The 21st century needs to face a radical paradigm shift in how we produce materials for the construction of our habitat. While the first industrial revolution resulted in a conversion from regenerative (agrarian) to non-regenerative material sources (mines), our era may experience the reverse – a shift toward cultivating, breeding, raising, farming, or growing future resources that goes hand-in-hand with a reorientation of biological production methods and goals.
A new understanding of a bio-mechanized or bio-industrial production is required. Biologists, bioengineers, ecologists, chemists, and material scientists need to collaborate with architects and civil engineers to foster a broader understanding of how to approach the complex task of cultivating our future building materials. Supplemented by economists, this multidisciplinary work has the potential to hone our conception of alternative urban models in which production constitutes an integral part of a future urban society, calling for new types of spaces and infrastructures.
Fusing physical, digital and biological spheres
Addressing the industrialization of building materials, it is obvious that the term “industrialization” describes different periods in history. The first industrial revolution (18th and 19th centuries) was based on the invention of the steam engine to mechanize production. The second industrial revolution (late-19th and early-20th century) saw the use of electrical power engines to initiate mass production. The third industrial revolution (mid-20th century) used digital information technology to automate production.
A fourth industrial revolution could be just ahead of us, reintroducing biological aspects into an otherwise mechanized, industrialized world. In the words of Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, this would be “characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.” (The Fourth Industrial Revolution, Random House, 2017)
This text is extracted from the paper Cultivated Building Materials: The Fourth Industrial Revolution? presented by Dirk Hebel and Felix Heisel at the LafargeHolcim Forum for Sustainable Construction on “Re-materializing Construction” held at the American University in Cairo (AUC), Egypt. The full text is available as a flip-book via the link below:
Inspired by the discussions by 350 leading thinkers from architecture, engineering, planning, and the construction industry from 55 countries, Ruby Press Berlin has published The Materials Book that evaluates current architectural practices and models, and introduces materials and methods to maximize the environmental, social, and economic performance of the built environment in the context of “Re-materializing Construction”.