Whose materials? Circular Economy but make it fair

Whose materials? Circular Economy but make it fair
Kim Ha Tran
Today's urban mining is a promising but unregulated practice. How can socially just accesses on urban mines be ensured?

Kim Ha Tran
Cologne, Germany
Team members
Kim Ha Tran
Field of work
Architecture, Ecology, Communication, Research, Other
Project category
Material tracking and reuse
Project submitted

Kim Ha Tran (she/her) is a vietnamese-german spatial practitioner and researcher for circularity in the built environment at RWTH Aachen. She is working on the intersection of technical and social implications of circular practices in the building sector, by analyzing accessibilities for secondary resources through the lens of a power-critical perspective. Her ambition is to challenge sustainable developments in the building sector for climate justice. She is active in community building in the Asian diaspora and writes about social issues in architecture.

Climate change and its associated geopolitical conflicts due to raw material shortages have led to an upturn of the circular economy in recent years. For the building sector, this means that secondary resources used in buildings are becoming more interesting and an increased demand for recycled and reusable building materials can be expected. In this logic, current regulation in the financial sector, such as the EU taxonomy, puts key indicators for a circular economy at the forefront of the financial valuation of buildings. To increase the value of a building, real estate companies now need to review the environmental performance of their portfolio and are therefore looking for low-carbon assets. Consequently, current market solutions are showing increasing interest in the financialisation of recyclable and reusable building materials from urban mines and associated data through building material passport platform solutions. While the latter solutions enable the technical and economic cycle of the material, the social impacts along the value chain have not been considered so far. In this context, a look into the past shows how material extraction of the construction sector depends on practices based on colonial and exclusionary structures. In order not to reproduce these, a socially just transition in the construction sector must critically question legislation, ownership and market privileges of the individual stakeholders.
In this context, this research project aims to analyze just distributions of resources in a circular built environment through the topic of accessibility. So far, social implications have hardly been researched in the latter context. In order to create access to raw materials from urban mines under fair and transparent conditions, it is necessary to analyze the complex stakeholder relations and to develop models that enable fair access.