Our vision of a new, sustainable construction industry
We arrived in the year 2023, leaving some turbulent years behind us. We now wish to turn our focus to the future. What is your vision for the future of the construction industry?
The construction and building industry accounts for about 40% of global CO2 emissions today. It is obvious that there is enormous potential to make improvements here and I am convinced that this is a challenge for all of us, ranging from material technology to the circular economy, i.e., reusability of materials. At events and trade shows, we often hear that people want to move away from cement and steel reinforcement. They keep looking for improvements. This is not only about rethinking new construction, but also about the subject of refurbishment and thermal improvements, where there is plenty of potential to improve.
For more than 30 years, we have tried to promote industrial construction in the market. I am certain that this is the solution for the construction industry of the future. I’m not even talking about automation here. I’m talking about industrialization, and industrialization is most easily achieved with prefabrication in a factory – industrial prefabrication. There is a wide range of areas that still have space for optimization. As you said, material optimization plays a crucial role. We can reduce the cement content of concrete by producing high-strength concrete or slurry concrete without compromising the strength. If we build support structures out of wood or steel, with lightweight cement components in between, we can not only reduce the carbon footprint in this area but also reduce CO2 emissions in concrete transport. Concrete is heavy and expensive to transport. Hybrid building systems, which I have already seen on the market, are promising solutions. We just need to expand our mindset rather than saying: “Concrete is concrete, steel is steel, and wood is wood.” Hybrid construction methods often are great options. I dream of defining the structure in advance and assembling it from optimized boxes and elements on the construction site. When talking about sustainability we must not forget waste prevention, which we have been propagating for a long time. We use resources responsibly by producing ready-to-assemble buildings. When everything is precast, as we already see with some of our customers, only assembly takes place and there is no more waste at all on the construction site. That is sustainable.
I believe that we will need to construct buildings that are adaptable and fit for the future. Considering that 40-60% of buildings change their original use during their lifecycles, modular construction becomes important today to allow easier reconfiguration and use of buildings in later years. The two main aspects here are environmental sustainability, where reusability and the use of other materials play a role, and economic sustainability with optimized construction costs, material selection, and logistics.
May I add something here? Properly reusable buildings and structures are the future. Some of our customers are already assembling, disassembling, and converting buildings to try and find out whether this concept is promising for the future. This means that we will construct the building and use the structures later for a new or converted building, depending on requirements. We had this idea back in 2015 already! A building should change during its lifetime, adapting to the needs of its occupants. This way, we create a continuous structure that makes it possible to use the building flexibly and permanently. However, it is necessary that the building system is of remarkably high quality and industrially manufactured. Prefabrication is the key to such a sustainable, optimized, and cost-effective construction method.