Peter’s Corner: at Marmomac, the newfound old solid (massive) construction was on display, namely with native stone as the load-bearing material

Peter Becker, editor-in-chief of Stone-Ideas.com.

Prototypes were presented within the framework of “Marmomac Meets Academies“

Scientists would speak of a paradigm shift, we simply say that a new era has begun in the stone sector: it is about the return of the old solid construction with stone, which was common for thousands of years. Now it is interesting again in the context of the carbon footprint of new buildings, and at Marmomac 2023 there were some references to this new movement.

To say it again: the talk is about the rediscovery of the way of using materials as it was common with the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, or Romans.

Today, two strengths of the material are used: on the one hand, its enormous compressive strength, and on the other hand, its low carbon footprint.

At Marmomac, in Hall 10, in the show “Marmomac Meets Academies,“ various projects were on display that experimentally put the idea of solid construction into practice. They were presented in short lectures in the afternoon of Day 1 of the fair.

Why we immediately deduce a quantum leap in the use of natural stone from this has to do with the people involved in these projects: in close cooperation, they are scientists from universities, architects from practice, and stone companies experienced in the construction business, not just a few hobbyists.

The central figure in “Marmomac Meets Academies” is Professor Giuseppe Fallacara of the Politecnico di Bari. In recent years, he has taken the ancient teachings of stereotomy with the possibilities of modern technology further in many projects. We have reported on this.

In France, there is a long tradition of solid construction with stone. Its special feature is that small blocks are prefabricated, which then just come together on the construction site, as in a modular system. A pioneer is the architect Gilles Perraudin. There are numerous examples ranging from luxury houses to social housing.

What makes French solid construction so interesting from a climate point of view is that the prefabricated blocks can be easily and quickly dismantled and, of course, reused, which opens up completely new perspectives for the circular economy on the construction site.

What’s more: the money spent on the material here can be returned to the builder – the solid house is a kind of savings bank.

But: what kind of stone would you use for solid construction? The ancient builders used the noblest stones because their temples were also supposed to radiate a special splendor and were intended for divine eternity.

From today’s point of view, the decisive criterion for selecting the type of stone is which material is locally available, says Hermann Graser, head of the Bamberger Natursteinwerk. He is president of the German Natural Stone Association (DNV) and had recently propagated the solid building with stone.

So, do we have to rethink the stone sector from this Marmomac on?

Nonsense, the traditional facade cladding with slabs or the wall decoration and flooring with tiles will continue to be used, just like the thin stone that makes the material transparent and super light.

But in addition to them, in the future, there will also be the solid building as a new branch.

What is really revolutionary is the fact that this innovation in the stone sector is not set in motion by a new technology, but by the fact that people want to build in a new way. The looming climate change is the cause.

This also shows that the talk of a new era is justified: in fact, the new building is embedded in a new phase of human history, where people’s view of the planet and its nature is no longer as it has been since industrialization.

At Stone+tec fair 2024 (June 19-22) in Nuremberg, Germany, will be held an architects’ congress in English on solid construction with stone.

(23.10.2023, USA: 10.23.2023)