The construction industry has long functioned on the basis that waste is an inevitable byproduct of doing business.
With up to 30 percent of all materials delivered to construction sites ultimately ending up in landfill, there is an incredible opportunity to not only to recycle more construction waste, but to repurpose perfectly good materials to address socioeconomic inequalities.
Today, we are joined by Kausar Khan, Carin de Beer, and Jaco Kemp from Arup in South Africa, who are working to do just that.
Their DigiYard project is an app-based service connecting unused construction site materials and waste with small-scale builders and traders in the informal sector, aiming to match supply and demand through embedding circular economy practices within the construction sector and provide access to affordable, quality material to low-income communities.
In this episode, we discuss the challenges they face and the lessons they have learned as they pilot this project.
We touch on how they have used Whatsapp in the pilot phase, their personal motivations for the project, and the scale of the construction waste problem in South Africa, as well as the financial and social responsibility incentives that DigiYard offers companies in various sectors, including the film industry.
For all this and so much more, tune in today!
Renewable energy consultant, Arup
Kausar has worked predominantly on utility scale renewable energy projects in South Africa over the past six years.
She has also worked briefly in building services and sustainability.
She is an SDG ambassador and her interest in the circular economy and use of technology for positive social impact has grown through working on the DigiYard project over the past two years.
Carin de Beer
Lighting designer & sustainable design consultant, Arup
Carin is a registered architect who has witnessed countless amounts of perfectly good materials sent to landfill in her 12 years of experience in the built environment.
She co-created DigiYard after successfully incorporating construction waste into the design of two buildings in South Africa.
She believes in collaborative, holistic design solutions that conserve energy and reduce the use of finite
resources in buildings and cities.
Digital design consultant, Arup
Jaco has worked most of his career as a Sustainability Consultant in the built environment in Australia and South Africa.
He moved to Hong Kong two years ago and transitioned to a digital design role where he is assisting with digital transformation in the region.
He has recently relocated to the UK joining Arup’s London digital team.
“We were talking to the wrong people in terms of only wanting to focus on NGOs. We thought it was easier for us at the time to work with an established, registered organisation, rather than working with community members, but actually, the need wasn’t there.” — Kauser Khan
Tune in to find out:
An introduction to Kausar Khan, Carin de Beer, and Jaco Kemp from Arup.
The origins of the DigiYard project, which built its foundation on a design competition.
How they used Whatsapp in the pilot phase of the project to facilitate valuable exchanges.
The various motivations for the project, from digital problem solving to social impact.
The logistical concerns of construction waste, including landfill, transport, and storage costs.
How DigiYard made the shift from focusing on NGOs to working with communities directly.
Hear more about the extent of the construction waste problem in South Africa
Kauser highlights other sectors, including the film industry, with waste materials to tap into.
Jaco elaborates on the DigiYard business model and where they expect to see profits.
Kauser on how the idea is being received in South Africa and their hopes for the future.
Jaco shares some figures on construction and demolition waste in South Africa.
The financial and social incentives for construction companies to divert waste from landfills.
The importance of rethinking what happens to materials and the end of their life cycle before building accordingly.
What is next for DigiYard in the immediate and long-term future, including how they hope to improve efficiencies and behaviors around waste.
Some of the challenges and opportunities they have encountered during fundraising.
And much more!
“There are a lot of materials in South Africa that go to waste that can be put to good use.” — Carin De Beer
“A lot of money is being spent sending material to landfill, and therefore there is a big incentive for the construction sector to divert the waste away from landfill. For them, that is one of the biggest drivers.” — Jaco Kemp
Links mentioned in this episode:
[0:00:05.4] ES: Hello, and welcome back to Happy Porch Radio Season 6. This season, we are talking circular economy in Africa. Today, in our episode, we are joined by Kausar Khan, Carin de Beer, and Jaco Kemp from Arup. We had a great conversation about the DigiYard project. This is a platform that aims to match supply and demand through embedding circular economy practices within the construction sector, and to provide access to affordable, quality material to low income communities.
