Holcim Foundation


Sustainable supply and use of materials

The Materials Book presents ideas on environmentally mindful and socially responsible use of construction materials and resources

With the population growing by 2.6 people per second, by 2050 the world will need twice as many homes, highways, streets, and schools – all kinds of built infrastructure. That will require vast quantities of construction materials and untold emissions of carbon dioxide, both for building new structures as well as heating, cooling, and maintaining them over their lifespan.

While the construction industry has a growing sense of this environmental toll, the shift toward more sustainable standards can seem slow. But the good news is the industry’s enormous scale means construction can be both a problem and a solution: even small changes multiplied across the volume of building units can deliver a significant contribution to reducing global carbon output.

Inspired by the LafargeHolcim Forum for Sustainable Construction on “Re-materializing Construction” held in Cairo, Egypt in 2019 – The Materials Book has been published by Ruby Press in Berlin, Germany. The 400-page book offers essays, case studies, and a catalog of building materials and resources that are environmentally mindful and socially responsible. The contributions by more than 60 architects, engineers, and scientists from around the world aim to accelerate the creation of a more sustainable built environment.

The approaches documented range from centuries-old traditions to newly developed biomaterials, from low-tech, artisanal methods to advanced digital technologies, from incremental shifts to massive, top-down changes. There’s no single solution, no silver bullet, but rather a palette of ideas that, taken together, can serve as a guidebook for those who want to build in a better way – not in some distant future, but right now.

The Materials Book was enabled by the LafargeHolcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction. Created in 2003, the Foundation raises awareness of the important role that architecture, engineering, urban planning and the building industry have in achieving a more sustainable future. It is an initiative of LafargeHolcim, and expresses its commitment to sustainable development.

Bibliographic details

The Materials Book
Ilka Ruby & Andreas Ruby (eds)
Berlin, Ruby Press, 2020.
Binding/Format: English, 400 pages, 170 x 230 mm, soft cover
ISBN: 978-3-944074-32-0

Ordering instructions

Order directly from the publisher, Ruby Press, for EUR 38 per copy (excl. handling charges): http://ruby-press.com/shop/


  • Introduction: The Matter of Construction: Systemic Overhaul or Tweaking the Status Quo?
    Marc Angélil & Cary Siress
  • 37 Propositions for Re-materializing Construction
    – Edited by Sarah Nichols

Talks on Materials

Changing Paradigms: Materials for a World Not Yet Built

  • Build More with Less: How to Create the Future without Destroying the World
    Werner Sobek
  • Cultivated Building Materials: The Fourth Industrial Revolution?
    Dirk Hebel & Felix Heisel
  • Mushroom Materials Named under the Sun
    Phil Ross
  • Reuse and Recycling: Materializing a Circular Construction
    Felix Heisel
  • Reuse Economy
    Maarten Gielen
  • Paradigm Shift: The City of 1,000 Tanks, Chennai
    Eva Pfannes

Shifting the Flows, Pulling the Strings: Stocks, Flows, and Their Dynamics

From Manual to Digital and Vice Versa: Digitization, Labor, and Construction

  • Imposing Challenges, Disruptive Changes: Rethinking the Floor Slab
    Philippe Block, Cristián Calvo Barentin, Francesco Ranaudo & Noelle Paulson
  • Pizza and Dirt in Uganda: A Student-Led Project Proves the Viability of Rammed-Earth Construction
    Achilles Ahimbisibwe
  • Building Climate: From Mechanical to Material
    Arno Schlueter
  • Designing for Natural Ventilation: Climate, Architecture, System
    Alpha Yacob Arsano
  • Rebuilding after Disaster: Children’s Recreational Center in Juchitán, Oaxaca
    Loreta Castro Reguera
  • KnitCrete: Building in Concrete with a Stay-in-Place Knitted Fabric Formwork
    Mariana Popescu, Matthias Rippmann, Tom Van Mele & Philippe Block

Catch-22: Material Needs versus Material Impact

  • MaGIC: Marginal Gains in Construction
    John Orr
  • From India: Three Lessons in Sustainable Construction
    Soumen Maity
  • Cement and Concrete Materials Science and Engineering Education in Africa: Opportunities for Development
    Yunus Ballim
  • Concrete as a Socio-technical Process
    Elise Berodier
  • Urbanism and the Technosphere
    Albert Pope
  • Building to Cool the Climate: The New Carbon Architecture
    Bruce King
  • Epilogue: Standing on a Thin Arch: Incremental versus Radical Change
    Simon Upton
  • A Collection of Building Components and Materials – Compiled by Something Fantastic
Last Updated: January 26, 2020
Article Details
Berlin, Germany
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