For detailed information please refer to http://www.hebel.arch.ethz.ch/
As urban populations grow so does the demand for materials and resources to support them. Where such resource demands were once satisfied by local and regional hinterlands, they are increasingly global in scale and reach. This phenomenon has generated materials flows that are trans-continental and planetary in scope, and has profound consequences for the sustainability, functioning, sense of ownership and identity of future cities. This phenomenon presents challenges for the local identity of places, as well as the appropriate allocation, efficient use, and ownership of material resources.
The Professorship of Architecture and Construction at FCL Singapore concentrates its research on alternative construction materials and their application in specific contextual settings, taking into account the availability of materials, human resource capacities, and skills. The ‘alternative’ aspect of this focus emerges from an exploration of innovative and entrepreneurial thinking. Seen from this perspective, the project for urban sustainability must be global in ambition, but cannot be a matter of applying a universal set of rules. Rather, sustainability requires a decentralised approach that both acknowledges the global dimension and is sensitive to the social, cultural, aesthetic, economic, and ecological capacities of particular places to thrive and endure.
Mayor research projects currently under investigation include:
Advanced Fiber Composite Materials
It is the declared aim of the research to establish fiber composite materials as a future and alternative building material in developing territories of our planet. The research under way investigates the mechanical properties of natural fibers and how to control them in order to achieve desired characteristics for the use as a construction material replacing steel and wood and also to use it as a reinforcement system in concrete applications. The team established the ‘Advanced Fiber Composite Laboratory’ in Singapore, where they are able to produce and test new fiber reinforcement materials at the same time.
“The future city makes no distinction between waste and supply”(J. Mitchell, 2014). Waste is a result of any human action and interaction, bringing raw natural materials – understood so far as our sole form of resources – from one stage of being into another, by applying various forms of skills and energy. In this sense, waste was seen for centuries as something specific which neither belonged to the family of natural resources nor to the one of finished products. But waste could also be understood as an integral part of what we define as a resource. This metabolic thinking understands our built environment as an interim stage of material storage. The research aims to develop ideas on how to activate waste as a building material. The abundance of refuse is the essential hypothesis of the research. In October 2014, a book by the Assistant Professorship was published with Birkhäuser publishers called “Building from Waste” which introduces around 100 examples and projects how to transform waste into a resource for the building industry.
Sand – Alternatives
Sand is the most used raw material for production of goods of our planet. It is found in concrete, glass, computers, detergents and even toothpaste. But sand is a finite resource: what took millions of years to become into being through erosion and sedimentation, man is mining at rivers and ocean coasts in a so-far unknown speed. In a matter of a few decades, sand will not be a resource anymore for our construction activities. The research tries to find ways how to activate alternatives to sand to act as a new resource for the building industry.
Contextualization of Vocational Training for the Building Sector in Ethiopia
The research aim is to introduce knowledge in the field of alternative materials and construction methods in rural areas of Ethiopia. It is the goal to build full-scale proto-typologies, teach students and laborers in alternative building techniques and anchor the knowledge in a sustainable, long-term matter in curricula of universities and vocational training centers as wide as possible. The project includes several building laboratories like the Sustainable Emerging City Unit SECU built out of straw materials, or the Sustainable Rural Dwelling Unit SRDU erected in earthen masonry.
The research platform aims to develop an incremental housing project for the island of Batam, Indonesia. Rubah (expandable house) is a housing and economic unit embedded within the Tropical Town package. In incorporates sustainable principles in the form of co-operatively owned and managed bamboo plantation strips, rainwater harvesting systems, passive cooling designs and a high dense urban plan.
The research platform Addis 2050 aims on a visionary statement for the city of Addis Ababa and Ethiopia at large on urbanism and architecture, focusing on aspects of mobility, energy, education, housing and information. It contains several case study projects and publications as well as the developement of new tools together with the FCL Simulation Platform.