Can urban mining help cities improve resiliency?

Philadelphia is working on an urban mining tool that analyzes data from construction permits and building trends to identify when and where builders can find recycled materials.

When buildings and infrastructure are demolished, materials like bricks, wood, steel, copper, aluminum and cement can be repurposed for new construction. Recycling these materials can shorten supply chains, increase a city’s resiliency and reduce the environmental impact of creating new materials.

Philadelphia is making this “urban mining” easier with software that predicts the supply of such resources in existing buildings as well as the demand for recycled construction materials. 

SmartCityPHL, the city’s initiative to improve government services through technological innovation, has partnered with Netherlands-based Metabolic to pilot an urban mining tool. It analyzes building trends and data from construction permits to determine the demand for construction materials, making the supply of used materials more predictable. Philadelphia plans to use the urban mapping tool “to quantify the material, environmental and financial benefits of preserving high-value construction materials when buildings are deconstructed and reusing these materials in new building projects,” city officials said.

While salvage and recycling operations already save some of materials from demolition projects, the city and Metabolic are working to make that possible on a much larger scale.

In 2016, Metabolic began work on a urban mining database for its home city of Amsterdam, collecting data from government sources to find the address, construction data, function, height, footprint, square footage and status of existing buildings. To identify the metals used in construction, the company first tried to get data from builders, but such information was usually unavailable. In those cases, Metabolic generalized the amount metal content in a building based on its type and age and added that information to the database. Esri’s ArcGIS was used to visualize the data.

Digging into the Amsterdam planning office’s renovation and construction agenda helped the company estimate the location and amount of copper, aluminum and steel that would be available to mine.

“The added value of urban mining over ‘just’ recycling is the planning element: instead of being reactive, it is possible to be proactive once knowledge is available about the location and amounts of materials in the urban mine, insight in supply chains, insight in the planning of relevant activities and in construction and demolition plans for the municipality,” the company explained in its paper detailing the Amsterdam project. “The local level is important for this type of knowledge, and local governments can play an essential role in it.”

Metabolic’s analysis has already identified new opportunities for entrepreneurship and innovation in Philadelphia in building design, construction, deconstruction and material management, city officials said. The company also outlined city and state policies that could make the reuse of building materials easier and more economical.

The urban mining initiative came out of Philadelphia’s Pitch & Pilot program that encourages innovative ideas that could help the city meet its goals of saving money and improving services delivery.

Urban mining has also been studied in Charlotte, N.C. Also working with Metabolic, the city’s Circular Charlotte strategy lays out an economic roadmap that aims to generate zero waste, generate thousands of jobs and bring in billions in revenue.

Boulder, Colo., worked with Metabolic on its Climate Mobilization Action Plan that maps all the materials being consumed, transformed and wasted in Boulder, allowing the city to more easily find opportunities for creating less waste. 

In the coming year, Philadelphia officials said the SmartCityPHL team will work with partners in the public and private sectors to keep more building waste out of landfills and provide more opportunities for sustainable jobs in the city.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.