The Digital Traceability of mineral based construction materials

Gethin Davies
December 14, 2021

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing the world today.

Globally, the construction industry is responsible for 39% of energy and process related CO2 emissions, according to the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction in their 2021 Status Report. In the UK, greenhouse gas emissions produced by the construction industry have increased roughly 45% compared to 1990 levels, amounting to 13.8 million tons of CO2 equivalent by 2019.

Therefore, the decarbonisation of this industry is critical to achieve global climate goals.

However, there is evidence that the industry has started its transition to a low carbon economy. Investment in building and construction energy efficiency has increased by 40% over the past five years, emission and energy intensity has come down, and governments have started to expand the use of building energy codes as well as including the sector in their Nationally Determined Contributions.

Whilst it’s not all doom and gloom… these actions are not enough to drive the transformational change the industry needs. So how do we accelerate action?

A Circular Economy

Focused on designing out waste and minimising environmental impact, the circular economy has come into focus to a growing number of the world’s industry leaders. From water and electricity to steel and concrete, the construction industry takes a vast number of resources; and today, when buildings reach the end of their lifetime, typically only 40% of their related waste is recycled or reused. Logically, evolving to a circular model can have a huge impact in the decarbonisation of the sector.  

The transition to a circular economy begins by designing products and materials that are meant to be recycled and reused, orchestrating the logistical operation for waste management, and guaranteeing the supply of materials at a value that can still operate within economic boundaries.

The design of new materials is an area well on its way. Yet, the same cannot be said of the introduction of these materials to the marketplace and how data will flow along the value chain to guarantee that these materials are effectively being recycled or reused. This transition will only be successful if we guarantee accurate and reliable material data is available to value chain players, so they can take the right decisions on waste and circularity.

Organisations are making great progress on developing and understanding the processes which will support the transition to a sustainable circular economy. However, these modelled processes must be accompanied by the right implementation systems which will simplify data collection and guarantee data accuracy, both of which are critical to substantiate the sustainability credentials and the potential for circularity of any industrial process.

How Blockchain can help

Our aim is to provide a fully digital ecosystem for the traceability of mineral-based construction materials. By providing access to material data, provenance, and chain of custody; this ecosystem will support companies in their transition to a circular economy model for the infrastructure industry; helping an otherwise analogue industrial sector like infrastructure, to accelerate its digital transformation.

This ecosystem will provide near real time access to supply chain data, and it will enable the traceability of circular construction materials from waste collection to their reinsertion into new infrastructure projects.

The entire solution is built on top of a secured, immutable, and trusted data architecture model which will deliver accountability, reliability, and auditability to the digital ecosystem.

More specifically, our traceability ecosystem aims to support sustainable production processes (by providing reliable data for manufacturers), optimise resource recovery (by enabling digital product passports with critical information to achieve circularity), and improve measuring and monitoring (by providing an innovative solution for the digital recording and sharing of circular supply chain data).

The potential for this digital ecosystem is to map the UK’s metabolism of mineral-based construction materials (MCMs). In turn, the resulting digital ecosystem will help enable the transition to a circular economy by providing a data repository with a clear characterisation of MCMs. This data repository has the potential to play a critical role to support the circularity of MCMs by helping industry stakeholders to make decisions on material and waste backed by reliable data.

Furthermore, there is the potential to test the capabilities of this digital ecosystem in the traceability of concrete in two specific value chains:

  • Tracing the circularity of demolished concrete as it is reinserted in the value chain in blended cements, as feedstock in cement kilns, or as an aggregate.
  • Tracing the manufacturing of concretes based on sustainable resources and designed for circularity.

Over the past 5 years, Finboot has been working to develop technology to accelerate, de-risk, and facilitate the adoption of blockchain in industrial ecosystems. We have a proven track record in sectors such as Oil & Gas and Chemicals (Repsol and Stahl), Aviation and Aerospace (Iberia and Thales), and Fashion and Retail (Under Armour and Desigual). With no time to lose in the fight against climate change, we look forward to playing a part in helping more of the world’s most progressive companies transition to a low carbon economy.