Cultivated building materials: The fourth industrial revolution?

Changing paradigms: Materials for a world not yet built

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    Cultivated Building Materials: The Fourth Industrial Revolution?

    The MycoTree at the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism in 2017 was the first structural application of mycelium-bound building elements. Photo: Carlina Teteris.

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    Cultivated Building Materials: The Fourth Industrial Revolution?

    Mycelium hyphae form a dense matrix that can be activated as natural glue in biological composite materials and fulfils the criteria of the fourth industrial revolution. Photo: Felix Heisel.

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    Cultivated Building Materials: The Fourth Industrial Revolution?

    Newly developed structural building elements from mycelium-bound agrarian waste materials. Photo: Carlina Teteris.

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    Cultivated Building Materials: The Fourth Industrial Revolution?

    Through varying production parameters, mycelium-bound composite materials can also be grown as high density and performance boards for the construction industry. Photo: Carlina Teteris.

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    6th Holcim Forum for Sustainable Construction – Cairo, April 2019.

    Dirk Hebel, Professor of Sustainable Construction, Karlsruher Institut für Technologie, Germany and member of the Academic Committee, Holcim Foundation at the 6th Holcim Forum held at the American University in Cairo (AUC), Egypt.

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    6th LafargeHolcim Forum for Sustainable Construction – Cairo, April 2019.

    Felix Heisel was a Workshop Presenter on “Changing paradigms: Materials for a world not yet built” at the 6th International LafargeHolcim Forum for Sustainable Construction in Cairo, April 4-6, 2019.

The 21st century needs to face a radical paradigm shift in how we produce materials for the construction of our habitat. While the first industrial revolution resulted in a conversion from regenerative (agrarian) to non-regenerative material sources (mines), our era may experience the reverse – a shift toward cultivating, breeding, raising, farming, or growing future resources that goes hand-in-hand with a reorientation of biological production methods and goals.

Last updated: April 13, 2020 Karlsruhe, Germany

By Dirk Hebel & Felix Heisel 

A new understanding of a bio-mechanized or bio-industrial production is required. Biologists, bioengineers, ecologists, chemists, and material scientists need to collaborate with architects and civil engineers to foster a broader understanding of how to approach the complex task of cultivating our future building materials. Supplemented by economists, this multidisciplinary work has the potential to hone our conception of alternative urban models in which production constitutes an integral part of a future urban society, calling for new types of spaces and infrastructures.

MaterialsBook-149-Production.jpgFusing physical, digital and biological spheres

Addressing the industrialization of building materials, it is obvious that the term “industrialization” describes different periods in history. The first industrial revolution (18th and 19th centuries) was based on the invention of the steam engine to mechanize production. The second industrial revolution (late-19th and early-20th century) saw the use of electrical power engines to initiate mass production. The third industrial revolution (mid-20th century) used digital information technology to automate production.

A fourth industrial revolution could be just ahead of us, reintroducing biological aspects into an otherwise mechanized, industrialized world. In the words of Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, this would be “characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.” (The Fourth Industrial Revolution, Random House, 2017)

Re-materializing Construction

This text is extracted from the paper Cultivated Building Materials: The Fourth Industrial Revolution? presented by Dirk Hebel and Felix Heisel at the LafargeHolcim Forum for Sustainable Construction on “Re-materializing Construction” held at the American University in Cairo (AUC), Egypt. The full text is available as a flip-book via the link below:

Cultivated Building Materials: The Fourth Industrial Revolution?

Inspired by the discussions by 350 leading thinkers from architecture, engineering, planning, and the construction industry from 55 countries, Ruby Press Berlin has published The Materials Book that evaluates current architectural practices and models, and introduces materials and methods to maximize the environmental, social, and economic performance of the built environment in the context of “Re-materializing Construction”.

The Materials Book: Re-materializing Construction – Cairo (Ruby Press)