Below is the text version of the webinar "Intersection of Life Cycle Impacts and Circular Economy Potential for the Building Sector." See the video.
Hi, everyone; thanks for joining us. We'll get started here in just about 30 seconds. ... OK, I'm gonna go ahead and get started so we don't lose any time. Hello, everyone, and welcome to the fifth and final webinar in our series on life cycle energy and other related impacts of buildings, brought to you by the U.S. Department of Energy's Building Technologies Office. Today's presentation will investigate the intersection of life cycle impacts and circular economy potential for the building sector. My name is Cedar Blazek and I'll be your moderator for today's event. As a disclaimer, please note this Webex call is being recorded and may be posted on DOE's website or used internally. All attendees will be muted for the duration of the webinar, however, if you do speak or if you use a video connection during the call, you're presumed to consent to recording and the use of your voice or image. Next slide.
To start us off today you'll hear a brief introduction to life cycle carbon from Lyla Fadali, a AAAS policy fellow in the Building Technologies Office. Then Joan Glickman, program manager for Residential Buildings and the Advanced Building Construction initiative, the Building Technologies Office, will provide some opening remarks and introduce DOE's ABC efforts. We will then hear from our four distinguished speakers, and I'd like to take a few minutes to tell you about each of them. First up is Eveline Jonkhoff. Eveline is responsible for the Amsterdam circular economy program, which launched in 2015. Recently the city launched the new integrated five-year strategy called Amsterdam Circular in the first city portrait showing the local and global impact of the city on environment and society. Both the strategy and the city portrait are based on the DOTA economy. Then we'll hear from Alastair Reilly. Alastair is a design partner at William McDonough+Partners, bringing more than 20 years of architectural and urban planning experience. He leads design on WMP's most innovative sustainable projects including NASA's sustainability base, Google master planning workplace strategies, VMware's corporate campus, and is involved in a wide range of design initiatives globally, including Park 2020 in the Netherlands. Up next is Joseph Dahmen. Joe is a co-founder of Watershed Materials, a Bay area developer of sustainable masonry materials, where he currently serves as director of sustainability. He is also an associate professor of design and sustainability integration at the University of British Columbia School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture in Vancouver. We'll be closed out today by Ged Finch. Ged is a co-founder of X-frame Australia and a current Ph.D. candidate in architecture at Victoria University in Wellington. Ged brings together industrial design, engineering, building science, and architecture to evaluate experiential construction methodologies that aim to eliminate building waste at all stages of a building's life cycle. Please help me in welcoming our wonderful panelists. Throughout the session today you can type questions for any of our panelists into the Q and A function box and we'll get to as many as we can near the end. Next slide.
Thanks to those of you who have joined our past webinars, and welcome to those of you who might be joining for the first time. Although this is the final webinar in our series, we encourage you to stay involved and up to date on BTO's efforts in this space by signing up for our BTO newsletter. Next slide.
So let's begin today with a couple of poll questions to learn about our audience. First we'd like to know what industry are you from. ... Select one of the answers.
OK, so it looks like today we have some pretty good representation from federal, state, and local governments, as well as the consulting and corporate worlds, labs, academia, and research. Less represented is our NGO, nonprofit, and utility partners, as well as students and other. So thanks so much for sharing. We do have another poll question, and we'd really like to know how familiar you all are with the circular economy concept. Are you an expert, somewhat familiar, limited, or absolutely no familiarity -- this is your first introduction?
OK, good, somewhat expected. It seems like our audience is somewhat familiar with the concept, so this won't be super new, except for about 13 percent of you. And 15 percent of you are experts, so I hope you're able to ask really good questions of our panelists at the end. OK, with that I'm going to hand things over to Lyla Fadali. Lyla, take it away.
So thanks, Cedar, for moderating these webinars. Thanks also to Carl Shapiro for stepping up when Cedar can't do it. I am Lyla Fadali. I'm a AAAS policy fellow in the Building Technologies Office at DOE. However, my boilerplate disclaimer is I'm acting on my own behalf today and everything I say represents my own view and does not represent the views of the Department of Energy, the U.S. government, AAAS or ORISE. OK, since this is the last webinar, I want to take a minute to thank a few people who've worked hard behind the scenes to make this happen. So first of all, Valerie Nebbe at Guide House has been a hero dealing with all of the logistics to actually put these webinars together and make them happen. Sam Petty is another fellow in the office who's helped with organizing. Sam, thanks for your calm in the face of panic. And finally Dr. Heather Goach is a former fellow in the office now at NREL. She pushed BTO hard on life cycle carbon, and this webinar series definitely would not be happening without her involvement. So thanks to all of you. All right, so who are we in the Building Technologies Office? We work on energy efficiency and related technologies. We do everything from early stage R and D to market activities like testing, field validation to bring things to market increased adoption. And then hopefully they'll become widespread enough that they can be the minimum required by law and there's a regulatory part of our office as well. Next slide.
