Development of BIM tool for Material Flow Assessment of Adaptable Buildings

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Construction, maintenance and demolition of buildings is the first source of waste generation. Half of the materials extracted from earth turns into the construction materials and products. The increasing need for change and upgrading put into question our traditional permanent way of building. The replacement of one building element generally means the demolition of others, due to a lack of adaptability in the initial design. Design for Disassembly (DfD) has the potential to reduce the excessive waste by re-using buildings, building components and materials, by using reversible connection techniques and the selection of reusable materials. Nevertheless, the application of DfD principles is often restrained due to uncertainties regarding its global benefits and financial viability. This research will address this lack of information, by providing designers and clients a tool to support the decision process, regarding the cost and benefits of adaptable design. The developed tool, called MATRx, performs scenario-based assessments of the capacity of a building to recover materials for reuse. The scope and means of the assessment are gradually defined through a review of the existing methods and criteria to Design for Disassembly.

MATRx determines the reuse potential of materials assembled in sequence, according to their durability and the type of connecting elements, and couples this assessment with a Material Flow analysis. The effects of the building refurbishment are measured in terms of materials added and evacuated (in mass). DfD impacts on the reuse on site, which does not contribute to the addition nor evacuation of building materials. In MATRx, all interventions experienced by the building are taken into account. While past and present interventions are clearly quantifiable, a ‘Replacement Rate’ factor estimates the future ones. The cost and benefits of different design scenario are thus assessed from a lifecycle perspective.

MATRx is in this research implemented in the Building Information Modeling (BIM) software Revit with Dynamo. The tool obtained was tested on design case studies including the reconversion of the S-Building of the ULB Solbosh Campus. MATRx complies with the initial requirements to provide a clear, objective and universal assessment, but also a ‘learning’ support giving insights on which are the key parameters for recovering materials. Finally, MATRx must be seen as a first attempt to objectivise the DfD criteria. Its development is limited due to lack of available data on how technical products suit reuse on multiple lifecycles. Nevertheless, the ongoing elaboration of material database suggests further development of tools such MATRx, which may be the interest of a range of construction actors, from architects, property developers, to constructors and policy makers.
Date of AwardSep 2016
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorNiels De Temmerman (Promotor), Anne Paduart (Co-promotor) & François Denis (Advisor)

Cite this