Roland Bechmann
Managing Director & Partner
Werner Sobek Group, Munich

Urbanization, population growth and increasing wealth are leading to a constantly growing demand for more buildings and infrastructure, especially in urban areas. As a result, in the upcoming 50 years a shortage of resources will be the key challenge for the construction industry. Architects and engineers urgently have to develop tools and methods to alleviate the pressure on our natural resources while at the same time generating high-quality habitats.

Case studies are used to disclose strategies for drastically cutting back on the amount of new construction material used per square meter, focusing on inner city urban developments realized in central Europe, including high-rise construction. Design concepts, such as flexible usage, urban refurbishment and adaptability are explored in the context of their applicability towards reducing material usage by highlighting the use of innovative products such as recycled concrete and graded building materials within projects.

One case study of a refurbishment project in Frankfurt, Germany demonstrates how instead of being demolished, an office tower built in the 1970s can be transformed into a modern residential building, thereby saving a significant amount of the original structure. The experimental unit UMAR in Switzerland is an example of how cities can be transformed into urban mines, transforming putative demolition waste into precious raw materials for new products. These urban mines can not only deliver new building materials—they also provide other precious resources: space and quality of life. Retrieving this hidden treasure is the task of urban refurbishment.