This is a project that’s based in South Africa and the construction sector there really has two sides to it in terms of a formal construction industry and a much more informal sector. That’s the bridge, one of the many bridges, that this DigiYard project is trying to build between those two sectors. They talked a lot about the challenges that they face and the things that they’re learning as they pilot this project. It was really interesting to hear all about what they are aiming to do.
[0:01:16.7] BOK: Yes, and there were so many threads, I think we only got a tiny taster of so much going on with projects like this. So, the story of starting from an innovation competition, essentially within Arup, and then their work to pilot that, and to work out the future as they describe this inflection point of what is the future of this project. And as you say, the really interesting challenge of doing within South Africa, and how potentially that concept can be taken across multiple places in the country and beyond. So, without any further ado, let’s meet DigiYard.
[0:01:53.4] KK: Hi, everyone, my name is Kausar Khan. I’m a renewable energy consultant. I’ve been working at Arup for just about seven years now. I work primarily in renewable energy, solar and wind farms. I’ve always had an interest in community engagement projects, projects of social value. I’m friends with both Carin and Jaco. And we ended up working on this project a few years ago now. It’s been really fun and exciting journey. So, I’ll hand it over to Carin.
[0:02:22.7] CdB: Hi, everyone. I’m Carin de Beer. I’m an architect by education. I joined Arup in 2014, as a sustainable buildings specialist, and I’ve always been quite interested in building materials’ reuse, trying to see how far you can extend the lifespan of a material creatively, but then also to the benefit of society. Yes, I’m very excited to be a part of this project and I’m excited about the future of it.
[0:02:54.9] JK: Hi, my name is Jaco Kemp. I led the sustainability team in South Africa from 2011 to 2018, and that’s when this project started, really got incubated, was back in 2017. In the middle of 2018, I left to our Hong Kong office to focus more on Arup’s digital transformation. I spent three years there and I’m now in London in the UK IMEI digital hub, still focusing on all things to do digital within Arup, but sort of also still having that connection back to sustainability and back to South Africa, and seeing how can I combine those two things.
[0:03:37.7] BOK: Wonderful. Welcome to Happy Porch Radio, all three. Really excited about this conversation. So, let’s talk a little bit about what the project is. We’ve got the three of you working in Arup in South Africa. What is DigiYard and where did it start?
[0:03:55.4] JK: Well, I can discuss how it started, and then maybe Kausar and Carin can talk a bit about it more the details of what it is. It started back in 2017 when Arup launched a design competition. The parameters was quite broad. It tried to focus on something sustainable, tried to focus on something digital, and come up with an idea. At that time, I was doing data analytics course in Arup, and so wanted to solve all problems digitally. Carin was doing some really good work in our sustainability team, looking at recycling materials on projects. We were doing some interesting work at the V&A Waterfront with that. But still, there was some limitations in the work we were doing was sort of focused just on projects.
We were also working on the 100 Resilient Cities program, where we really we have seen firsthand some of the issues in Cape Town in South Africa in general, where there’s housing crisis. These three things sort of came together in this competition where we wanted to take some of the things we were doing in the formal sector and trying to recycle materials on site, see how we could take some of that and do the recycling in the informal sector and take some of the materials from the formal sector into the informal sector, and do that in a more digital way.
We literally just submitted one page, or one-page idea around those three concepts. And then I think we won the competition to become second anyway, we were given some money to take that idea forward. It’s sort of just kept on going from there. So, that’s sort of a brief introduction of where it started. But I think Carin, Kausar, maybe you can talk a bit more about what the big idea is.
[0:05:49.4] CdB: Well, for my side, as Jaco mentioned, we were doing quite a bit of reusing materials, on our projects kind of work. All the projects we worked on, we tried to encourage contractors to reuse materials as much as possible and we had small successes. On the one project, the contractor to get all the insulation off cuts, and then donate it to the local animal welfare shelter and they could then insulate their kennels for winter. But it was quite a lot of work to try and get all these people to collaboratively reuse materials and store it, and then speak to whoever’s willing to take it.
