Building is responsible for around 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions. So at the start of every building project, we have to ask: must we really demolish every building and replace it with a new one? Or wouldn’t it be better to examine the existing buildings, upgrade them and adapt them to our new requirements? Every building demands such decisions, which then have an immediate effect on the environment. So it pays to make a thorough on-site analysis.
Over 500 million tonnes of mineral raw materials are used in putting up buildings in Germany – every year. Every step to document, separate and reuse these materials is a step in the right direction. Let us follow the concept of the “ecological rucksack”, introduced by the chemist Friedrich Schmidt-Bleek in 1992. This shows the total of all material and energy flows that are necessary for the production of objects and services. The figures are sobering: on average, every kilogram invested in a product uses up nearly 30 kilograms of nature. The more complex the object, the greater the rucksack. No wonder the building world with its millions of tonnes of steel and concrete has a special responsibility for the environment. Thus the revival of old, traditional materials. Wood, for example, has turned out to be a super building material.
In 2012, the leitmotiv of the German pavilion at the Architecture Biennale in Venice was “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. This was the beginning of a new age. Our task as architects is to encourage a sustainable economy, even when that means additional effort at the beginning: gathering more information about the right materials and suitable structures, enhanced knowledge about the place and its traditions, more about the people for whom we are building. This is the turning point in building: sustainable economy / C2C (Cradle to Cradle) in the service of people. And last but not least, sustainability is only as good as the people, constructions and materials involved.
z+ for a sustainable economy in building