The Materials Book

201 How Much Does Your Building (or Its Corresponding Infrastructure) Weigh? Stefanie Weidner What started as a provocative question, posed in the 1960s by R. Buckminster Fuller, probably became his most famous and most cited quote. In the years after World War II, building lightly was a necessity in order to master the challenges with which the building sector was confronted. However, it seems that since then architectural projects have rarely represented a responsible use of the earth’s finite resources. Apart from prestigious objects like Burj Khalifa—a prime example of the extensive use of Australian sand—even conventional housing projects represent a large consumption of resources and needs to be reevaluated. The building sector is responsible for 50 percent of global resource consumption, resulting in immense consequences for the natural environment. 1 With an average 2.2 metric tons of materials used per square meter for a standard single-family house in an industrialized country like Germany, providing housing annually for an additional 83 million people globally becomes an impossible endeavor. 2 If every person were granted an average of 40 m² living space, which is a typical size for industrial countries, 3 7.4 billion tons of construction material would need to be extracted, transported, and built every year. This does not include infrastructure or work and educational spaces, which account for an even larger portion. And who is to say that those who join the global community shall be denied the industrial standard? As gross domestic product (GDP) numbers continue to increase, standards of living space rise, and with them the consumption of natural resources.