Campus Germany

Circular building at a high level

National and international climate targets are also putting pressure on the construction industry: in addition to the reuse of building materials and the avoidance of waste, the focus is also on energy efficiency. A prime example of circular construction is the Campus Germany at Expo 2020 Dubai. We spoke to the architect of the sustainable building, Christian Tschersich, about closed material cycles in construction and his project, the German Pavilion.

Mar 30 2022

Mr Tschersich, Energy and material consumption in the construction industry is still enormous. How can material cycles be closed sustainably from the point of view of circular construction? 

Around 50 percent of the resources used in Germany go into construction. At the same time, many valuable resources are lost through the demolition of existing buildings. Circular construction consistently closes material cycles and reduces the burden on the environment.

Circular construction is an umbrella term that unites various approaches and principles that affect the entire process chain of construction: Design, construction planning, extraction of raw materials and production of building materials, construction process, operation, conversion, deconstruction and recycling or reuse. 

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And this is what Sebastian Rosito, Pavilion Director EXPO, has to say about how the architecture and sustainable concept of the pavilion was received by the visitors: 

 ©  Koelnmesse"The architecture of the pavilion goes hand in hand with the campus concept of our creative agency facts and fiction. The Campus was drawn vertically by LAVA. Of course, this was not immediately obvious to every visitor. But our hosts were happy to explain to visitors how the cubes and green spaces complement the concept. The ambition of the continued use of the pavilion was also very well received. Sustainability has to play a central role in any building nowadays, especially temporary buildings."

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How can resources for construction be used responsibly? 

It is necessary to consider material cycles holistically, to close them as far as possible and to achieve multiple use of buildings, building materials and components. In this way, emissions and waste are reduced to a minimum.   

This requires the use of resource-efficient products, the reuse of building components or their return to material cycles for the production of new materials. In addition, the use of renewable energies is an important factor. In particular, the approach of reusing building components in their existing form intervenes deeply in the design process: in this context, methodological approaches such as "design for disassembly", "modular construction" and "selective deconstruction" are of great importance. 

The idea of developing open-use floor plans is another important approach. Flexibly usable floor plans that can be easily adapted to changed requirements and repurposed are a good example of how sustainability should already be considered in the design. 

The Campus Germany at Expo 2020 Dubai is 95 percent recyclable: the building's base and roof best illustrate this concept. The roof, for example, consists of over 1,200 individual steel elements that can be reused in their current form after the pavilion has been dismantled. © German Pavilion Expo 2020 / Björn Lauen

A current example from your practical experience is the German Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. The Campus Germany is designed as a temporary building: After the world exhibition, it will be dismantled again. How will the building materials be recycled after the deconstruction? 

The theme of sustainability lies at the heart of the design. The German Pavilion is based on the principle of circular construction. The building is 95 percent recyclable: some components can be reused in their current form after the pavilion is dismantled.

Other components are returned to their respective raw material cycles and are then used to produce new building materials. The base and the roof of the building illustrate this concept best: the roof, for example, consists of over 1,200 individual steel elements that can be reused in their current form after the pavilion has been dismantled. The pavilion can thus be understood as a kind of snapshot in the life cycle of materials.  

Circular building is not a trend, but a necessity. The closed material cycle of Campus Germany at Expo 2020 Dubai is a prime example of this. © LAVA - Laboratory for Visionary Architecture

In your view, what strategies are indispensable for building in the future? 

The building industry plays a major role in the question of whether we can achieve our climate goals: around 50 percent of the resources used in Germany and a significant proportion of the energy are consumed in the building industry. A different approach to energy and material consumption is needed here. At the same time, this is a great opportunity to renew processes and ways of thinking, some of which are very traditional.

From design and methodological approaches to construction planning and its operational implementation as well as the interaction of specialist disciplines to the construction process including operation, conversion, deconstruction and reuse, the goal of more sustainable management will require new processes and thus, in a positive sense, become a driver of innovation and renewal. 

Christian Tschersich is an associate partner in the internationally active architecture firm LAVA – Laboratory for Visionary Architecture and holds parallel teaching positions at various universities. He combines practice and teaching with research and development and achieves exchange and synergy effects by networking the different areas of activity. His methodological approach aims to combine functional requirements and contextual concerns with innovative, formal and materially appropriate solutions.

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