Our office has historically focused on the emissions that come from operating buildings, but there's a significant amount of emissions that come from building construction and demolition as well. Next. It's important that we address this because global building stock is expected to more than double, and if we want to be able to address the emissions coming from constructing those new buildings, we have to act now. Next.
OK, let's look at the whole picture. That's the lifecycle carbon. That includes both operational carbon, where our office has focused in the past, and embodied carbon, which refers to the emissions that come from all these other stages of a building's life, from extracting raw materials to construction to demolition and the end of life. Next.
So thinking about the end of life of buildings, what happens when a building dies? Where does it go? Next. I can tell you that in the U.S., waste from construction demolition is more than double all municipal solid waste, and 90 percent of that is from demolition. That's including all construction and demolition waste, including like infrastructure. About one-third of that comes from buildings. So there is a significant waste stream that comes from building construction and demolition and there are emissions that go along with that. So how can we address that? That's where the circular economy comes in. Next.
So there are a million different definitions of the circular economy, so apologies if I'm not using your favorite variation. But the basic idea is it's a system that aims to keep resources in closed loops that kind of circulate infinitely and eliminate waste and solution. And that includes both material waste and like trying to make use of waste heat and emissions. To move from a linear economy to a more circular one, we can try to apply these principles like extending the lifespan of products and their parts and these strategies. So we're going to hear from our panelists about the work that they're doing in that space, from everything from recovering and recycling materials to completely rethinking our systems and the products we use and how we use them, how we make them. On that note, I'm going to hand it over to Joan Glickman, who's going to tell us about DOE's Advanced Building Construction initiative. Thanks.
Thanks so much and I apologize that I can't use my video today, but hopefully you can hear me OK. So I'm really excited to be here on the last of this series, and particularly excited to have a couple panelists here with us. Alastair from the William McDonough office, I would say that probably the first time I ever learned about circular economy -- I didn't even know it was called that -- was really from William McDonough. So you know, an incredible leader in this space, and I still think about everything I learned about Nike and everything else he's done over the millions of things he's done in his career to advance this idea of really thinking in a much bigger broader way about what it is we use and and make, etc., and how we dispose of things or reuse them preferably. And I also want to say that I'm excited to have a panelist here, Eveline from Amsterdam, because it's really a project in the Netherlands that really inspired the Advanced Building Construction initiative. So with that, I'm going to tell you a little bit about that and how it relates to the circular economy.
So we started thinking about advanced building construction actually because of a project in the Netherlands. It was done by Energy Sprung. And they were looking at ways to really completely rethink how you retrofit buildings. How do you get to zero energy on existing buildings that are just very hard to address otherwise? And we also were looking at the fact that our construction industry is facing a lot of challenges. So I'm going to go through these very quickly. There's really no easy, fast, cost-competitive way to improve or build deeply energy-efficient buildings. So if you can click again.
And that's partly because we really don't have like a commodity solution. Even if you want to do a relatively minor upgrade to your house, you can't just get on Amazon or your preference and and buy something and say, hey, I really want to just turn my home or my building into something that's zero energy. It doesn't mean anything to people and it's not something they can see or taste or feel. And so it's not something that people are even asking for, let alone something they could easily get. And what's standing in the way are a lot of different barriers, whether it's the fact that you don't know what you're getting, that with our construction industry it's very labor-intensive, etc. So I'm going to move to the next slide in interest of time.
As it turns out, the construction sector really worldwide labor productivity has significantly lagged behind pretty much every other industry. And so I think the estimate is that we're losing over a trillion dollars a year due to this lag in productivity. So we thought about ABC, the Advanced Building Construction initiative, as a way to basically take advantage of that long-overdue need for modernization of construction, and basically work on catapulting the construction sector into the 21st century, but at the same time making sure that we don't overlook all the things we also care about deeply here. And that is getting to a carbon-neutral U.S. building stock by 2050. And that's really what the ABC initiative is all about. So next slide.
It's about investing in R and D and also investing in market transformation. And so I will say that I'm proud of the fact that the first funding opportunity announcement that we did on ABC, which was in FY2019, we actually mentioned lower life cycle impacts. I probably wanted more in there about carbon, but that's what we could get in there. And it's really the first time that I know of that we said, you need to think about not just how efficient is that building going to be, but what are the life cycle implications? And so that's really how we think about ABC. How do we come up with disruptive innovation across the supply chain, whether it's thinking of better ways to integrate what we do, from design to manufacture to assembly, whether we can think of new materials that can take the place of concrete and steel. How we can rethink our components and make them something that people could easily apply in both the retrofit and new construction scenario. And how do you bring automation robotics? All that, not just to make things more efficient and more productive but to make sure that the final product is something that is low-carbon and is also something that is well put-together, installed properly, etc.