As you know, making phone calls and writing emails, it wasn’t really scalable, so that’s how, we thought, okay, an app would really help make this something that you can roll out, and not necessarily only on one project on multiple projects, and maybe multiple locations. I’ll hand over to Kausar, now.
[0:07:00.4] KK: Yeah, I think Jaco and Carin summarised it quite well. We started off as an idea in 2017 and now, a few years later, it’s kind of just the projects continued. I think that’s because a lot of people have seen the value in the project and the potential that it has to scale. Whereas we started off doing things in a very manual way, when we tested it, when we ran the pilot, it was a lot of us doing physical meetings with people on site and facilitating material exchanges and doing phone calls. We actually use WhatsApp for our first pilot phase where we added people onto a group and we would upload pictures, and we’d price pictures, and we’d facilitate the exchange from the beginning, right till the end.
The longer term vision for the project is for everything to become automated and efficient and streamlined, and that will be able to enable the project to be scaled and to have an impact on a much bigger scale.
[0:07:59.3] JK: Yeah, and I think, in the beginning, there was some key assumptions we needed to test, is the material available? Can people in use that material in the informal sector? Can we make the material move from the formal to the informal sector? What are some of the issues around that? We didn’t need a big digital platform to test those ideas and validate them. We just needed something simple, like WhatsApp to really get an understanding of what all those assumptions and will it work.
It’s been quite successful. But WhatsApp and having WhatsApp groups, that’s not scalable. So, the next step is, well, how can a digital platform help us to actually scale this up and really start moving big quantities of material from the formal to the informal sector and make a difference?
[0:08:47.1] BOK: Yeah, there’s so many themes, so many sort of threads there that are really interesting to pick up. So just to be really clear, the core idea is that idea of waste or what would be waste from the formal building environment, being then reused in less formal building environments. Is that like the – if I was to sort of pick out one key element, would that be it? Or would you describe it in a different way?
[0:09:12.7] JK: I would agree with that.
[0:09:15.9] BOK: So, some of the threads that I’m really interested in, one is the sort of the entrepreneur, the sort of competition that you described, that was the seed or the catalyst for the idea. I’d like to come back to that. But from your own point of views, and you touched a little bit on your backgrounds there, I guess, what was the motivation? Are you looking at this saying, “Okay, this is an excellent, sort of cool little project”, or are you looking at this as and this is a real difficult problem? What made you go, “Okay, we’re going to put this together, and then we’re going to continue to drive it forward and to test it out with, as you said, this sort of validating the idea”.
[0:09:51.4] JK: I think from my side as an engineer, I’m problem solving is what I do and what I like to do. So, initially that idea of how can digital solve this problem was quite interesting to me. But obviously having worked on the sustainability side, there’s also another aspect about how do we make better place where we live and how do we shape that? It’s sort of those two things that quite interest me. Also, just having fun along the way, learning new things, as you say, being a bit more entrepreneurial, which working for a big company isn’t always that easy. It was – learning new things was also quite interesting for me.
[01:10:30.8] CdB: For me, it was the social aspect of it. In our day to day, we saw a lot of waste in the construction industry. A lot of our work, a lot of our sustainability work was in the formal sector. All these perfectly good materials would end up going to landfill. There are reasons for that. But for me, I make furniture in my free time so I could always just – I could see the value in all these materials and I just looked at it from a furniture perspective, but there are so many people in South Africa who are either homeless or their houses are just completely inadequate. There’s a lot of news about that regularly with our floods and our fires and all the rest of it.
For me, it was about how can we use all these materials that are going to landfill to help people upgrade their houses? That was my key driver. But there were a few logistical concerns around that, that we had to get around.
[0:11:33.1] BOK: You started to talk about the pilot. It will be interesting to hear about that. And I’m particularly interested in kind of bringing it to life with some examples.
