Swissbau Focus: Circular Economy Concrete

Prof. Dr. Ena-Lloret Fritschi and Prof. Dr. Philippe Block discussed the circular economy of concrete together with Clemens Wögerbauer from Holcim at the Swissbau 2024. Patrick Suppiger, Managing Director of BETONSUISSE, moderated the discussion and came to a clear conclusion: sustainable construction with concrete is not only feasible, but necessary. A short panel summary.

In response to the critical question of what happens at the end of a building's life cycle, Holcim championed the concept of upcycling over downcycling. Strategies outlined by Holcim included the redesign of structures at the end of their life, the reuse of building elements and the introduction of a 'design for disassembly' mentality. A recurring theme at this years Baumesse was the potential for a significant reduction in environmental impact through circular concrete practices.

Reducing Environmental Impact through Concrete Innovation

In response, Holcim introduced several programmes to reshape the fate of buildings at the end of their life cycle. For example, Holcim founded the circular technology platform ECOCycle and came up with Susteno, a recycled cement based on demolition material. Prof. Dr. Ena-Lloret Fritschi presented the Foldcast project, which offers a solution for drastically reducing concrete consumption by using paper as a casting material for concrete. Prof. Dr. Philippe Block (BRG) emphasized the need for precision in concrete construction, asserting that well-executed concrete surpasses other building systems. BRG's approach focused on understanding historical structures, optimising geometry to reduce material mass and using sustainable materials. Under the motto "Strength through geometry", he presented the innovation Rippmann Floor System, which was recently spun off into the company Vaulted as an official ETH spin-off.

Concrete's Planetary Impact

Prof. Dr. Ena Lloret-Fritschi painted a vivid picture, asserting that "If concrete were a country, it would be the third largest after China." Her call to action resonated with the audience, urging the integration of the younger generation into the discourse. Young minds, she emphasized, seek to understand how they can contribute to a more sustainable future. In conclusion, the panel conveyed a unified message: sustainable building with concrete is not just a possibility but a pivotal step towards a circular, environmentally responsible future.