So slide five -- I mean next slide. So the market transformation piece of this is going beyond the R and D part. It's really, a lot of it's being done through what we call the ABC collaborative. And we selected competitively Rocky Mountain Institute to run that over the next five years. And so under that agreement, they are working to really look at three different areas. How can we build the supply, make sure that we have this ready-to-go solutions that are low-carbon, and how do we understand and make it something that demand will really be there for? Not just, you know, coming up with things that people don't really want, but really thinking -- I always like to use the iPhone idea -- thinking about something that's completely new, different, not what people say they need or want but actually something that will transform, whether it's because of aesthetics or resilience or other things that it's bringing to bear. Not just low-carbon but a solution that people are going to want and buy. So they're looking at aggregating demand, whether that's across public-sector buildings or private, addressing market challenges. Basically the whole supply chain is fragmented on the construction and renovation side, so how do we overcome some of that? How do we streamline financing? And how do we engage the right sets of partners to make sure this really happens? And with that, I'm gonna just end with this last slide letting you know how you can get more in touch with us and figure out if you want to be engaged in some way in the future, whether it's through the collaborative or learning more about our R and D opportunities. Thanks so much. And with that I'm going to pass it on to Eveline. ... Eveline, I think you're on mute.
OK, let's start over again. Thanks for reminding me to unmute myself. Great to share with you our journey towards a circular and climate neutral city. Next slide, please.
Here you see our main objectives. We want to be 100 percent circular and climate neutral at the latest in 2050. And it means that within a 10 years time we have to reduce the use of primarily resources by 50 percent, and a reduction of 55 percent of CO2 emissions compared to the 1990 levels. And of course that means a lot also for our internal organization and powerful procurement policy instrument we have as local governments. So to make sure that we embed it also in all the policy instruments we have. Next slide, please.
And it starts with an overview of our four strategy reports. We launched our new five-year strategy in the midst of the first wave of the pandemic in April. And it fits very well in a new thinking about how to to build back better and realize a green and just recovery. So what we did, we developed based on the Doughnut Economics as a strategic framework and testing model, to make sure that our five-year strategy really is helping us to stay within the planetary boundaries of minimizing our ecological footprints and at the same time strengthening social foundation, like job creation and affordability and accessibility to this transformation. So within this five-year strategy, we described our ambitions for 2025, and we translated that into a two-year very practical innovation and implementation program with over 200 circular projects, not only of our own city administration but also from the private sector, knowledge institutions, and citizens. Because it is a movement, and we can only do this together. Very important, of course, is to monitor the progress towards our overall goal. And I will dive a bit deeper into each of those four elements. Next slide, please.
Here you see the orange or Amsterdam version of the Doughnut Economy inspired by Kate Ravers, the British economist who developed Doughnut Economics as an integrated way of looking at our main challenges given the fact that we only have one planet earth and we're using almost three times our planets in present times. So the outer ring is about the planetary boundaries, and the inner ring is about social foundation. and in order to become a thriving city, we have to stay between the inner and the outer circle and to really make sure that we are socially just and ecologically safe. Next slide, please.
So we have translated that in our first city portrait, which we also launched in April this year. We looked at our city by four lenses, the local and the global level, and we look at it from a societal one as well as an ecological perspective. And we shared with the world the impacts of our city on all four lenses. And I just also that our responsibility doesn't end at the city border, but we have to take into account the impact we have in other parts of the world, looking at our very long production and consumption value chains. Next slide, please.
Here you see our three focus areas, three failure chains: on future organic weights on consumer goods and on the build environment. And for each of those value chains we have described three ambitions. Looking at the first phase of each value chain, the production phase or design phase, can we design differently? What can we do in the user part of this value chain? So in the midst of the value chain where we use our buildings, we eat our food, and we use our products. And of course we also have to look at the end phase, where we produce at this point in time still waste, and how can we gain the highest value out of waste and bringing it back into the closed system. Next slide, please.
So two examples focusing on the build environment, because this is the aim of this webinar. First transition towards circular area development. Buiksloterham is in the northern part of Amsterdam. It's a former industrial area that we are now transforming in high-quality city districts for living and working, where we are testing all kinds of innovative circular solutions like new sanitation, new criteria for circular buildings, so that we can scale them up in other city districts. Next slide, please.
A very interesting new development is -- and that's an initiative from the private sector -- is to build in wood, to use a bio-based material so that we can really make sure that our ambitions for circular buildings and the reduction of CO2 goes hand in hand in this circular wooden buildings. Next slide, please.
And this is also my last slide, one of my last slides, is of course it's really important to monitor our progress. So what you hear and see in this illustration is that we're looking at input throughput and output indicators to really monitor material streams that go through our city, and we combine that with indicators around the social foundation, to make sure that it is also an integrated monitoring of our progress. And we're now in a phase that we are developing so-called data partnerships with data owners like the Port of Amsterdam and national research institutions and private sector. And we've also launched this in April and we calculated in over one year the amount of materials that are being used in our city. And based on that calculation, we were also able to calculate the amount of CO2 emissions related to the use of materials and products in our city. And two-thirds of the CO2 emissions that our city is responsible for is related to what we call the Scope 3 CO2 emissions that are produced elsewhere in the world. And so that emphasizes the urgency to transform our present take-make-waste linear economy into a circular one. It's the only way we can reach the Paris Agreement and reduce our CO2 emissions.
