and waste produced each year, CE offers alternative strategies to the current linear economy. However, the transition towards a CE requires more knowledge and information, especially about mineral material, their waste and energy streams, as they have the highest shares of consumed resources. Since a building is a conglomerate of building products where material streams come together, the entire life span of each product needs to be considered. In this regard, building planners have a strategic position in implementing circularity aspects and managing information flow within the design process of a building. By selecting recycled or reused products and designing demountable connections, planners have a substantial impact on the future material flow. On the one hand, planners are confronted with an increasing amount of information about products and how they should be constructed. On the other hand, they lack experience and knowledge in implementing circularity into practice. Besides, essential information about products gets lost during a lifecycle of a building. Especially during the design and construction phase, information errors or their absence cause misleading communication between stakeholders. Consequently, a lack of data leads to a higher workload and lower quality of material flows. Therefore, the description of essential qualitative and quantitative information requirements during the entire design process and predefined information exchange points are essential for closing material flow circles. Only if all relevant product information is defined, documented and exchanged material streams can be managed transparently, efficiently and more circularly. Especially during the design phase, physical properties, judicial and organizational information regarding circularity aspects become important as they influence the product selection and construction process. For example, by knowing the key information about a product’s performance in regard to circularity, planners can estimate the environmental impact of potential decisions. The working process can be influenced and the design process steered by delivering the correct information about a product or design task at a specific time. An integral Information Delivery Model can distribute all relevant information about, for example, building products and construction methods to planners and their collaborators. The model has the potential to document and deliver information, hence guaranteeing a successful work, information and material flow.6 First, relevant information such as product properties and judicial and organizational data that influence a circular material flow are de- fined based on a literature review. Furthermore, all tasks during a circular design process, the involved stakeholders, and the information that needs to be exchanged are defined based on case study research and literature review. Based on this, the following scenarios for a circular design process are presented:1) building with reused products, 2) building with recycled products, 3) preparing products for reuse. Finally, all relevant information and design tasks that follow circularity principles are implemented in a model selected for its compatibility with digital tools. This dissertation aims to link information about mineral building products regarding circular material flows to the design process of buildings in a coherent information flow model. The goal is to reliably deliver guidelines and standards for the use of circular mineral building products and to provide a model that enables the exchange, documentation and management of a circular design process with the ability to be implemented into a digital tool. This can decrease the use of natural resources, reduce emissions during production and close material flows. The model developed in this research offers a basis for future implementation into BIM as a holistic and collaborative working method that enables a circular design process.