Vision on sustainability
Aronsohn’s vision on sustainability is more or less based on Braungart & McDonough’s book ‘Cradle to cradle’. It is obvious to us that it is a continuous development that we want to support with all our means.
‘Less bad is no good’
Measures that reduce the negative impact on the environment (eco-efficient) are not sufficient. Reduction of energy consumption is less bad, but energy neutrality is better. Ideally a building should have a positive contribution to the environment (eco-effective), for instance a surplus of energy production that can be used for other purposes. This goes even more for the recycling of building materials (technical nutrient). Most recycling is actually ‘downcycling’: the quality reduces over time. Building materials should be upcyclable! Praiseworthy statements, but how far can we get with this right now?
Supporting eco-efficiency and -effectiveness
Apart from the energy that is required for the production of building materials, products and buildings themselves, eco-effectiveness appears to be feasible. However, at this moment in time, the required investments are yet too high to fit in a normal project budget. However we think we have to pursue the course of efforts in that direction. All by ourselves we cannot achieve too much. But, as a member of a design team, we can contribute substantially. For instance we try to introduce structures in which installation components can be integrated. Or even we invent ourselves integrated solutions that contribute to the eco-effectiveness. Because we have an open mind for this, Aronsohn was one of the first to introduce prefabricated hollow core slabs with concrete core activation. In the past ten years we have introduced many other floor types like this. Of course we don’t develop these floors ourselves, but we create optimal conditions for application.
Reduction the use of building materials
Of course we look to the materials we use. First of all, we stimulate the use of materials with the lowest negative impact on the environment. Also we use as much as possible recycled materials, for instance broken-brick concrete. However the positive effect of this all is limited. We find it much more substantial to reduce the use of materials as much as possible, that is to say, to the limits of structural safety. As long as we have to use materials that stem from and are made by using non renewable resources, this has a true positive effect anyhow.
User-flexibility, market flexibility, a second life!
The most substantial contribution we can provide as structural consultant is to be found in the design of the structure itself. To start with, we want to implement user-flexibility. Within the intended span of life, more forms of usage have to be possible. It has to be easy to change architectural as well as installation packages, without substantial modification of the structural parts of the building. Even better it is to realise a building structure that can be used in a ‘second life’. In terms of Braungart & McDonough: upcyclable building structures as technical nutrient for new buildings. Aronsohn’s past is helping us: often we are adjusting building structures that we have designed ourselves in the past, for a new life function. We learn from the restraints and possibilities the old structural skeletons have. That we use in new projects. Cradle to cradle: actually we live by this for already many years!
Sustainability is a key element of our work as consulting engineers. Among Aronsohn employees are various BREEAM Experts, who monitor our clients’ sustainability ambitions and serve as interlocutors in design teams. See under ‘specialisms’.