And I will end with my last slide, because this is the overall ambition that we really want to become a thriving, regenerative, and inclusive city for all citizens, while respecting the planetary boundaries. And I'm more than happy to hand it over to Alastair.
Thank-you. So as an architect, Bill McDonough liked to say design is the first signal of human intention. The next slide.
So we can talk about what our intention as designers are. So if we intended to damage the air, the soil, the water, and as Lyla mentioned, over 39 percent of carbon emissions are due to building and construction. Nature just came out with an article this past week that said now there's actually more global human-made products, buildings, than there exists in nature. So we're having an impact. Next slide, please.
So as Bill McDonough said, we need a new design to take this on. And a part of that is focused on from our side, cradle to cradle and then the circular economy. The next slide.
So we think about circular economy. It's not just the linear economy in a circle. Obviously the linear economy, the idea of extraction, take-make-waste, needs to end. And part of that circularity is closing the loop and make sure we're working with materials in a continuous cycle and maintain that quality. Looking at from a cradle to cradle, one side, we want to make sure we're using safe healthy materials, so we're not circulating toxins. So the idea that from the front end of design buildings can be thought about how they're assembled as well as taken apart for their next use. Next slide.
Cradle to cradle and circular economy, and the book that Bill McDonough and Michael Bromgard wrote talked about these two technical and biological spheres. So we think of technical nutrients, products at service. So these could be your computers, the mercury lead in your battery. And on the building side, we're looking at aluminum, glass, things that can be taken through the construction manufacturing process that put back into that process, so the toxins don't escape into the biosphere. And that's a critical piece. On the biological side, looking at fully compostable materials, rapidly renewable resources, and as Eveline mentioned, mass timber is a great product we're looking at on our new YouTube campus. It's so mass timber can be a rapidly renewable source, because it's taking short growth fibers, connecting those together to create construction panels, but also sequestering carbon. So I think that's a critical piece and think about how can we be carbon positive. Next slide.
So cradle to cradle as a concept looks at these five protocols. And again focusing on safe, healthy materials, then thinking about how they go into the circular economy. So the highest best use for those materials and their reutilization and thinking about continuous assets. So we want that high value that's taken from extraction and to be able to use continuously. If you think of the zinc roofs in Paris, I think 70 to 90 percent of those have been reused over, you know, hundreds of years. From the energy side, as Joan and Lyla mentioned, we've got to focus on efficiency first, but clean energy and restoring carbon balance. And so now thinking about not just carbon reductions, what can we think about low embodied carbon materials and how can we restore some of that carbon balance. Water stewardship, we like to think of water as a precious commodity, so how do we clean the water, use that on site, and make sure we respect those cycles. And social fairness, how can we integrate this shared economy and the idea of being able to reutilize spaces and places within the building environment. Next.
Next slide. So this is the Cradle to Cradle Innovation Institute, which actually has a certification for the products. And again that focused on technical products, manufacturing, thinking about the Hermann Miller chair, the approach, the design, not just from a disassembly but it actually helps with the assembly and manufacturing project. We're working with Sun Power. It does cradle to cradle creative certified PVs as a product or service. And then on the the biological side, again, fully compostable products, and now we've even got a the first cradle to cradle certified gene in the Netherlands for CNA. Next.
So when we approach a building, Bill likes to think of this idea of a building as a tree. And thinking, again, about what does it mean for carbon-positive behavior? And when we try to emulate a tree and think of what a tree does, it emits oxygen, sequesters carbon, fixes nitrogen, can accrue solar energy, creates food, creates fuel, distills water, provides habitat, and creates microclimate, cooling the air, changes color, and self-replicates. The last one we're having trouble with, but that's our focus when we have a design approach to a building. Next.
Next slide. So when we approach building design, we like to take the cradle to cradle protocol and what we call the five good. So we think about good materials, again, safe biological and technical nutrients. Think about low embodied carbon materials, again, we're focusing quite a bit of our work with mass timber structure, because, again, it's not just it's low in body and it's a rapidly renewable resource. It also can sequester that, when you look at the comparison with steel or concrete. Good economy, so think about circular and shared. The idea for buildings to adapt and change in the future. And I'll talk about that with our project Park 2020. And as both Lyla and Joan talked about, the idea of off-site manufacturing, how can we build components, pieces, modular unitized pieces, that can be intensely repeatable and there's some manufacturing savings there with the high cost of labor. Again, focused on renewable energy. We're working with YouTube now thinking about a net-positive building. And part of that is resiliency and battery backup, the technology for batteries and PVs. It's certainly for California now, we're seeing the resiliency of battery to cover peak demands, is now a viable option. Water, doing everything we can within the site to capture water, integrate with landscaping, even doing black water treatment in some places where we have limited access to potable water. And again, focused on good life. So it's safe, meaningful, creative, dignified spaces, but also thinking about beauty, health. [inaudible] which is connection to nature and how we integrate that, especially the times of COVID where access to daylight outside is is more important than ever. Next.
