Cradle to cradle (C2C) is a regenerative design concept where a building material or a system, from its birth and after its full life cycle usage, is still used as a new material/system for some other element of the building industry. So, in a way these materials are never disposed and do not end up as landfill or disposed of by other means.
It’s also a production process where products are developed in a closed loop system in which every output ingredient is safe and beneficial. Typically, the construction industry produces a large amount of waste, some of which comes from the production of the building materials and some of which is generated when the building is demolished at the end of its lifetime. The idea is to reduce the environmental impact by producing zero waste but also to ensure to ensure that building materials are reused as much as possible.
The identification of the right material is an important aspect while deciding on the development of C2C concept. Generally the product is broken down into several categories which identifies which part is tolerable and which part is not. So while doing the material assessment the unacceptable part of the material is identified and research undertaken to completely eliminate these parts.
There are a number of ways to achieve a viable C2C community including:
1. Reuse – this ensures that all the waste and the mass is simply transported to another place and used again as raw materials.
2. Recycle – this remains a challenge as most of the recycling is actually downcycling where the item is broken down into component parts. Downcycling, however, reduces the quality of the material which means the value often gets lost.
3. Waste equals food – This is the end of use scenario where the materials from waste become the raw materials for another activity.
4. Life cycle assessment – Since current LCA methods are not designed to check the C2C-ness of the materials, new developments such as the social impact and assessment of the material’s impact on indoor air-quality can help in achieving C2C buildings.
The solution then is to re-think the way we have been doing things. Our natural resources are being used at a much faster rate than before and the cradle to cradle philosophy aims for a beneficial future footprint of human activities and action. This can be achieved by closing material flows, using renewable energy and creating ecological, social and economic diversity.
By Avinash Kumar, Associate Partner