• When it comes to healthier building materials, how do we do better?

    How can architects rethink their material selections to support a more sustainable future? We asked two of our colleagues this question and according to them, there are numerous ways – and it’s urgent.

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  • What do you think will become important in terms of materials in the coming years? 

    Martha Lewis, Head of Materials and DGNB Auditor:

    Carbon emissions, carbon emissions, carbon emissions, and biodiversity considerations.

    Magnus Reffs Kramhøft, Senior Architect:

    Some people in our field are talking about a too limited focus on materials and want to look at durability. The thing is, that we need the big change NOW - in relation to Marthas Carbon emissions – not in 100 years' time. Materials are an effective way to make an instant impact. We cannot wait to see how long the buildings will stand. History shows that buildings are rebuilt or torn down way before what we could wish for.

  • What can architects do to make (this) change happen?

    Martha Lewis, Head of Materials and DGNB Auditor:

    Make a careful assessment regarding demolition – could the existing building mass be maintained and transformed? If the original structure can be maintained and renovated/transformed, this provides enormous carbon savings. Choose organic & reused materials, ie, choose materials that sequester carbon or at least don’t emit more carbon in new production. Drastically limit concrete, reinforced concrete, and steel to the absolute necessary applications. And always look at the CO2 emission numbers – in EVERY choice.

    Magnus Reffs Kramhøft, Senior Architect:

    Architects have a key role in choosing materials. Whereas a more limited impact on why, when and where to build. In the future, hopefully, we will have a more narrow palette of basic materials, without all the chemical substances from fossil raw materials, but still with many possibilities for variations regarding surfaces and more. Getting rid of the harsh chemicals makes our indoor climate better and the manufactures working processes less harmful to the environment. The manufactures not being adaptable to these issues, will not live long. Back to basics!

  • How are we already working to do this?

    Martha Lewis, Head of Materials and DGNB Auditor:

    We’re not. At least, not on the scale that we need to be. Note – what other sector has the incredible possibility for radical transformation at our fingertips – our sector can choose either to a) emit or to b) sequester depending on the materials we choose for our buildings. We don’t even have to invent new processes – we already HAVE the solutions! Let’s start using them! Spurred by discouraging scientific updates, climate concern is escalating; however, it’s quite interesting that the latest UN emissions gap report has pointed specifically at the building industry, lauding the tangible possibilities for mitigation. The devastating ramifications of not implementing the carbon-friendly solutions at hand could well result in a backlash when carbon-heavy buildings on the drawing board today celebrate their opening ceremony in the future.

    Magnus Reffs Kramhøft, Senior Architect:

    It’s still a very limited group of people, that are interested in the issue. Most don’t know how to come up with answers to the problems. Perhaps even not thinking of addressing it. We and most of our collaborators do not have the experience yet, but a lot of solutions from eg manufactures to choose from. We need to have the courage to use them.

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