“The LafargeHolcim Awards was the most important recognition we received,” said Kai-Uwe Bergmann, Partner architect at BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group. He presented the Awards prize-winning project “BIG-U (Dryline)”, protecting lower Manhattan from flooding, at the 12th Holcim Bau-Forum in Hannover, Germany. Under the theme of “Direction: Future”, the event brought together builders, architects, planners, and authorities for an inspiring exchange on the future of building and construction. In the context of diverse challenges including climate change, resource conservation, labor and digitization – Kai-Uwe Bergmann presented a range of projects that look to an exciting future, and a challenging role for architecture.
Thorsten Hahn, CEO of Holcim Germany, welcomed the participants of the Holcim Bau-Forum to the Sprengel Museum in Hannover using another winning project from the LafargeHolcim Awards for Sustainable Construction to illustrate the evolution in the construction industry. When the first talks started about building a new railway station in Stuttgart (Main Station Stuttgart), the first laptops were on the market; by the time the architectural competition was run, mobile phones were in use; when construction finally started, iPhones had appeared – and if all goes well Stuttgart21 will be completed in 2025. Hence, Thorsten Hahn asked Kai-Uwe Bergmann “What’s next in our industry?”
Bergmann replied by outlining examples designed by BIG – spanning from 15 to 1 billion square meters. The range of projects showed that the construction industry should not wait for the future, but must adapt and innovate to take advantage of new opportunities in digitalization, prefabrication, robotics and a more sustainable approach to materials of all kinds.
From the allotment garden to Mars
BIG also builds small: Bergmann started with a 15 square-meter house with two bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom made of wooden elements – “the house for today’s allotment garden,” as he called it. Other examples included recycled shipping containers to form student housing constructed on an “intelligent ground floor of concrete” in the port of Copenhagen (700 sqm), the Lego-Museum also in Denmark (“The Capital of Children”, 12,000 sqm), a high-rise “land-scraper” in Vancouver (60,000 sqm), through to feasibility studies to create a biosphere on Mars to populate one billion square meters of surface on the planet. Bergmann enthusiastically showed that architecture must strive to be an interface between the means and possibilities and the needs and the visions of our time – a bridge between reality and aspirations.
The Holcim Bau-Forum included expert presentations about the sustainable production of concrete compliant with BREEAM and German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB) sustainability assessment standards. Discussions looked into possibilities for recycling concrete far beyond using it to stabilize roads; the future of Building Information Modelling (BIM), and the next generation of digital approaches in the construction industry. Infra-lightweight concrete (ILC) was also presented. At less than 800kg per cubic meter, it floats, is porous, has an insulating effect, and is highly recyclable – making it a key material when building sustainable infrastructure. The event concluded with the hand-over of sustainability certificates from the Concrete Sustainability Council for two cement plants of Holcim Germany.