Prospecting the Urban Mines of Amsterdam
Developing a method to assess the metal contents of buildings in the city.
- Client: Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions
- Partners: Leiden University, Waag Society, TU Delft
- Date: January 2017
Construction is one of the world’s most material-intensive industries. With limited stocks of mineable materials, increasing prices of natural resources, and carbon reduction targets, there is growing interest in recovering valuable materials from the built environment. Mining materials like copper and steel from urban environments could ease this pressure, yet estimating the value and form of mineable materials is a critical first step towards bringing about a transition.
The consortium of Leiden University, TU Delft, Waag Society, and Metabolic started by developing a methodology to estimate the metal content of buildings in Amsterdam. Metabolic refined this methodology, with initial assumptions based on the buildings’ age, height and facade, then tested by site-visits. Finally, a “geological” map was established, showing where valuable metals are concentrated, and thus where future extraction of these second-hand materials could be profitable.
This study helped bring urban mining in Amsterdam one major step closer to wider implementation, through improving a methodology for estimating metal stocks in the built environment. It was a pioneering project that added significantly to the growth of circular construction ideals across the Netherlands, and has led to further urban mining studies with the cities of Utrecht and Amersfoort.