Responsibly Sourced Materials

Local sourcing of materials is a powerful strategy to enable carbon and energy reduction, circularity, and regeneration – and also better integrate architecture with its context.

Go local for efficiency and impact

The building materials market has a massive global impact, with a majority of emissions being generated by supply chain processes, or transportation and logistics of materials being moved from one corner to the other of the globe. Whereas conventional practices are considered more viable, developing countries rarely have the resources to conform to developed countries’ green building standards and mainstream design practices. All this while sustainable local resources and craftmanship remain overlooked.

Cultural Interlude in Morocco

Vernacular and regional architectures across the world deploy design practices and construction techniques that are deeply rooted with local conditions, be it climatic or cultural.

Responsible sourcing is a practice that seeks to positively impact the livelihood and environment of the local population. It promotes methods that enable responsible and equitable management and extraction of local resources, allowing local material producers and farmers to thrive, and stewardship practices that support local ecosystems regeneration and resilience. Ethical sourcing however starts with design, and architects can take the driving seat in ensuring the materials they work with are conscientiously and responsibly produced, while not only minimizing impact on environments and societies, but promoting value and regeneration.

Building on the strength of clay

The Gando Secondary School with passive ventilation system in Burkina Faso, has won multiple accolades from the Holcim Foundation and many more from organizations worldwide. The project has been recognized as iconic within the body of work of Diébédo Francis Kéré, who is the Pritzker Architecture Prize laureate of 2022. Local clay is mixed with aggregates and cement to cast walls on-site based on a two-piece formwork. The project provides more than just a testament to the potential of locally sourced materials.

Project update March 2014 – Secondary school with passive ventilation system, Gando, Burkina Faso

Built by the community, the construction process is an important part of transferring knowledge, whereby locals acquire new building skills that can be reused and taught.

People are sources of creative energy

Referencing her renowned design for the METI School 2007 constructed with earth and bamboo as its principal materials, Anna Heringer explains that, for her, it is essential to involve the local community as sources of creative energy in the construction process, thus stimulating local economies in doing so. In the case of the METI School, designed to create a comfortable and inviting space for students to learn, young children were included in the building process and workers could invest their earnings in other areas of the community.

Norman Foster Foundation - Re-materializing Housing Workshop

Anna Heringer, designer of the METI School also emphasized the importance of empowering women through the creation of opportunities for craftsmanship, such as textile production.

Further reading on responsibly sourced materials