Note: For detailed information please refer to the group’s homepage at 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. It demands, for example, a reconsideration of the category ‘waste’ and how it is handled in the making of buildings and cities. Rethinking waste, including the value-chains of construction products and materials, has a great potential for increasing ecological and economic efficiency, and with it minimizing the global flow of material resources. Waste products, as well as locally available materials, need to be recognized as basic elements of the construction process in urban contexts.
The Chair of Architecture and Construction at FCL 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.