The Economy of Sustainable Construction: Proceedings of the Holcim Forum for Sustainable Construction 2013

390 391 Our global economy drives increasing urbanization and ever more economic growth around the world, with serious environmental and social consequences. Can we secure a sustainable future without making radical changes to our economic system? Rolf Soiron, the Chairman of the Holcim Foundation, leads a roundtable discussion with architect Marc Angélil from Switzerland, architect and editor Nirmal Kishnani from Singapore, architect Ashok B. Lall from India, and architect and engineer Werner Sobek from Germany to discuss these matters. Rolf Soiron: In the centuries before our time, there were value systems that aimed at eternal life for serving the gods, whoever the gods were. Today, earthly life plays a much more important role—and particularly the economy. Economic values have not only grown like never before, they have changed the face of the earth. But though we are all part of the global economy, we do not understand it fully. What are the rules and mechanisms that shape the world and how do they affect “sustainable construction”? Marc Angélil: What’s exciting about the economy of sustainable construction is that it brings ecology and economy together—ecology being the science that addresses the relationship between humans, things, and the environment. This relationship is reflected in the origins of the word “economy,” which comes from the Greek oikonomos for “household management.” The economy of sustainable construction is therefore the management of the practices of architecture and engineering. Interestingly, the word “ecology” has the same root as “economy” and also refers to these disciplines; the Greek word for house, oikos , is fundamental to both. However, what we’re realizing is that this world is driven by money and that money might be the primary DNA of our contemporary culture. The two “ecos” of “economy” and “ecology” don’t match anymore. One has become brutal and is destroying the other. We have reached a point where our household management is rotten and the house is in danger of collapsing. The curve of GDP growth over the last 50 years is exponential. At the same time, our ecological footprint has increased drastically. We need to retune our economic system, capitalism, so that it doesn’t exhaust the earth that we inhabit. Werner Sobek: We also need to reconsider the way we approach sustainability. In central Europe, we have, over the last two decades, developed many technologies, thoughts, and principles to make our built environment more sustainable and to offset the impact of consumerism and economic growth. However, what I experienced in Mumbai is the sheer fact of population growth: there are 363 million people in India who are under fifteen, a little over 30 percent of the total population. 1 There are 1.8 billion children under fifteen in the world. 2 If we want to increase their living standards to those of Germany, for example, then we will have to reproduce the built environment as it was in 1930 three or four times over. This is impossible. Household Management: The Economy of Sustainable Construction Marc Angélil, Nirmal Kishnani, Ashok B. Lall, Werner Sobek, and Rolf Soiron