The Materials Book

142 Build More with Less: How to Create the Future without Destroying the World Werner Sobek Is the idea of building more with less a utopia? Maybe. But to me, it’s the key to our future and a challenge we must urgently address. We must all tackle the social, economic, and environmental problems created by population growth, migration, climate change, and dwindling supplies of resources. How do we do this? By building differently and by reforming a construction industry that is famously resistant to change while creating a built environment that requires significantly less material. To put this into a global perspective, note that in Germany the built environment accounts for an average of 490 tons of material per citizen, then note that the world population is growing by 2.6 people per second. Supplying every new person with Germany’s structural standard would require extracting, processing, and installing almost 1,300 tons of building materials per second. The carbon cost is huge: creating a built environment similar to Germany’s for all those newborns would result in a dramatic failure to meet the 2°C target agreed on in Paris—without taking into account CO ² emissions from other sectors such as transport and manufacturing. This means it’s time to act. Neither today nor in 2050 will every person on earth be able to enjoy Germany’s current structural standard. If, however, we allow today’s inequalities to continue or even worsen, we face the prospect of far-reaching social destabilization. It is obvious that only a drastic reduction in material consumption and greater recycling will lead to a new type of construction.