[0:11:43.2] CdB: Yeah, sure. So, there was the pilot study that we did, I think it was in 2018 where, together with a few local NGOs, we started a group of local contractors and local NGOs on WhatsApp. We used to work a lot with, and we still do, with a contractor in South Africa that is a very large contractor and they were always very keen to support this idea. Because it’s, it’s good for them also to just recycle more, because actually sending materials to landfill is expensive for them. There’s the landfill cost. There’s the transport cost. So, it was also in their best interest.
Plus, they also have this social drive where they also want to just help people upgrade their homes in whichever way they can. On this WhatsApp group, the contractor would list materials that are up for grabs, and there was one day where they had all these solid timber floorboards, very good quality, that they had just taken out of a building that they were renovating. I think it was a day or two later, that a contractor from an informal settlement came with these, in South Africa, we call it a bakkie, like a little pickup truck. So he came with these bakkie, and he picked up all the floorboards and he sent us pictures of what he made with it.
He redid flooring in a client’s house. He generated a bit of income for himself and, with the off cuts, he built himself a table. That was very encouraging to see how quickly we were able to send materials to someone who could actually use it. The other thing is that he was willing to pay for it, which showed us that, this is something that can actually support itself. He was just thrilled. It was very encouraging to see all of that.
Another logistical concern that became apparent to us was storage, because there was another case where there were other materials, and people couldn’t collect it soon enough. So, we did see that storage would be an important aspect.
[0:14:09.8] KK: When we initially started off, we did a lot of desktop research, and we had our own ideas around what we thought the problems are and what we thought the solutions could be. We understood that we were coming at it with what would be called office solutions. So, we did a lot of stakeholder engagement and we spoke to a lot of NGOs in the space and people working in housing upgrades and also construction companies. Carin had a good relationship with one of the environmental managers. So, we spoke to them and there’s a local organisation, the Craft Design Institute that was running incubators for small scale builders, teaching them how to build better and build safer and they were just doing a general mentorship program.
Carin, again had networks in this Craft Design Institute and so we tapped into that and we started speaking to them to get us more in touch with local communities and areas where we were not actually – that wasn’t our strong point. The construction industry definitely was. We had a way in there. Carin and Jaco working in sustainability at the time. We had access to all these different types of people. So, we had a brainstorm session.
Prior to this brainstorm session, we were trying to work with an NGO to kind of get material exchanges done. We had access to timber and a very large pile of bricks and a few other random items and we tried to connect it up with this NGO in Cape Town that was working with incremental upgrades of homes. We had the material for a good few months, and it just didn’t move. The guy always had different reasons why he couldn’t collect the material. Then, eventually, we lost the bricks, and we then just had the timber.
We had this brainstorm session with community builders and with the construction sector, with NGOs, and with other partners involved in the project. The very next day, from having this brainstorm session, we established this WhatsApp group. One of the guys, that’s a carpenter at the brainstorm session, ended up being our first customer and he came like the very next day to collect these two truckloads of timber that we had access to. We sold it to him for a fairly like cheap price, because we were just wanting to do a proof of concept for the people who will be willing to pay. That was our very first exchange and we were super excited about it. And then we had this group of people that we could now make material available to.
That was a big lesson for us as well was that we were talking to the wrong people in terms of only wanting to focus on NGOs. We thought it was easier for us at the time to work with an established, registered organisation, rather than working with community members, but actually, the need wasn’t there, and the driver wasn’t there and that’s why the material wasn’t moving. But once we had this group of people from the community, we started then moving materials much more quickly. We had the truckload of timber, which was the very first exchange, and the guy, we kept in touch with him and he showed us pictures of how he flew at someone’s home with it, and he built a big table, and he sent us pictures back. So that was great for us to see what the material was used for.
Yeah, and then after that, we basically did some [inaudible 0:17:11] of cement and sand and there were a few other different material exchanges that we did and we were able to record and get information from. The pilot really, yeah, we learned a lot through the pilot. Basically, if we didn’t start accessing communities directly, I think we might have ended up with many months gone and not having moved any material.