So this is a project, Park 2020, which is in the Netherlands just outside of Amsterdam, adjacent to the Schiphol airport. And this is a project we did the master plan and we've been designing the buildings specifically for the clients as it comes along. And again, part of the idea for disassembly here is that this is future housing. So we want to design these offices with the flexibility they can be converted to housing in the future. Next.
The Park 2020 is about a hundred thousand square feet -- sorry, one million square feet -- a hundred thousand square meters and in integrated office hotels. And it's connected by main train line to Amsterdam as well as a rubber tire transport loop. We put all the cars below the buildings and actually have a canal that integrates and provides not only a heat sink cooling for heat in the winter but we're using to cleanse and purify the water. All the buildings are designed to optimize daylighting as well as integrate PVs on-site, and we actually have a off-site PV installation to ride the balance of the energy. Next slide.
This is Bosch Siemens on the right, which is two floors of showrooms and offices. When we designed these buildings we actually are working with a slimline system, which is a a Dutch innovative structural system that enables you to prefabricate mechanical plumbing systems on a plank and steel system that comes out as a module and plugged in. We save actually on the volume of the building, so less material, less stuff. And we have activated heated floors. So again, thinking about offsite construction, come in connected, but the ability to take these things apart in the future for the next phase. Next slide.
Park 2020 is currently the largest integration of certified materials. And that goes, again, from agency glass to semper green, make some of the green walls, to mosaic tile, which is the Dutch tile we're using for a rain screen on one of the buildings. Next slide.
Another critical piece with BIM modeling is we're utilizing material banking and passport. So we can select materials, we can do analysis to make sure we've got low embodied materials. Now you're able to look at EPDs, product declaration chips, to try and rank some of that embodied carbon. But thinking about material banking, the high value of that steel member or structural beam, that in the future that has values of quality material and is not thrown away in the construction. When we started this project in 2008, buildings across the street were liabilities. It was going to cost more to dismantle, deconstruct them. And here we've been working with KPMG to put high value on the disassembly aspect, so the steel is actually an asset for future use. Next slide.
This is Blue Water Engineering. Again, this has a Moza rain screen system, a certified tile system for the exterior finishes. We're working with Schüco, which has a certified product, but Schüco is also working out to have aluminum take-back programs. So at the end of 15, 25 years on the warranty and the product, they'll actually take that loom back, use it for remanufacturing and next use. Same working with Philips Lighting in the Netherlands. It's lighting as a product or service. So we want the light, we want the service of lighting; we don't want the mercury or the elements that come along with those.
On the last slide I think. Next. So again, focused on health and well-being. This is Plantronics headquarters on the right. One of the major ideas of Park 2020 was the idea of shared spaces. So each building client could come in and actually build less space by sharing some of the community spaces, whether it be outdoor spaces. VPRO has a an auditorium, the large brown building has a 180-degree screening thing, so instead of building vacant auditoriums that are dark most of the day, they have a shared economy that allows them to share those spaces and build less places. Focus again on daylighting, nature, connection. Part of this was a leasement survey that looked at the increased productivity for Plantronics employees based on just the access to nature and daylight from their previous headquarters. I think that's it, and I'm going to hand over to Joe for the next slide. Thank-you.
Thank-you, Alastair. So I'm really pleased to be included in the panel today of circular economy, and particularly its kind of material implications are a topic that's really passionate to me, both in my capacity at the University of British Columbia as a researcher and also as the director of sustainability for Watershed Materials. So if you could go to the next slide, we'll get right into it. I'm going to share a couple of projects today that are kind of case studies in this. But I wanted to start with a quote by Janine Benyus from Intelligent Assets. She's a leading voice in biomimicry for the last couple decades, which just means the ways we use natural systems to inform our buildings, much like the example of the tree that Alastair just mentioned. So she says the Internet of Things and circular economy practices are mutually reinforcing, presenting enormous opportunities to make use of materials previously considered to be waste. And I think what I draw from this is that as our physical and virtual worlds grow ever closer together, we have newfound opportunities to assimilate the heterogeneity or variation of the natural world and use it as a way to inform our design processes. So if you go to the next slide.
So at Watershed Materials we're actually using advances in material science and manufacturing to produce architectural materials from natural soils and recycled aggregates. So these are almost ubiquitous resources. Soil is everywhere under our feet, and with advances in technology and nanotechnology, specifically, we can activate some of those natural clays to make really durable materials. So if you go to the next slide.
So this is a a pilot project we did that's been a little bit squashed, but nevertheless you can see it there. These blocks are all made from sight soils that are actually natural soils that we've employed a process called alkali activation to make them reactive with water, and basically achieve the strength of concrete blocks with a fraction of the embodied carbon in them through that process. So cement is anywhere from five to seven percent of global CO2. It's projected to rise to as much as 20 percent by 2025. And so we're reducing radically the use of cement through these processes. So if you go to the next slide.
