Built by Nature Fund to support creation of legal knowledge platform to help policymakers accelerate the shift to timber construction

AMSTERDAM – November 30 Built by Nature is pleased to announce a €250,000 grant for the creation of an online legal resource for policymakers and civil servants in the Netherlands to navigate the regulatory landscape around timber construction. The digital tool seeks to identify and promote the range of possibilities within existing laws and regulations to accelerate the timber transition as part of a shift towards a circular economy. Co-funding of the initiative is provided by the City of Amsterdam and AMS Institute at €200,000 and €30,000 respectively.

The project, led by not-for-profit consultancy Dark Matter Labs in partnership with the Municipality of Amsterdam Innovation Team and Wageningen University & Research (WUR), will also work with communities of practice within Dutch cities to further leverage legislative and regulatory systems to promote the adoption of mass timber in urban development.

A key objective of the 15-month project is to overcome regulatory silos and meet a demand from cities struggling to reach ambitious environmental goals due to construction policy complexities. The Built by Nature grant will support the development and testing of a digital module to be incorporated into the online “CircuLaw” platform, designed to stimulate a circular economy transition through a better understanding of multi-level regulatory systems. 

An initial research consolidation phase will build upon the analysis of the legal and policy landscape in the Netherlands carried out previously by the CircuLaw team, which will then be organised into the online resource and presented as practical, action-oriented recommendations. With this CircuLaw module, policymakers will be guided by an interactive manual to examine the feasibility of a timber construction project with their jurisdiction. Case studies and highly visual approaches will demonstrate how to best leverage policies and regulations to support timber at local, regional and national levels of government and across often-siloed municipal departments.

The prototype will be tested with local and regional authorities throughout the Netherlands, beginning within the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area and in the North-Holland province – home to 2.5 million residents and an area at the national forefront of setting bold timber goals of reaching 20% of new buildings in 2025.

In addition to the creation of the digital resource, the project proponents will engage with a range of cross-functional teams directly through a community of practice established within existing city networks in the Netherlands.  


Amanda Sturgeon, CEO of Built by Nature said: “Built by Nature knows that across many levels of government, current legislative frameworks were not developed for serving circular economy principles or for realising the potential of timber and biobased construction materials. As a result, it’s very difficult for policymakers to gain an overview of how they can accelerate the transition towards biobased materials and decarbonisation of the built environment. Built by Nature is excited about the potential outcomes of this project:  wider and faster adoption of timber-supportive local policies and regulations in the Netherlands, increased expertise and capacity at various levels in city governments for promoting mass timber and the scalability of the work and its findings.” 

Prof. Dr. Josephine van Zeben, Professor of Law and Chair of the Law Group, Wageningen University, said: “The transition towards a circular construction sector is embedded within complex regulatory systems. While the importance of law as a potential catalyzer of this transition is increasingly recognized, much is still unknown about how this potential can be unlocked. This collaboration, made possible by Built by Nature, will enable us to articulate new scientific insights on the role of legislation and regulations in these transitions, as well as optimal ways of implementing these in concrete policy settings. We are excited to create new environments for collective learning with our CircuLaw partners and help create impactful research.”

Joost Beunderman, director at Dark Matter Labs, said: “To accelerate the transition to a circular economy, we need to use all levers of change at our disposal. Regulatory innovation is too often underestimated as a tool for change, in part because policymakers struggle to navigate the existing landscape of rules and regulations to unlock new opportunities for innovation. With the generous support from Built by Nature, the CircuLaw programme can further its ambitious work on both the open-source digital platform and the community of practice that will bring this to life. We are grateful that we can dive deeper into this by focussing on timber construction, as this is a particularly impactful domain within the circular transition. CircuLaw has been a uniquely collaborative project between many partners, and we look forward to learning together with Built by Nature.”

Ger Baron, Director Digitisation & Innovation, City of Amsterdam said: “Built by Nature understands that deep systems level change is required to achieve a circular construction sector. Timber construction is one of the most promising solutions to reach this goal, which is why as Metropolitan Area Amsterdam we set the ambition that by 2025, 20% of all new construction should be timber based. In order to reach this goal, optimal utilisation of the available legal measures within the existing laws and regulations is pivotal. We are therefore very excited to work together with Built by Nature in the further development and upscaling of CircuLaw, since this open-source legal knowledge platform will greatly help policy makers in the selection and application of legal measures.”

About Built by Nature

Built by Nature connects key actors across the built environment and forest communities to spark city-scale projects and amplify stories of ground-breaking timber and biobased projects and solutions. In close collaboration with its major partners and frontrunners, Built by Nature aims to change perceptions around timber construction and reshape the built environment system. 

The Built by Nature Fund furthers Built by Nature’s vision and mission – awarding grants to the teams and solutions that can increase the uptake of sustainable timber and improve its climate impact, overcoming some of the most challenging barriers. www.builtbn.org

About Dark Matter Laboratories

Around the planet, we’re feeling the consequences of outdated institutions and inadequate infrastructures incapable of coping with planetary-scale challenges. Dark Matter Laboratories believes in taking on these challenges via a new, civic economy – an economy that’s focussed on long term value and based on many-to-many relationships. An economy that prioritises mental wellbeing and nature-based solutions as platforms for further change. We’re an ambitious not-for-profit designing and building the underlying infrastructure to support this new civic economy, exploring how ownership, legal systems, governance, accountancy and insurance might begin to change.www.darkmatterlabs.org

About Municipality of Amsterdam – Innovation Team

The Municipality of Amsterdam has been a global leader in the circular economy for years. In its Amsterdam Circular Strategy 2020 – 2025 the city has set ambitious goals to be fully circular by 2050 and to halve the use of raw materials by 2030. Amsterdam has been one of the initiators of the Green Deal Timber Construction of the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. CircuLaw was initiated by the city’s Urban Innovation Team in 2020. This team works with partners in and outside the city on innovations that accelerate the transition to a circular, safe and accessible city.

About Wageningen University – WUR Law Group

The Law Group focuses on legal solutions to social problems, including those studied in life sciences domains. These issues touch on every aspect of the law, which means that we have collective expertise on matters relating to EU law, food law, environmental law, international law, WTO law, intellectual property law, private law and human rights law. The research of the group is also strongly interdisciplinary, with faculty and students from all over the world.

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