The Materials Book

274 Straw “Stramit” panels. inhibit and penalize those who seek better ways to build. But it won’t last much longer: the “heat, beat, and treat” approach to making and processing materials is killing us, as is the notion that we can throw away anything into landfills, water, soil, or the air. Introducing the New Carbon Architecture: Buildings Made of Sky The built environment can switch from being a problem to a solution. For the first time in history, we can build pretty much anything out of carbon coaxed from the air. The T3, a seven-story office building in Minneapolis, wouldn’t be out of place in any North American city, but it’s almost entirely wood, with just the ground floor and central core made from concrete. A Lithuanian company called Ecococon and an English company called Modcell offer prefabricated mass timber buildings with integrated straw insulation. A host of companies are creating insulation, wall coverings, and even concrete substitutes from mushrooms and bacteria. Several producers offer “Hempcrete,” a mix of hemp (a plant similar to marijuana) and minerals that acts as concrete and insulation. All of these emerging technologies, and more, have arrived in tandem with the understanding that, in the effort to halt and reverse climate change, the embodied carbon of building materials matters more than anyone had thought. We are in technological reach, within a generation, of creating buildings and cities that generate more energy than they use, reverse the emissions engine, cool the climate, and make nicer places to live and work. It’s time to bring the carbon home. This text is an excerpt from Bruce King, The New Carbon Architecture (Gabriola: New Society Publishers, 2007).