‘A’A’ Presents LafargeHolcim Awards Prize Winners | Next Generation

Innovation in structures and materials offer important opportunities to address the pressing challenges of the environmental crisis. As a major negative contributor, the building industry must propose solutions to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, resource depletion and waste. Embodied emissions remain the primary bottleneck, particularly for long-span and high-rise construction. These result from the sourcing, producing, forming, transporting, demolishing and disposing of building materials and components. Two extreme strategies could be imagined to reduce the impact of building structures and materials on the environment. One could build for longevity, for future adaptability in use so that buildings do not grow obsolete. Alternatively, one could build with the least impact, which means reducing the volume and the embodied carbon coefficient of the materials used. Ideally, both can be achieved by developing circular construction economy strategies. Significant improvements can be obtained by achieving strength through the structure’s geometry (rather than through material quantities) or by using materials in the way they want to work. The former refers to material efficiency that optimised shapes, such as doubly-curved shells, offer to carry loads. The latter, conversely, refers to material effectiveness, since lighter is not necessarily better if it demands high-strength, heavily polluting materials. But, to achieve the efficiencies that the structural geometries offer, one needs to find, develop and integrate fabrication and construction strategies in the design process to realise those non-standard forms in an economically viable way without producing excessive waste. Education has an extremely important role to play as part of this paradigm shift. It is no longer useful to teach in the typical ways, which can result in students lacking a fundamental knowledge of engineering, or designing without understanding material repercussions. We need new professionals who are more integrative, who understand collaborative design and construction processes in a holistic manner. I hope that the next generation of innovative designers is hands-on and responsible. We need to cultivate an entrepreneurial character in our students, helping them to become professionals who are curious and who want to move beyond existing codes and strictures in innovative, sustainable ways. Finally, the concept of the single Master Builder or genius architect may have made sense in the past, but with today’s expectations, complementary and synergistic skills are needed as part of a team. If we can help give our students tools to grow into these shifting roles, I am confident they will rise to the task. “Using materials in the way they want to work” 72-73 PHILIPPE BLOCK CARTE BLANCHE