Building Envelope blog posts

Together we can

We have had an interesting spring in Finland and also globally. On April parties were rallying for new cabinet members for Finnish parliament. Personally I have been interested in politics and also this year helped one friend in his campaign…and yes he got elected if this is relevant for bloq. Anyway many of the discussions which I went through with people in market squares were related to climate change and concerns about wellbeing of a future generation. I felt that people were frustrated and sceptic to find light at the end of the tunnel.

I have thought about these discussions and reflected those to my work developing solutions together with developers and designers for buildings to be erected or to be renovated. There is plenty to do for more sustainable buildings as well as to great opportunity to find new business models. Here below some facts how big “thing” our industry is:

- Migration from rural areas to cities raises globally,  by 2050 c. 75% world population will be urbanized*
- Construction industry consumes almost half(c. 40%) of the energy used in EU**
- 35% of the materials(by weight) used in the world are for construction industry**
- Over the next 10 years, demand for global construction industry is expected to increase by 70%*** 

These predictions call for action to find the win-win solution for our planet and for our industry.
One inspirational and a book that everyone should read is “Building a circular future”, written by Kasper Guldager Jensen from 3XN architects and John Sommer from MT Hojgaard. What makes this book worth of reading?  It gives practical view how the things can be done sustainable and still make profit out of it. Incentive for all parties involved is the key to success. Without business benefit it will turn to obligatory “punishment” and eventually fails. How the brighter future is gained, is practically divided in three parts in this book.  

1) Design for disassembly

This part of the book concerns of circularity that can be illustrate by a box of Legos. So when you buy Legos, there’s an instructions how to build and what to build.  In future you can erect e.g. new office building from building blocks used in buildings to be demolished. You will find some main points which need to think before taking this step.
a) Materials which can be reused?
b) When designing, one need to keep in mind the entire lifetime-circle of the building
c) Standardised, simple design that fits into a larger context e.g. modularised design
d) Connections joints need to be planned for dismantling and re-usage
e) Building need to be designed so that it also can be disassembled

2) Material passport

That document functions as a personal passport but it is made for construction materials. Passport consist a set of data describing characteristics of materials used in products, which give them value for recovery, recycling and re-use. This means that all materials of the building are having its own ID. This allows one to gather a “bank” of materials and set up “material google” for second hand markets. The idea is that developer would be enable to build e.g. Office building from building materials found from nearby buildings about to be demolished. Main principals here to be settled are:

a) Good documentation to ensure the quality and value of materials and resources 
b) Identification of the physical products need to be clear&simple&unified
c) Maintenance is crucial to keep value and quality of materials in shape, in high level
d) Provide clear safety procedures for construction, operating and especially for deconstruction phases
e) Need to consider carefully ownership, possible stocking and ownership of materials in interim stage  

3) Circular economy

Circular economy aims to minimize waste and making the most of resources used and re-used. To be successful in circular economy, the book is pinpointing the seventh dimension that is still quite unknown for many industry players because; “the most advanced parts of the building industry today operated in six dimensions. The three traditional dimensions are height, length, and depth as well as three additional dimensions such as time, economy and operation. If the industry is to meet the challenges related to sustainable growth, these dimensions need to be supplemented with seventh dimension. This dimension is the recycling and reuse of building material without degrading them and thus maintaining or improving the value of the material”.

Digitalization is one of the key tools for making this all possible BUT it is just a tool. The biggest challenge is to get all needed parties on board and change the way how industry operates together. For example “material google” is not working if you don’t have vast amount materials available there. This goes also to standardisation of building materials in governmental&global level etc. 

So what we as a company have done related to sustainability and circular economy? In Ruukki we have started material ID system, BIM modelling, modular systems etc. We are also participating to research projects focusing reusability of building components. In group level (SSAB) we are have already significantly invested towards CO2 free steel. Today global steel industry accounts for between 7-9% of total global CO2 emissions****. Our innovation is getting CO2 free steel making process by replacing coal&coke with hydrogen. Also electricity used for making hydrogen will be produced emission free hydro power. We are already building a pilot factory in Sweden and it should be up and running before 2020…so it’s more than just parade speech, it is concrete to be proud of. 

“Building a circular future means redesigning industry logic from building scale to business scale” –Kasper Guldager Jensen, Senior partner 3XN architects

*= World’s footprint 2015 
**= United Nations environment programme
***= PwC global construction 2025
****= World steel association, Sustainable steel - Indicators 2018 and industry initiatives, page 9