At the Holcim Forum for Sustainable Construction 120 experts from around the world met in Switzerland. They brought to the discussions and workshops an enormous variety of experience with every facet of sustainable construction. The recently published book First Forum captures the spirit of the Forum and provides a valuable reference for the discussion of critical questions about the future.

Last updated: July 01, 2005 Zurich, Switzerland

Everything that is built today consumes finite resources such as energy and land. The built environment influences how people live, move about, work, and interact with each other. Planners, engineers, and architects thus face the question of how to build in such a way to consume the least possible resources while improving the quality of life of people today and tomorrow. Or to put it differently – How can we design and build projects that best support sustainability?

Accelerating progress toward sustainable construction

As a leading global supplier of building materials, the Swiss-based Holcim Group deals with such issues every day. To participate in the discussion even more actively and to tangibly support sustainable building, Holcim Ltd established the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction in December 2003. Last September at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich), the Foundation held its first large event: the Holcim Forum for Sustainable Construction. Over 120 experts from around the world met to exchange information and experience relating to sustainable construction and thus contribute to sustainable development. The numerous contributions, discussions, lectures, and findings have now been documented in a book published in English: First Forum. 

Interviews, reports, statements, photos

The publication records the content of the Forum, supplementing it in places. Although it is large – over 220 pages – it is not a book in the classic sense, but rather a richly illustrated and attractively organized compendium incorporating all journalistic forms. Thus it is ideal for browsing or for approaching the subject from many angles. In a lengthy interview the Portuguese star architect Eduardo Souto de Moura explains how sustainability played into the design of his spectacular sports stadium at Braga. A report tells how Muhammad Yunus, inventor of microcredit, sustainably changed the life prospects of many individuals – both within his homeland and beyond the borders of Bangladesh. The internationally active politician Simon Upton provides facts and figures that force us to revisit our viewpoints and values. Students of architecture and engineering from every region of the world present their innovative projects. The Dutch architect Winy Maas shares some astounding urban planning visions. Statements by over 100 prominent engineers, business leaders, and architects who attended the first Holcim Forum show that today the concept of the sustainable construction must be interpreted broadly.

Building is also a sociopolitical issue

The diversity of contributions highlights one thing above all: sustainable construction is not just a technical issue, but also a sociopolitical and philosophical one. Consequently, First Forum is stimulating for people directly involved with building – and also for anyone who wants to know the current status of the discussion of basic future issues. The publication in enriched by the fact that the Holcim Foundation is not just internationally active, but globally aligned in the strict sense of the word: the Foundation cooperates closely with universities in Brazil, China, South Africa, Switzerland and the USA.

Collaboration with these leading technical universities made it possible for the Holcim Forum to convene a world-class group in sustainable construction – which has now been ‘reunited’ in First Forum. It is clear that sustainability means something different in every region of the world – and much work remains to be done to reach an accord. This publication makes a significant contribution to that communication process, although the name First Forum says that this in only the first step toward sustainability – and many more must follow.

First Forum is published by the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction, Hagenholzstrasse 85, 8050 Zurich, Switzerland. Copies may be downloaded as PDF from or ordered through your regular bookstore under ISBN 3 7266 0069 8.

The Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction promotes innovative approaches to sustainable construction mainly through international Awards competitions. Architectural excellence and enhanced quality of life are integral parts of the Holcim Foundation’s vision of sustainable construction.