TU/e-led project ’UPSCALE’ gets go ahead thanks to NWO KIC funding

Source: ABN-AMRO
Source: ABN-AMRO
UPSCALE will explore ways for the construction sector to become more circular in how they manage waste streams in the future.

The construction sector produces an excessive amount of construction and demolition waste that could easily be reused, leading to a more circular construction sector. To achieve this high-impact goal, significant system, behavioral, and economic changes are needed. Thanks to funding of more than 1.3 million as part of NWO’s Knowledge and Innovation Covenant (KIC) call ’Circular Economy: trust, behavior, and acceptance’, the TU/e-coordinated project ’UPSCALE’, which involves several universities, will seek to instigate significant change in how material resources are managed in the construction sector.

"The construction sector is responsible for 50% of raw material consumption and 35% of all waste," says Pieter Pauwels, associate professor at the Department of the Built Environment and project coordinator for the UPSCALE project. "These statistics are concerning and pose a major societal challenge."

While the construction sector has seen several initiatives to reduce climate impact and stimulate implementation of a circular economy such as Buildings as Material Banks (BAMB), Material Passports and Platform CB’23, further systemic changes are needed.

"To achieve a circular construction industry and reduce construction and demolition waste (CDW) requires an all’inclusive network effort," says Pauwels. "And this needs ways of promoting societal awareness, engagement, and commitments to eliminate waste."

Paradigm shift

The UPSCALE project will investigate methods to enable a much-needed socio-technical paradigm shift. This will involve the collective knowledge and expertise from research, industry, and innovation to transform traditional supply chains into supply ’networks’. UPSCALE aims to enable circular construction through an interdisciplinary approach built around three main pillars: behavior, system, and economy.

"We want to exploit the potential of digitalization of tracking, tracing, and linking CDW using state-of-the-art web-based technologies in conjunction with so-called Business Information Models, Material Passports, and Digital Twins," says Pauwels. "Behavioral research will explore ways to motivate adoption of these new technologies. And we’ll also consider network-oriented business processes and decision-making models with a clear focus on upscaling resource flows into supply networks."

The UPSCALE project consists of several partners from academia and industry. Three PhD researchers will be hired as part of the project and based at TU/e, Delft University of Technology, and Utrecht University. In addition, Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences will support in bringing this research results to market, in collaboration with SPARK Campus and VONK Rotterdam.

Co-funding for the project is provided by ABN-AMRO, Huisrijk, Volker Wessels, Witteveen+Bos, ADEX Group, BIM-Connected, InnoTractor, Madaster, Martens Ceramics, Municipality of Rotterdam, and SPARK Campus. Also, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (Rijkswaterstaat (RWS)) has declared support to the project.

The TU/e contribution

Pauwels: "Over the course of the five-year project, TU/e is responsible for research on the system pillar, which includes novel IT infrastructure, and for coordinating the project. The UPSCALE project aligns with our other ongoing and new projects. It’s an exciting time, and it is a very valuable opportunity with a very strong consortium to enable change in the Netherlands on the circular economy for an industry that really needs it."

UPSCALE is set to kick-off before summer 2024.