So we're not restricted to blocks. We can make a range of materials. But this is a kind of diagram of the process. You can see conventional construction material methodology on the top, where we tend to mine resources, truck them to a plant to be converted into architectural building materials, and then truck them again to the site. And at each stage where we're actually injecting a lot of energy to transform them into building materials, whereas what we're looking at is a kind of on-site production that uses -- you can see on the bottom there -- soil directly from the building site, converts it using portable equipment into durable construction materials that are used right there on-site. And so both through the manufacturing process itself, which is using these natural alumino silicate clays, very common materials employing advanced chemistry to make them to make them strong and durable, and then reducing or eliminating entirely the transportation, we can get the embodied carbon of these materials down by as much as 45 percent. So if you go to the next slide.
So you might think that this is a kind of very new or radical approach, but of course it's akin to some of the oldest building technologies we have on the planet. So this is a photo of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, from about 900 AD, which uses compressed earth called rammed earth. It's still there and it's still working. So actually before we had access to easy and cheap energy, it was quite common to use the materials from directly under our feet, and what this is really actually in addition to saving on the resources and embodied carbon it actually gives us new avenues for architectural expression as well, which is really exciting for the architects using our products. So if you go to the next slide, we'll look at how we use these advances across a range of products.
So this is just some of the products we're making at Watershed Materials. Rammed earth on the upper left is similar to the Alhambra that you just saw. We're making it in panels now. So these are precast earth panels with engineered soil blends that can actually intersect with conventional construction technologies. We're making blocks as well, and even spraying the earth in the lower right. So you go to the next slide.
But as I mentioned, what's really exciting about these is not only are they lower embodied carbon and offer great advances in terms of the operating energy of buildings, bringing that down, they really offer new avenues of expression for architects that really express the actual surroundings. You can think of it -- we often talk in terms of terroir like wine -- so we can see what's under our feet and use it to make buildings. Next slide, please.
We'll just go run rapidly through a few of these. So the next one is some precast panels. And you can see again the expression. So the striations are actually expressing the different kind of materials that we're compressing together in these panels. Next slide.
We've had funding from the National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as some equity investment to develop this equipment that's portable that we're now using to address some of the destruction caused by California fires, to produce blocks on site. So the next slide.
And again this equipment is actually enabling us to use these natural materials in ways that we really couldn't do before. With the kind of ubiquitous sensing and increasing computational capacity we can actually use a lot of these materials to make strong blocks. We've done some life cycle analysis. This is a paper I published a few years ago that looks at the embodied carbon analysis of blocks. And you can see it's 45 percent lower CO2 equivalent emissions than ordinary concrete masonry units. That's a concrete block or CMU, if you like. And we've got a project on the horizon to develop a radically lower embodied carbon block called a zero block, which will be as much as 85 to 87 percent lower carbon emissions than a concrete masonry unit, again, through the elimination of cement as the binder, which is about 90 percent of the embodied carbon of a normal concrete block. And we're targeting same performance in terms of strength and durability. So these can be used interchangeably to replace one of the most ubiquitous construction materials on the planet, the concrete block, with these kind of new avenues of expression as well. If you could go to the next slide.
So I'll talk just briefly about kind of jump scales to another project that we've been consulting on a few years ago. So this is a Sidewalk Toronto's Quayside Redevelopment. This was a project by Alphabet to redevelop some post-industrial lands in downtown Toronto. They came to us a few years ago now to think about how they might reuse some of the soil on the site. So if you go to the next slide.
They were really envisioning the city rebuilt from the Internet up, was what they were saying. The Quayside Redevelopment is about a 4.5 billion dollar, 77 hectare or 190 acre, sustainable redevelopment. And it also requires the rerouting of the lower Don River. And it's a large project partnership between municipal, provincial, and federal and private industries. You go to the next slide.
So we came in to help them reimagine how they might take the soil that was being moved around -- most of it was being used on-site for cut and fill operations. So what they would take from one place they would put in another to build up land. But after all that was complete there'd be about a million cubic meters of soils on the site that they were looking at trucking about 200 kilometers out of the city to dispose of. And so we came in to help them think about how they might be able to use that. That picture is actually to scale; that block had some students look at what the size of that soil would be relative to the site. So if you go to the next slide.
So what we wanted to do is imagine how we could use that soil on site by importing just a small amount of fly ash from Canadian pulp and paper plants, and bringing it onto the site, and using that to enable us -- that's the alkali activation -- to use all those materials on the site as opposed to what they were looking at, which would generate on the left there 83 million metric tons of CO2 emissions and around 50 million dollars to transport and dispose of all that soils. If we look at the kind of Doughnut approach on the right, we're looking at creating 350 million dollars of architectural materials just from the local soils and cutting the cost of transport disposal by about 90 percent. So you go to the next slide.
You can see a diagram there. I'll just run through that quite quickly. So you could just go to the next one. Want to be mindful of the time here. We even looked at actually the building demolition providing aggregates for these materials, so as we kind of grind up the city we can convert those and use them as valuable resources to create the new city at a kind of metabolic version, a kind of building metabolism, if you imagine, on the scale of the city. The next slide, please.