[0:17:33.7] ES: Yeah, I was just gonna say thank you for sharing that experience. I think, when Barry and I talked to entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs through this podcast, it’s always great to hear how their learning process went. Because it tends to be the kind of crucial part of these big projects, those first few months and those pilots where the real learning comes in.
You talk to the beginning, all of you a lot, about scalability, and how this project started with kind of a manual process that you realised wasn’t going to be scalable, and wouldn’t be able to expand. Could you talk a little bit about the extent of the problem, particularly in the construction industry, and also in the South African context of a kind of excess material or waste material on site?
[0:18:25.3] JK: It’s a difficult one, because Kausar, you did a bit of research. I just don’t have the numbers in front of me, but you did do a bit of research to understand. Because obviously, what we want to do is, ultimately, if we are going to scale as we want understand, how big are the supply side? How much material will we be able to get made available to move into the informal sector? So, we did some research on that and Kausar led most of that research, to understand that market. Then, also on the informal side, trying to understand how big is that market? What do they need on that side? To really try and understand, how big we potentially go first and Cape Town, then moving from there to other places we Arup has got offices in South Africa, like Durban and Gauteng and then potentially from there, see how that model can work outside of South Africa in other places where we have offices and there’s a similar need.
But I’m gonna hand over to Kausar, if you do have more figures on what that is.
[0:19:26.1] KK: Yeah, I mean, I also don’t have it at the top of my head, but in terms of the construction and demolition sector, I think it’s about we says it’s about 30 percent – I don’t know. Yeah, there’s like – I’m not sure if it’s about 30 percent, we say, of profits go into waste management for construction companies. We know also that they make up the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions. In terms of landfills, typically, they also contribute to most significantly to landfills. In South Africa, that context is not very much different from the global context.
We have a similar issue where we have lots of landfills closing up soon and reaching capacity. There are lots of material that comes, we can’t give you like exact figures in terms of tonnages. But from some of the research that we’ve done, there were significant amounts that were coming from the bigger construction industries. In terms of the informal sector, we just had a meeting a day or two ago with the Craft Design Institute, who is our partner to the local communities. I’m not sure if she mentioned, about over 300,000 homes in Cape Town would be able to use materials from the sector.
The demand side is extremely huge, and also on the construction sector side. Where we also saw – although our initial focus was specifically the construction sector, there’s also the film industry that Carin can talk to more, that she has insight in, and we were approached also by Cape Town Film Studios sometime this year. They were also be giving us like figures of the amount of content of sets that go to landfill that they would like to kind of actually more responsibly get rid of instead of landfilling them.
There are also hardware stores. We had a chain of hardware stores that’s owned by Massmart, that also told us a really crazy figure, per month in tonnages that goes to landfill of slightly defective material. They have about 54 stores in South Africa. There is very big scale of materials to tap into, and then equally, for the housing sector. But also, I think, yeah, I don’t know, if Jaco can also talk a bit more to this, about the fact that the material would be able to go to low income sector at a subsidised cost, we’d still basically make material available in general, to the public and the cost of higher value items then could subsidise the cheaper items for low income sectors.
It wouldn’t just be that specific market, like it would be a general – it will be open generally. We do believe that, as people become more conscious of using and buying new materials and people are becoming more environmentally conscious, the demand would be there for people to want to use secondhand materials. Yeah, I can give it to Carin and maybe you can talk about about the film industry and other avenues for materials.
[0:22:15.8] CdB: Yes. Well, again, incredible amounts of waste. I’ve got two family members in the film industry and a few friends, a few maker friends who build sets, and they build these incredible sets. I mean, it’s nicer than my apartment. Then, once the film is over, it just goes straight to landfill, nothing happens to it. Again, these sets can also be someone’s home. So, that’s definitely a big resource that we can tap into and there are a few sustainability minded organisations within the film sector in South Africa. There’s also a willingness to participate, as Kausar mentioned. There are a lot of materials in South Africa that go to waste that can be put to good use.
