There’s no denying that the global construction industry as made tremendous strides to reduce impact on people, planet, and profit by improving efficiencies in carbon, water and energy consumption.

But bigger challenges remain:  We are plundering our world of precious, finite resources at an increasing rate.

I believe we are entering a new era in the built environment—the materials economy. The Cradle to Cradle philosophy and design methodology has long provided a galvanizing platform to help designers fully consider the environmental and human impacts of materials in the built environment beyond their immediate lifecycle.

Now, with the concept of a global circular economy taking root, the Cradle to Cradle products program provides a framework for developing and verifying materials for the circular economy that is more relevant than ever—and the conditions are right to make the economic case for a materials revolution.

In the future we will create buildings that are essentially material banks whereby the materials a building contains are selected based upon principles of circular design, material health, and design for disassembly and recovery. In turn, this approach will help owners realize greater economic value, occupants have improved health, and the environment bear less of the burden of growth and consumption.

We know there is economic value in the materials that are used every day in the built environment. But we need to design products, buildings, and cities differently to realize that value. When we create value through intelligent design, we not only create economic value but we also create positive impacts for people and the planet.

Thijs Maartens

C2C Products Innovation Institute

Thijs Maartens is the Senior Engagement Manager for the European Built Environment Industry at the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute. He joined the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute in 2015, where he specialises in stakeholder management, outreach, education and policy development for the European markets of the Built Environment sector. Before joining Cradle to Cradle’s team he was involved in the management of multiple business start-ups and was also a professional field hockey player.