And so these are some visions of what it could look like using the city. And if you think about these materials containing the kind of cultural history through the materials, much as rammed earth might express the soil under our feet, this would actually use the old city to rebuild the new. Next slide.
It can be used in a variety of applications, from buildings to landscapes, so this is the sea wall made of these geopolymers. You use the ground-up old buildings. Next slide.
Offering new social types of interaction. Next slide. It's Toronto so it's very cold in the winter.
And so we can imagine that the kind of the metabolic digestion of the city that uses these newfound capacities and ubiquitous sensing and computational power to actually recreate the city as a kind of dynamic performance, or looking at even engaging the public in some of these aspects as we kind of think about what it means to live in the circular economy. Next slide.
So I'll just close with a couple of challenges before I hand it over to our next speaker, which have to do with the kind of barriers to adoption. So these go, as difficult as the technical issues are, they're easy in comparison in some ways to the economics, then building code approval. And you'll notice as we go up the scale to more difficult, they tend to be more human and cultural than they are technical. And so I think that the cultural shifts required to get to the point where we're ready to fully embrace the circular economy are largely human. Buildings are kind of technical entities, but at the end of the day it's a human problem. And I just -- we think about this a lot as we're thinking about how to affect cultural change. So with that I will hand it over to our next speaker, Ged Finch, who's the director of X-frame, and we'll look at timber framing. So thank-you very much.
Cool, thanks, Joe. Appreciate that. Hi, everyone. Yeah, I'm Ged. I'll whip through this presentation fairly quickly. If you go to the next slide. So we've talked a lot about already all of these issues that are inherent to our conventional construction methods. In New Zealand where I'm based, in New Zealand, Australia, and in America, and obviously a large component of our residential construction is timber framing. And this timber framing is a composite system. You know, it's made up of all these different layers that give it the weather performance, the energy performance, and all of the things that we need to have a warm, dry house. In New Zealand our timber looks particularly unusual because it's all boron treated, so it's pink. It's the color that we use. But of course you'll be familiar with all types of timber treatment internationally. So it's all of these things, these monolithic linings, these composite system dependencies, that cause issues for adopting the circular economy in conventional timber construction. The next slide.
There's a really well-understood list of things to do to prevent all of this happening. The problem is, right, timber framing or the conventional methods of timber framing are hundreds of years old. You know, there's a platform balloon framing coming from the 1800s, derived from efficiencies from sawmills. They don't really reflect modern methods of construction, modern methods of manufacturing, or in fact the things that we need our houses to do today. So this is the list of the circular economy guidelines. I'm just going to leave this here. You can hopefully check it out later. But this directs us towards a new type of timber framing. So if you go to the next slide.
This is a video. Hopefully this plays all right. We spent a while researching a method of construction that would -- oh, it's very leggy; sorry about that, guys. We spent a while looking for a method of construction that would allow us to have a finite set of components that would allow us to build a large variety of buildings using these same components. But they could also leverage all of these modern manufacturing methods, manufacturing scale, and come together to form an independent layer of material. So what I mean by that is rather than having a stud in which you would nail, screw, glue everything to that stud, we said what if this frame element could actually have methods of fixing and unfixing that allowed these systems to separate easily and therefore allow the circular economy to take place in the building envelope. And it's one of those really fine granular challenges, right? No one really thinks about the sheathing layer and how that could be removed and recycled. How could your building wraps? Your air barriers? Your vapor barriers? How could all of these members come on and off? And so what I'm just showing here through this animation is all of the alternative assembly options that are possible with a finite set of components. So in this case we have approximately 12 standard components manufactured from engineered timber, again just echoing all of the things that have been said in this presentation today about using a timber product, bio material, bio-based material. What we're optimizing here, though, is material itself. So here we're actually seeing approximately a 30 percent reduction in the amount of timber needed versus a conventional stud wall. That allows us to be lighter. It also means that movability, adaptability, is easier and faster. Go to the next slide.
This slide just summarizes that process. So we have a locally grown and sustainably harvest timber in New Zealand. That's pinus radiata. We manufacture an engineered term, a product, a high-value product from that, and then we turn those into beautiful buildings. Or so we hope. If you go to the next slide, it just sort of shows off this entire envelope thinking, building envelope thinking.
So some really cool interesting innovations on this one is that dark brown plywood material that you're seeing there is actually a thermally modified pine Australia plywood, using a natural resin adhesive. So what that means is we can actually produce a external sheathing layer that doesn't have any carcinogenics. It doesn't have any toxic adhesives. Doesn't have any timber treatments. It is simply very cleverly utilized chemistry to produce a very durable timber product. Over top of that we can put a cavity batten, which is, you know, used pretty ubiquitously across the world now on timber construction. This can be bolted in pre-manufactured so all of this can come off and on. And in fact that that cavity batten is sealing the seams and the sheathing. So again it's this interaction of layers working together, but also allowing them to come apart. And here's a just on the right-hand side a little illustration of how that all works in detail. If you go to the next slide.