[0:23:09.5] KK: Jaco, do you want to talk a little bit about the business model side of it, and also on the demand side?
[0:23:15.3] JK: Yeah, I think you already said some of that. We do see there’s value in this material, even in the informal sector, getting them to pay for it. As Kausar also mentioned, looking at some of the materials that is of higher value, moving that into the craft industry where we can get more money, and that’s sort of the main driver. We do see, from the construction side of things, construction companies definitely be willing to donate the material for free because they do have to pay a lot of money for that to be put in landfill. As Kausar said, that’s about 30 percent of their profit that goes into that.
Then, we are looking at some interesting other ideas of making money beyond that. In the transport side, we know transport is an issue to move the materials and we’ve been thinking about taking up a platform, a digital platform, if we facilitate that transport, taking a bit of that money as well, to the idea of having some intelligent skips. That being part of the platform as well, where we can generate the money, where the skips are being used on site, on contracts, filling that up. And so yeah, so trying to see, look at different ways of actually making money and getting an income from this.
[0:24:30.6] ES: That’s really interesting and it’s great to hear that people are kind of reaching out to you and saying, "We don’t want to be wasting all this material. What can we do with it?" You mentioned the film industry specifically. I wonder if you can speak a bit more to how this idea of wasting less and maybe also initially generating less waste, as well as passing the waste on in a responsible way, how that whole idea is developing in South Africa? How it’s being received, and what your hope is for that mindset in the future?
[0:25:06.9] KK: Yeah, sure. I’ll go ahead and then I’ll hand it over to Carin and to Jaco. Like Jaco mentioned, there are gate fees associated at landfill and there’s transport costs associated as well with disposing of materials, so there’s a financial incentive. But there’s also a big incentive for – and I mean, we do have extended producer responsibility acts being enforced only in South Africa, like they’re all coming to the fore, they’re not really heavily done at the moment. But the construction and demolition sector is one of those that will be subject to these types of policies or these regulations that will force companies to do things differently.
There are different drivers, and then there’s also – i mean, people are open to it. From our experience of working with the construction companies, environmental managers, she from a sustainability perspective, that was her driver, I think, in wanting to be part of the project and to take it forward. Whereas other people, it might be financial. But in terms of bigger companies, like we mentioned, the hardware stores that’s owned by Massmart, they have these net zero climate targets, and by 2030, there’s a lot of pressure being put on to these corporates for having a better image.
I think it’s also filtering down here in South Africa, whereas the timelines actually, it’s not as soon as they are. I think in the US, they had a much closer target. But the South African branches of their stores that are owned that have like, maybe a five year later target. But they are filtering down here, and there are people that getting more interested in wanting to do things sustainably. I think that’s the angle that the film sector also came at it with, well, that’s how I perceived it was that, it was from more of a social responsibility and environmentally conscious than it was actually to do with cost. Because my assumption is that money’s not really an issue on the film sets to kind of dispose of the materials. It’s more to do with the messaging, I guess, that comes out of it.
We’ve also had sustainability managers from the City of Cape Town’s education department that also approached us. They were looking to kind of – they have annual build programs where the schools get rebuilt. I’m not sure exactly how it’s done, but they have a set of buildings that get demolished every year and get rebuilt. I guess it probably rotates as it’s needed. They basically have a lot of materials that come out of these buildings, and they purchase brand new materials, and they’ll build something from scratch. So, their sustainability department was very interested in salvaging those materials that come out of these projects.
Again, yeah, from a sustainability perspective, and they also saw that there could be some social benefit that comes out of it as well. In South Africa, we have a lot of these townships and shacks, and these informal settlements, or whatever you’d like to call it. That awareness is there. Where people see that there’s opportunity to kind of link the two, they seem to be quite open to it. I mean, I think we’re probably in a good space now, timing wise, maybe for the project as well. I don’t know if Carin and Jaco want to add to that.
