In his capacity as member of the Academic Committee of the LafargeHolcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction since 2014, Philippe Block has been instrumental in realising exemplary projects and in leading debates to promote and enhance sustainability in how and with which materials we build. Philippe Block is Professor of Architecture and Structure at the ETH Zurich in Switzerland and was elected as a member of the Board of Directors of LafargeHolcim Ltd at its Annual General Meeting 2020.
“Global knowledge must meet local building materials,” explained Philippe Block, co-moderator of the workshop “From manual to digital and vice versa” at the previous international LafargeHolcim Forum which took place in Cairo and was dedicated to Re-materializing Construction. “The great potential of digitalization lies in the capabilities of sharing knowledge, for example in the form of tutorials,” he added. “From an ecological point of view, it is better to disseminate knowledge than to transport materials.”
Imposing challenges and disruptive changes
The Materials Book, published by Ruby Press in Berlin based on the LafargeHolcim Forum in Cairo, features contributions by Philippe Block and his team that show that the use of construction materials is about doing more with less: One expert paper rethinks the floor slab by imposing challenges and disruptive changes, the other explains how building is possible with concrete using a stay-in-place knitted fabric formwork. Both are tangible examples of the work lead by Philippe Block who is convinced that the construction industry must do more “to survive the next decades in which sustainability targets will increasingly have to be enforced.”
Responsible material solutions
Examples of successful collaboration between Philippe Block, LafargeHolcim and its Foundation include the Droneport project at the Architecture Biennale in Venice in 2016, using compressed earth bricks (Durabric by LafargeHolcim) to construct a self-supporting vault designed by Lord Norman Foster which is still standing the test of time on at the Arsenale di Venezia. “LafargeHolcim is clearly leading the market in pushing innovation in sustainability and the development of responsible material solutions,” says Philippe Block who has been experimenting with customized products for example for the lightweight roof structure of the NEST modular research and innovation building in Dübendorf amongst an array of other projects round the globe.
Together with John Ochsendorf of MIT Cambridge, Philippe Block was involved in the project of a stabilized earth visitors’ center at Mapungubwe National Park in South Africa that received an Acknowledgment prize in the LafargeHolcim Awards 2008. It was completed in 2009 using latest developments in structural geometry along with an ancient construction technique to implement a contemporary design. In a special global edition of L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui in 2019, Philippe Block stated that the LafargeHolcim Awards “have given many winners the opportunity to grow into the game-changers they are today.” As the career of Philippe Block continues to show!
Holistic approach to sustainable construction
The LafargeHolcim Foundation promotes sustainable construction projects and concepts around the globe. It developed five “target issues” to address sustainability in a comprehensive way and with the aim to clarify principles for sustaining the human habitat for future generations. As part of its activities, the Foundation presents the internationally renowned LafargeHolcim Awards for projects and visions in sustainable construction and holds Forums and conferences on specific topics related to sustainability. The Foundation was established 2003 as an initiative of LafargeHolcim, the leading global provider of building materials and construction solutions. The ambition of LafargeHolcim is to set industry standards for reducing carbon emissions and to develop and promote high-quality sustainable materials around the world.