This is a really a research project but also has becoming a commercial operation about how to integrate step by step all of the things that we've learned over the last sort of 20 to 30 years from parametric design, digital manufacturing, structural simulation, computational design. We're also sort of adopting a more of I guess a furniture approach to how you design buildings. You know, these are durable reusable fixings, blind fixings, using the precision that the digital tools enable us, and digital workflows. So for example if you go to the next slide.
We have the ability to use building information modeling; all of these parts are natively built into that building, that building information modeling process. So we've got a record of the parts, which is great for a material passport for the building, great for a record of the building, and then all of that can be translated into into useful information for fabrication. So if you just go to the next slide.
Just quickly revisiting those three points, process automation, expandability [inaudible]. And then the next slide just sort of talks to the performance that we're getting. So we've done deconstruction tests. We build these buildings. We pull them apart. Very time-consuming process as you can imagine. What we end up with is a 99.4 percent direct material recovery rate. So these are components that can come out, go back in, and be directly reused. The things that we can't reuse are usually the tapes that are around the window to give us the air seals. But we're working on that; it will be a process of iteration to get there. If you go to the next slide.
Exactly the same issues that Joe talked about before is, industry adoption is the greater challenge than the technical challenges. We can do that, we've got the technical expertise, but getting all of our building regulators, our compliance regulators, and certification teams to understand what we're doing and understand the rationale behind it, and then getting the client, consumer, architect, specifier to go ahead with all of that, it's a really really big challenge. That's everything. To go to the next slide. Thank-you very much. Just showing off in its full glory a small project we've just completed in New Zealand. Thank-you.
Thanks so much, Ged, and thanks again to all of our speakers. I'd like to invite all of our presenters to turn their videos back on for the Q and A portion, which will be very brief today. So we did want to know, you know, if you have an opinion on what ways you think BTO can contribute to advancing the progress of life cycle carbon in buildings, that is a question for all of our audience members. We welcome your feedback in the chat, if you have specific answers. One question -- I'm gonna try and get to one question for each of our panelists. And Joe, we had a number of questions all related to some technical concepts around the technology you were describing. Folks who want to learn more, specifically about your sprayed earth technology, or some of your on-site earth panels, where can they go to learn more?
Well, you could go to Rammed Earthworks and Watershed Materials. We have a site up that describes a number of those techniques and technologies in greater detail. You can also reach out and just contact us. We'd be more than happy to share. I won't go into too much of it because I think our time is very short here. The sprayed earth is actually -- we're doing somewhat less of now because environmentally while it was kind of quite appealing in terms of its expressive capacity and it kind of captured people's imagination, it turns out that the embodied carbon of those techniques is not what it could be in terms of some of the others. So we're doing a bit less of that now. But there's plenty up online, and please feel free to reach out directly.
Thanks, Joe. OK, with the two minutes we have left I'm going to limit each of your answers to 30 seconds, quick elevator pitch. You all shared a lot of solutions to the circular economy challenge for buildings. You shared a lot of potential challenges. what do you think is the next best thing that we could be doing right now to move from a linear economy to a circular economy for buildings? I'm going to go just in order of the way that we presented today. so Eveline, Alastair, Joe, and then Ged. Thank-you.
The best thing to do is really make sure that there is a standard that is embedded in your legislation and build upon that to really scale up and make sure that all those innovations are not only embedded in your buildings, but are embedded in area development and also in your public space, making sure that you include social foundations and the people that are using the buildings and the public space. So buildings are a part of the whole area development. Make sure that that's really happening, and then you can scale up and make sure that you reach this target, to also surviving city because I think that's the height goal.
For us, I think it's a focus on carbon positive behavior, energy positive behavior. So thinking about not just reductions but you know how can we our project be more beneficial. And that's why I think the focus on mass timber, just the fact that it can be a rapidly renewable resource and sequester carbon, it's a game changer.
I think that to overcome the kind of legacy systems we need to create a new generation of architects, engineers, and code officials, as well as policy makers, that take these matters seriously and and aren't trained in the kind of legacy system, you know like can kind of think beyond the legacy systems that have gotten us into this problem to begin with. so it's a kind of cultural issue, and the more we can address that I think that the more likely we are to to employ the technology we already have. it's not a technical issue. it's it's really a cultural one.
Thanks, Joe. And Ged?
Yeah, same sort of thing. Just incentivizing the investment and these sort of initiatives. One of the things that we're seeing here is a building for climate change policy that talks about embodied carbon and mandates embodied carbon over time and gives a carbon budget per house, which we're really seeing is an effective tool of transitioning from high carbon to low carbon as such.
Great, well, thanks so much, everyone. If you can go to the next slide, and I'll just note if you enjoyed the conversation today, our audience, you can find the rest of our LCA webinars on BTO's webpage at energy.gov at the link here. I just want to say thanks again to all of our wonderful panelists for participating today, and to you all, our engaged audience, for participating. With that I'll let everyone go, and happy holidays.