A plea for new construction in the future: Get off the wrong path – Wikipedia

As an engineer, he built the Sony Center in Berlin, the Thyssenkrupp Elevator Test Tower in Rottweil, the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, the World Cup Stadium in São Paulo, the National Museum of Qatar and tall buildings around the world. Werner Sobek has always worked with the most famous architects and received awards and honorary doctorates.

What moves one of the most successful structural engineers, with a large office in Stuttgart and twelve locations from New York to Dubai, to leave work on innovative structures and research new building materials and clever building methods to his successors on the chair and in the office and turn to research?

Sobek found there were more important things to do. When developing energy-efficient building methods and zero-energy homes, he has always looked at the big picture and realized that environmental data and facts, which are used and debated in general, are often wrong.

There are no links, no ratings, and no consistent interpretation of the available data. It has been found that alarming scientific findings are communicated to the political public very insufficiently.

Sobek now presents his theses in a book

In the final first volume of his planned trilogy – “non nobis – about building in the future” (avedition, 292 pages, €49) – Sobek now presents the results of his research in an easily readable format and with a stunning contemporary layout. Werner Sobek would not be a solution-oriented engineer if he did not provide pragmatic results, instructions and recipes, at least for the construction sector, which will then follow in two more volumes.

The tallest wooden building in Austria was recently built in “Seestadt Aspern” in Vienna.Photo: Imago Images / Wolfgang Semmlinger

When other suitable characters are chosen, and thus discussed in a messianic, political, or populist way, Sobek maintains the academic’s calm outlook. For example, anyone who declares that wood construction can greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the construction industry is making the mistake of thinking, because wood cannot be used to build foundations of any kind, bridge headers, or highway bridges, Or locks, or ice tunnels or the subway.

Also, Sobek reckons, growing wood is by no means the unproblematic silver lining, and its impact on CO2 savings is much less than what environmental politicians are talking about.

Sobek focuses on climate and greenhouse gas emissions and relates all environmental factors to this aspect. For two years he has compiled data and facts about world population and global warming, global material availability, resource consumption, and energy consumption both regionally and globally.

In addition, there were energy balances for individual building materials from concrete to bamboo, and emissions during construction from production to disposal and transportation. Sobek meticulously tried to verify, link, evaluate and interpret them. His conclusion: Statistics are often incomplete, incorrect or biased and misinterpreted by politics and business.

Construction contributes not 40% but 55% to CO2 emissions

Example: The two-decade certainty that the operation of existing buildings is responsible for 40 percent of primary energy consumption. Although it is only 38 percent, the construction industry is responsible for carbon dioxide emissions to a much higher degree. If you include the production of building materials, transportation, construction, demolition and recycling, including civil engineering and transportation construction, you are 55 percent.

Bus, shared taxi or your own car? No one can prevent people in emerging countries from participating in progress and quality of life…Photo: Reuters

Through descriptive studies, but also through data mining and private assessments, Sobek pursues the goal of providing business and policy decision makers with solid data that makes consistent action inevitable. Sobek’s Doctrine: The human race doesn’t have an energy problem, it just has a problem with climate-damaging emissions.

However, a lot of data indicate that global warming can no longer be prevented. Even if the world’s population stagnates and improvements in living standards are hit, the increase in emissions cannot be stopped. Seven years as before, then it’s over, so the temperature rise is irreversible. There is no political way out, because no one can prevent people in emerging countries from participating in progress and quality of life. This means that emissions will continue to rise unabated.

Preserving livelihood as a goal, not more prosperity

Sobek’s statements are not trustworthy. The picture of our world in the near future is very bleak and inescapable. The first volume of the trilogy and his lectures on this topic do not leave the audience in a festive mood. Sobek concludes that the necessary paradigm shift amounts to political and social overthrow.

This is not possible in the capitalist system. The goal should not be to achieve maximum prosperity for the individual, but to preserve all the essentials of life, the biosphere and nature.

After Sobek, we may know what to do. Industrialized countries must fundamentally change the system in the way we build and how built infrastructure is used. The entire catalog of energy-saving measures can be replaced with one sentence: The emission of greenhouse gases in the manufacture, operation and demolition of the built environment is prohibited. Emissions associated with the process that cannot be avoided must be offset by compensation measures. There is nothing to add. We “just” have to agree on the time.

Leave a Comment