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The stuff that the future is made of: sustainability.

22.12.2016 | News
If you Google the word "sustainability", you get about 134 million hits and while it is now synonymous as a buzzword for corporate social responsibility, its true meaning is something we need to be reminded of. It refers to everything we do and think about in terms of being environmentally friendly and conserving our diminishing supply of natural resources, something the construction industry should be reminded of more than others.

Impressions

  • Jens Günther, designated Chairman of the Executive Board of the Doka Group
Construction activity has seen tremendous growth over the past decade and is set to increase considerably in the coming years, a trend that should prompt us as stakeholders to think carefully about the construction methods of the future and the materials that will be used.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals have put the sustainable construction of cities and communities, and the establishment of quality infrastructure on the agenda, as well as the development of sustainable industry and innovation. Not without good reason: the process of urbanisation is advancing rapidly. In the next three decades we will need accommodation for billions of people flocking to the cities to escape social unrest, war and poverty. In meeting these requirements, two parameters will be crucial for its success: economic efficiency and sustainability.

Last week we heard that Siemens and Stratasys, a market leader in the production of 3D printers will become partners in the future, a clear indicator that this method will become all the more widespread throughout the industry. According to industry experts, it will not be long before many cities of the future are being built by this method. Concrete is currently the principal material, but plastics and microfibres are being used as well. The use of recycled building materials is also being tested, something that will make the developments particularly exciting for the construction industry. In the past, a construction project was over when the client accepted the finished building. Now we are starting to think more in terms of processes from planning to bidding and erection, through operations, maintenance and rehabbing, and ultimately to demolition and reuse of the original materials. The general trend suggests we are progressing from project business to process business, shaped and supported by innovations such as Building Information Modelling, with the benefits being focused on the careful management of all resources – human, environmental and societal.

At this point I would like to mention a second aspect that is crucial in this context: the use of traditional, regional materials, often tried and tested over centuries and available locally in abundance. They are optimised within their respective parameters, improved in their capabilities, and combined and processed in accordance with modern-day findings. Here, it is crucial we apply an innovative spirit. A real-life example aptly shows how well this can work, when education and research institutes and companies cooperate, for example BASEhabitat.

This is a work studio founded by the University of Art and Design Linz (Austria) and the Department of Architecture. The work studio concerns itself with the use of sustainable materials, in particular raw materials that are renewable and readily sourced locally, as an example in Austria, clay. It has excellent insulating, climatic and acoustic properties and applied regionally, has an outstanding eco-balance. The BASEhabitat project organises international workshops to further develop the traditional techniques of building with clay and offers universities and companies the opportunity to learn and experience how to work with this medium. I’m pleased to say that team members from Doka are attending these workshops, something that is highly relevant to our business as formwork is used to mould the clay into shape, making our versatile systems extremely useful and relevant.

In concrete engineering too, there is still a great deal of potential with regards to economic efficiency and sustainability. All over the world, research institutes are working on more and more high-performing concrete. B|A|S in Holland, a company that has been part of the Doka Group since the middle of 2016, has its own concrete laboratory facilities for continuous optimisation of this construction material. The developments are fascinating and many of the concepts have already progressed to market maturity. For example the addition of various aggregates, such as certain agro-industrial by-products can reduce the proportion of cement needed for the concrete. Another example is carbon concrete: aesthetic, filigree and lightweight. The combination of concrete with carbon fibre is already regarded as the material that could replace steel-reinforced concrete.

Developments like these are exemplary and show how important it is to strengthen worldwide networks in the field of innovative and sustainable construction materials and methods, and to encourage the exchange of know-how and experience. Only then can we shape the future sustainably and globally.


About Jens Günther:

The start of next year will see the 46-year-old taking over as Chairman of the Executive Board. He is from Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, and along with the remits of Sales, Marketing and HR, Jens Günther will be pushing major initiatives shaping the future – digitisation first and foremost – designed to keep the formwork specialists from Amstetten in Lower Austria among the industry's world elite. Before his move to Doka, graduate construction engineer and industry insider Jens Günther had worked for companies including Hochtief and ThyssenKrupp, where his last position was CEO, ThyssenKrupp Infrastructure.

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