back to nature

Sustainability means planning for the future and thinking in cycles.

It is not a question of “why” but “when” and “how much”: Sustainability has arrived on the political agenda and will change our society as much as digitalization has. But what’s really behind that popular term? What does it really mean, after all these years of greenwashing and the attempt to dismiss sustainability as an unaffordable utopian dream?

Sustainability rests on three pillars: green, socially responsible, economical

  • More than just thinking, it involves planning and building “green”
  • Balancing ecological, economic and social development
  • Involving people in progress and in thinking economically
  • Uniting nature, society and economy
  • Finding a new balance that also respects the interests of future generations

Sustainability means fairness to the coming generations

  • It requires a society that does not waste resources or release undue amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.
  • It strives to meet today’s needs without jeopardizing the possibilities of coming generations.
  • It protects the livelihoods of our children’s children and beyond.
  • Generational justice with the “right to future sustainability” promotes climate protection.
  • It achieves climate protection through CO2 reduction and careful use of limited resources.
  • Sustainability depends on immediate action.

There is no alternative to sustainable planning and construction
To paraphrase our former chancellor, Angela Merkel: There is no alternative to sustainable planning and construction, especially in a world whose resources are not limitless. Uwe Schneidewind , in his 2018 book, “The Great Transformation. An Introduction to the Art of Social Change,” argues in favor of a series of coordinated transformations – from energy and resource consumption to mobility and food supply, from urban life to industry. Not a single sector can continue unchecked: Everything must be put to the sustainability test for the sake of our shared future. And the construction industry is no exception.

Buildings will be considered holistically – from creation to demolition to recycling. It's all about thinking in cycles and letting go of linear growth models. This can lead to a new approach to building, tapping into regional traditions, materials and resources in new, compelling ways. They may be built to last, but at the same time they can be modified. Future uses, wishes and interests will stay on the table.

Sustainability is not decided with the result, but from the very beginning

There is no alternative to an ecological approach!

Green building means

  • planning holistically
  • balancing the interests of people and the environment
  • participating actively in transforming society in the direction of a sustainable lifestyle and CO2-neutral production
  • being aware that construction absorbs a significant portion of all the resources consumed by humans (materials such as energy)
  • planning in an energy-efficient and climate-neutral way
  • maintaining biodiversity, conserving resources and utilizing renewable raw materials
  • reducing land use
  • procuring sustainable products and services
  • seeing that human rights are adhered to in the supply chain
  • ensuring users’ health and comfort

This applies especially to architecture, which, viewed as a whole, is responsible for about 40 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions.

Planning holistically
But what does ecological planning really mean? What requirements must be met, and what criteria must be fulfilled? Such planning aims at a holistic approach, which covers everything from the choice of suitable building sites to appropriate materials to increased energy efficiency to inspected interiors. Planning holistically means considering the context. As a rule, the most sustainable free-standing house in a green field cannot compete with a simple conversion within an existing housing estate, because the house cannot be considered alone but always within a context.

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Architectural Circular Economy: Opportunities and Challenges

Waste-free production

Cradle to Cradle means

  • safe materials
  • recyclability
  • renewable energy
  • responsible water use
  • socially equitable planning and action
  • clean separability
  • accurate documentation
  • elimination or minimization of production waste
  • constant flow and change of material

The circular economy may well become the guiding principle for the decade ahead…

… thus infusing the concept of sustainability with new life. In the world of construction, C2C (Cradle to Cradle) has arrived. But what does Cradle to Cradle really mean? The notion first emerged in the 1990s, when chemist Michael Braungart and architect William McDonough developed the concept of a strict separation between technical and biological circulation: Instead of generating “waste,” resulting products would either biodegrade to the benefit of the environment, or be reusable ad infinitum in closed technological systems. Cradle to Cradle eliminates artificial toxins from the environment. You can safely compost a pair of C2C jeans made of organic cotton, since they are free of pesticides or bleach. In other words, Cradle to Cradle requires a different approach to production and a truly sustainable way of dealing with our environment and its finite resources.

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Reflections and advantages around timber construction

Advantages of timber construction at a glance


  • forms the ideal basis for diverse recycling concepts through urban mining and cradle-to-cradle processes and thus a sustainably designed circular economy
  • promotes the careful use of resources
  • offers outstanding building biology
  • strengthens regional value chains

Effort & cost

  • modular design allows time- and cost-efficient construction
  • compared with conventional buildings, wooden architecture is created in 50-70 percent of the time
  • the flow of construction on site is accelerated
  • comparatively low weight reduces transport costs and effort, also for timber hybrid structures


  • modular construction and a high degree of prefabrication result in buildings of the highest quality
  • projects can be planned in great detail in advance
  • offers a high level of stability
  • offers a high level of psychological warmth
  • many people place a high value on natural materials – and not just when it comes to interiors
  • offers outstanding building biology

The sustainable building material wood is reconquering the cities - and our thinking

Modular construction and industrial production ensure high quality
It might sound surprising, but actually it makes complete sense: We are going back to wood, that good old-fashioned material that allows for the highest degree of precision and prefabrication. The high level of industrialization offers decisive advantages in construction. Entire components are factory produced, protected from the weather and marked by consistently high quality. These days, entire rooms can be loaded onto a flat-bed truck and assembled at the construction site. Prefab construction is a boon to the regulated construction process. Wood architecture is characterized by speed and precision.

Wood architecture surpasses expectations
Wood, that traditional construction material, is now seen as a true super material that combines resilience, resource efficiency and sustainability. The worlds of construction and legislation are taking notice. Some restrictions were likely based more on psychological than practical concerns, such as protection from fire and from noise. The latter problem has been resolved through the use of additional mass in floor slabs. But protection from fire requires the expertise of experienced planners who not only keep an eye on the flammability class of construction materials, but also on the fire resistance of an entire structure. Today’s high-rise buildings made of wood have achieved the highest level of safety. Both Bad Aibling and Berlin now have wooden buildings of 25 meters in height; Dornbirn has a 27-meter building; at the Sara Kulturhus in Sweden, the bar is just under 80 meters; and Vienna tops them all with its 87-meter high HoHo Tower. London is currently considering a 300-meter hybrid wood skyscraper, with 1,000 apartments on 80 floors. In other words, traditional construction material can also be high-tech: breathable and dynamic, far from old-fashioned and rigid. It’s well worth considering the prospect of entire skylines constructed of wood.

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