The construction sector is responsible for 50% of primary resource consumption in Europe, among other things. The vast majority of materials used for construction are currently still extracted from the earth’s crust, used and then disposed of. The materials are literally consumed and not borrowed from natural or technical cycles to be subsequently absorbed back into them.
This linear approach has partly irreparable consequences for our planet. We are interfering deeply with existing ecosystems, as climate change shows. Natural resources such as sand, copper, zinc or helium will soon no longer be available in a technically, ecologically, economically or ethically justifiable way. With ever deeper mining, we are endangering the well-being of future generations.
The built environment must therefore be understood as a temporary deposit of raw materials in an endless circulatory system. A radical paradigm shift would thus be necessary. We urgently need new principles for the construction, dismantling and constant transformation of our built environment. At the same time, we need to answer the question of how to produce new materials that meet the demands of a circular economy. We must increasingly strive for a shift towards regenerative cultivation, breeding and cultivating resources and building materials instead of continuing to rely on finite deposits.
Dirk E. Hebel is professor of Sustainable Construction and the Dean of the Department of Architecture at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, KIT, Germany. He is also a Principal Investigator at the Future Cities Laboratory SEC Singapore. Prior to that, he was assistant professor of Architecture and Construction at ETH Zürich, Switzerland. He was also the founding scientific director of the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction and City Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Dirk E. Hebel was guest professor at Syracuse University and guest lecturer at Princeton University. His research focuses on the study of resource cycles, the development of alternative building materials and construction methods and their application.
In 2021, he and Felix Heisel published “Urban Mining und kreislaufgerechtes Bauen”, which was published by Fraunhofer Verlag.
We urgently need new principles for the construction, dismantling and constant transformation of our built environment.