October 17, 2017

Prospecting the Urban Mines of Amsterdam (PUMA)

Project overview

Urban mining is a promising method of recovering valuable natural resources from buildings, products, and landfills. Metabolic refined a method of automating the assessment of metal contents in residential buildings in Amsterdam.

Client: Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS)

Date delivered: January 16, 2017

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Project leader

picture merlijn 320x320 - Merlijn Blok

Merlijn Blok

Sustainability Consultant


Project Description

Most of the world’s materials, by mass, end up as buildings and infrastructure. With limited stocks of minable materials, increasing prices of natural resources, and carbon reduction targets, there has been growing interest in recovering the valuable materials from the built environment. Urban mining is the practice of recovering materials for reuse from post-consumer sources like products, buildings, infrastructure, and landfills. Yet estimating the value and form of materials that are minable from an urban environment is a critical first step towards bringing about a transition.


To contribute to the development and implementation of urban mining, a consortium consisting of Leiden University, TU Delft, Waag Society, and Metabolic developed a methodology for estimating the metal content of buildings in Amsterdam. Metabolic worked to refine a methodology for estimating the metal content in residential buildings. The building’s age, height, and facade were used for an initial set of assumptions. Those assumptions were then tested with site visits, in which the metal content of the building was assessed building-by-building. We then worked to refine the model to more accurately predict the metal content in buildings.


Our work helped revise critical assumptions in the PUMA framework for assessing the content of metal in residential buildings. Most assumptions in the original framework remained valid, while five assumptions were found to be in need of revision. The study helped bring urban mining in Amsterdam one major step closer to wider implementation by improving a methodology that can simplify the estimation of metal stocks in the built environment.