Interview with Prof. Dr. Jan Akkermann

We asked about the topic of sustainability.

Sustainability has long been a theme in the construction industry. To what extent is it now part of the daily planning routine at KREBS+KIEFER?

Incorporating sustainability in our planning is now a matter of course. For example, it’s the main factor we have to consider for our thermal insulation and energy efficiency services. For construction, the choice and use of materials are very important. Our other activities also play an indirect part in ensuring sustainability. When we plan permanent transport structures for railways, cyclists, pedestrians and waterways, we’re helping the transition in mobility. In safety management, we ensure sustainable operations on the building site.

Is sustainable construction actually a question of cost? Does it make building more expensive?

It’s all about the building life cycle and taking an integrated approach. Resource-efficient construction might often be more expensive at present, but this is soon offset by the lifecycle costs and consequential costs. High-quality structures are more durable, so they need less maintenance and the cost of replacing them is delayed. At KREBS+KIEFER we include these aspects in the decision-making process during planning.

Sustainable construction must also always take sociocultural aspects into account. How will this change living and working, for example?

We’re on the verge of a transformation in energy and mobility that will change our habits. The commuter flows of the past decades will be replaced by urban coexistence, along with the creation of new public spaces. More work will be done at home.

Workplaces will become more pleasant places to be. This requires infrastructure that is closely connected to construction engineering: alternative, flexible concepts and forms of transport will ensure our mobility. Sustainable designs – which we at KREBS+KIEFER always aim for – enable resource-efficient and low-emission habitation, keep the traffic flowing and ensure the supply and disposal of energy, water and other utilities. Automated production enables a new quality of work.

Are there projects for which sustainability is of secondary importance? 

No. The finite nature of our planet, combined with the high population density and our demand for resources in industrialised nations, mean that sustainability has to be addressed every area of business and life. In the construction industry above all, with its huge consumption of resources but also its indispensable importance to civilised society, sustainability pretty much always plays a role.

We use the term “cradle to cradle” for the process of constructing buildings in such a way that recyclable building materials retain as much of their original value as possible. How far have we come with this process? How consistently do we use it in planning? 

While using a resource (material, energy, space, etc.) for as long as possible delays consumption but ultimately still leads to scarcity at some point, the “cradle to cradle” idea stands for – more or less – infinitely recurring use. We’ve already tried it out with finishing elements and façades, as well as with recycled building materials. Bur we’re still a long way from consistently using it. In the next few years, we’ll be focussing more of our research and development efforts on this area. KREBS+KIEFER will be involved in development to meet this important challenge as part of pilot projects.