[0:28:15.1] JK: Yeah, just in terms of figures, if you look at the South African State of Waste Report of 2018, they estimated five million tons of construction and demolition waste was generated in South Africa in 2017. Of that, only about five percent get recycled. If you then look at the City of Cape Town and what they charge for construction waste to go to landfill, that is about 500 a ton. It’s the highest in the country of the big metropolitan areas. Again, that’s set to increase by 12 to 13 percent over the next few years, year on year.
You’re talking about a lot of money that is being spent sending material to landfill, and therefore there is a big incentive for the construction sector to divert, financial incentive to divert the waste away from landfill. For them, that is one of the biggest drivers. Down from that, some of the people that we work with, and specifically as Kausar and Carin mentioned, the environmental manager for the big construction company that we work with, they’re sort of more driven and on the social side of things in the benefit that can bring to communities. So, there’s these different drivers at different levels, I think, in these organisations.
[0:29:28.8] CdB: I think there’s also, and Emily, you touched on how people can sort of work on their attitude or how people build in South Africa. I think there’s a big use and dispose attitude. One of the things in the construction industry that annoys me a lot is the idea of a tenant fit out, and how it’s typically done, where they would just – they would use sort of cheap composite wood and then just glue it onto a wall. Then, five years later, it’s time for a new fit out and then that just gets ripped out. And because it’s glued on, it breaks, and then it just gets thrown away.
I think, there are two aspects to the way we think about building that need to change. The one is how we build. Do we think about what’s going to happen with this material at end of use? Can we recycle it? Can we donate it? Then, building accordingly. Perhaps, spending a little bit more money on a more durable material, thinking about disassembly at the end of it, and then thinking about who can use it after me? Not just how do I recycle it, but you know, how to really extend the life of each material.
[0:30:49.7] BOK: Yeah, that’s a really important sort of context of all those things you’ve talked about there of where DigiYard fits in, like the multiple different motivators and incentives and sort of bringing those together for reusing some of that would be waste otherwise. Then, Carin, as you described, the sort of rethinking the whole system. So, with that in mind, what’s the next steps? What do you need for DigiYard? What are your plans for the immediate and for the longer-term future?
[0:31:18.1] JK: Kauser, you are sort of in the thick of that at the moment.
[0:31:21.5] KK: Yeah. So before I just get into that, I mean, in terms of the project’s longer-term impact, we did want to – on the one hand, we did want to see people building better, building safer, and having access to better quality material. And then when it comes to the construction sector, we do have, as part of our impact plan, that is something that we do want to work on, or have as a longer-term goal is to have that behavior change around how material is handled and valued. Like just as Carin mentioned, with that attitude is very lousy at the moment. She talked about disassembly also.
One of the things we saw during the pilot was we had access to lots of glass in a high-rise building. They told us, the contractor told us, we could take it, but it wasn’t practical in the timeline to remove the glass. But had we given more time or if people had thought about it in advance, how could you salvage this expensive glass instead of just recycling it? It’s something that could have been done.
Yeah, longer term, even though that would mean I guess, getting less material through the platform, if it was able to kind of improve efficiencies or behaviors around less wastage, that would be a win for the project. Something that we also talked about very early on in the project was how do we get data out of the platform? And how do we use that data then to help people to inform what they do going forward? Something we talked to construction companies about is like, would they be interested in a detailed report at the end of the year, that shows them exactly how much of materials like went through the platform, and then they could go back and have a think as to why did so much of X, Y, and Z materials go through. Are there ways that they could waste less so that they could retain more or put more back into new buildings or retrofits or whatever the case is.
We have big aspirations in terms of what we’d like to see change on both sectors and how we’d want to do that through the platform. In terms of next steps, so we are currently at the stage at the moment of, you know, we’ve just had a meeting yesterday with some local partners that we have with us on the project. We’re trying to get – one of them has offered to incubate the project for the next two years. So we had put together two-year implementation plan to further test certain assumptions and solutions that we need for the project. Some of the main ones are transport and storage, and how do we make that happen.
