ABOUT THE EVENT
The inaugural Holcim Roundtable for Sustainable Construction “Re-materializing Construction” concentrated on issues of materials, stocks and flows, availability, lightweight assemblies, life cycle, re-use, and related themes.
The Holcim Roundtable brought together experts from 10 countries dedicated to specific topics related to the building sector with the objective of generating and channeling new knowledge to “re-materialize” construction, and was held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, MA, USA in mid-2014.
The construction sector uses a considerable amount of material resources, accounting, for two-fifths of all gravel and sand as well as one quarter of virgin wood consumed in the world. It is also responsible for 40% of the energy and 20% of water used globally. The magnitude of these figures points to the impact that better material protocols could have in lowering emissions and reducing dependence on finite resources. Although increasing energy efficiency has been an obvious first step in this process, it is now necessary to foreground material stocks and flows in order to further the objectives of sustainable development.
The goal of the Roundtable was to develop strategies at two scales: resource use in individual buildings and the logistical chains distributing these materials across regions. The proposed strategies aim to “re-materialize” construction by reducing consumption throughout the material cycle from extraction to processing, transport, implementation, maintenance, and removal. Such strategies would contribute to a leaner industry, one with a smaller ecological footprint and no longer driven by the long-standing pretense of infinitely available raw materials. This shift in the construction sector’s mode of operation can only yield lasting results if economic growth is decoupled from lavish material consumption. Measures of quality must be brought into sync with demands for quantity. This would require careful reconsideration of the political, economic, and social frameworks in which the building trade is situated.