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A Construction Revolution - How to Build Sustainably

July 9, 2024

Building in harmony with nature, using renewable materials from the region. Sustainable building is still an adventure. But in future, it’s likely to be necessary.

A Construction Revolution - How to Build Sustainably
In a straw bale house, the straw bales are inserted into a wooden frame and plastered with clay.Image: BR

In late 2021, Carolin Volk and her husband Holger decided to leave Nuremberg, in Germany and move to Burgenland, in Austria. There, they decided to build their dream house - made entirely of straw, wood and clay, it would be totally ecological. All these materials are available locally.

A Construction Revolution - How to Build Sustainably
Image: BR

They are also biodegradable. What the couple didn't count on, however: not all the work can be done by amateurs and there’s a real shortage of professional craftsmen. As a result, construction of their home has already been delayed by more than a year and costs are still rising. 

A Construction Revolution - How to Build Sustainably
Andrej FideršekImage: BR

In Žalec, Slovenia, Andrej Fideršek chose a different approach. He wants to rebuild his old town house - avoiding any waste and using only second-hand materials, in the spirit of the circular economy. He won the European Bauhaus Prize for his design. But even he, a passionate idealist, has to make compromises when it comes to realizing his dream.

A Construction Revolution - How to Build Sustainably
Image: BR

The future lies in understanding a house as a place where material is stored, according to construction experts committed to sustainable construction. Building within existing buildings is their top priority. It saves the most CO2 and conserves the most resources - that approach is better than any new building, no matter how ecological. They’re calling for a change in regulations to bring standards for renovated houses in line with the realities. Because as long as it’s easier and cheaper to demolish and rebuild from scratch, only a few builders will be enthusiastic about conversion. 

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