Desire is a powerful mobilizer – sometimes stronger than duty or responsibility. If products and buildings that reduce the material cost of building are desirable, they are more likely to catch on with a wider public. Adding beauty, convenience, or novelty to a project can help transform sustainability from something that subtracts to something that adds.
At the 6th LafargeHolcim Forum, Christine Binswanger explored the theme of “Make it desirable” and ways of ensuring buildings with higher sustainability attain greater public support. Projects such as the REHAB Basel Centre for Spinal Cord & Brain Injuries, Switzerland, and the new Children’s Hospital (Kinderspital Zürich, pictured left), Switzerland were used to illustrate “designing for adaptability – how to minimize the amount of materials that can’t be modified in the future. “Visual impact is an important element, but social impact is intrinsic to sustainable design,” she said.
The concept of driving sustainability by making it a desirable feature was elaborated at LafargeHolcim Roundtables in the USA, Switzerland and Germany in preparation for the 6th International LafargeHolcim Forum for Sustainable Construction 2019 in Cairo, Egypt. The events brought together researchers and practitioners from different fields – architects, engineers, historians, material scientists, policy makers, sociologists, and the material industry – to envision a more sustainable future for construction.
Driving demand for sustainable construction
The building and construction industry can look beyond itself for inspiration: the food industry provides a reference for how to tap into the force of desire. People are willing to pay a higher price for a sustainable, organic, pesticide-free tomato not only because it is more sustainable but because it tastes better. Science and technology may develop new, very efficient, low-carbon footprint materials but unless they are cheaper, faster, or easier to use than conventional ones, they are not going to be preferred. In order to promote sustainable materials with the strong force of immediate gratification, we should find a way to make the joy of them more tangible.
Strategies to re-materialize construction
As the key input to the Forum, 22 Propositions offers strategies for both the material supply chain and material use in buildings. The propositions aim to “re-materialize” construction by rethinking the building material cycle from extraction to processing, design, transport, installation, maintenance, and removal.
The changes proposed would contribute to a construction industry with a smaller ecological footprint and a shift away from the unsustainable assumption that raw construction uses significant amounts of material. Rethinking materials and material use also has tremendous potential to lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce dependence on resource extraction.
The Materials Book to be published by Ruby Press Berlin in late 2019 will feature the essence of 22 Propositions as well as a selection of additional proposals to re-materialize construction derived from the findings of the Forum.