We want to basically get a home for the project to be done full time, because it’s currently not a full-time project within Arup. We believe that once a project has a full-time team and resources and funding, then we’ll really be able to see the project come to life. Funding, I mentioned, so that’s the second bit. We have partners that we have great relationships, but then we have all this work that we’ve done in this information that we’ve collated. Arup is basically not going to be the people that are going to be running it on the ground. We’ve found a home now to incubate the project, and so the next step for us would be to get funding for that incubation to happen.
A lot of the organisations in South Africa don’t have funding and resources, easily accessible that would be able to take something, fund something like this for a full two years. Yeah, that’s kind of where we’re at at the moment. We’ve also been having a lot of discussions around what’s the legal entity that DigiYard exist as. Is it a social enterprise? Is it an NGO? I guess that’s kind of where we at. I don’t know if Carin or Jaco can add on to that more concisely, to say exactly where we at right now.
[0:34:54.4] JK: I think you summed it up well at this inflection point, where we want to start looking at scaling this up. We’ve tested the assumptions and we’re keen just to get going on and see if we can really scale this up, see if this is long term financially viable to do.
[0:35:13.4] BOK: Wonderful, thank you so much. Thank you for sharing all of that. It’s such a short time period, a short conversation like this to get a little sort of insight into what is, obviously, both a big topic, a big challenging topic, but also the project and a lot of the work you’ve done and the journey of learning. Something that’s a real theme for this podcast is how the technology – we can’t jump straight to technical solutions. You need to do that learning and the sort of properly in startup thinking about, "Okay, let’s do a WhatsApp group and really learn the reality of it and then talk work out to scale it up.”
There’s that thread and there’s the thread that Emily, you brought out about the changing the system to this systemic thinking about, and that broad goal that you’ve described there for DigiYard. Really, hopefully, we’ve kind of given the listeners a little taste for all of those things. Just finally, for those listening, who want to find out a little bit more about the project, or to reach out to you, where should they go?
[0:36:15.5] KK: So, we have a research article that’s published on research.arup.com. You’d be able to find out a little bit more about the project on the article that’s in that link. Then, I suppose they could just reach out to us directly. If they have any questions or comments, or if they’re interested to know more, we’re always looking for people that have interesting ideas to collaborate with. Yeah, we’ll be happy to chat.
[0:36:42.7] BOK: Thank you so much. As always, we will share show notes, the full transcript of this episode, and the links to that research article on happyporchradio.com. Thank you all three of you. We really appreciate your time for joining us today.
[0:36:57.3] ES: Thanks, everyone.
[0:36:58.5] JK: Yes, thank you very much.
[0:36:59.1] CdB: Thank you.
[0:37:01.5] KK: Yeah, thank you so much.
[0:37:01.9] ES: Thanks for listening to this episode of Happy Porch Radio. I hope you enjoyed it. You can hear more of our episodes at happyporchradio.com. You can also get in touch with us there, let us know what you think, let us know if you have any ideas or if you want to talk to us about something. We’d also love it if you can share this podcasts, review, rate, tell your pals, tell your neighbors, tell everyone.
[0:37:24.3] BOK: Tell your dog.
[0:37:25.0] ES: Tell your dog, listen along with the whole family.
[0:37:29.1] BOK: My name is Barry, and I founded happyporch.com and Happy Porch Fund and Support Podcast. At Happy Porch, we do technology and software development for purpose-led businesses and we are particularly excited about the role of digital as an enabler for the circular economy. If you’re working on solutions to the big problems we face today, problems like climate change and biodiversity loss and global inequality, then let’s connect. Visit happyporch.com and get in touch.
[0:37:55.1] ES: My name is Emily, and I am a coach, a facilitator, and a podcaster. My projects focus on personal development, innovation for a better world and connecting with nature. My latest podcasting adventure alongside Happy Porch Radio is exploring the world of carbon removal. Find out more about this and everything that I do at emilyswaddle.com or you can get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.