Building against climate change: “Renaissance of the almost forgotten natural stone“

Archiplein and Perraudin Architectes built a major project in solid stone in a Geneva suburb (<a href=""target="_blank">Report</a>).Officials and speakers at the parliamentary evening: (f.l.t.r.) Nina Graser (DNV); Pierre Bidaud (Creative Director, Stonemasonry Company, UK); Anne Hangebruch (Junior Professor, Dortmund University of Technology); Hermann Graser (President DNV), Elisabeth Kaiser (State Secretary, Federal Building Ministry);  Andreas Schwarz (Member of the Parliament Deutscher Bundestag), Dr. Markus Hennecke (ZM-I Group, Munich). Photo: DNV

At a parliamentary evening in Berlin, representatives from the German construction industry and politics learned about the possibilities of the material

The term is ambitious but covers the topic in its entirety: there was talk of a “renaissance of natural stone“ as a building material at a parliamentary evening in Berlin at the beginning of April 2024, where representatives from politics and the construction industry met to discuss a climate-friendly reorientation of construction. This is because the Renaissance in the 16th century brought about a completely new way of thinking – what is new in construction now is that climate protection concerns are taken into account.

This can be achieved if natural stone is rediscovered as a constructive – not just a decorative – material.

The initiative for the meeting came from the German Ornamental Stone Association DNV.

The first aspect of the renaissance is that natural stone offers the possibility of planning buildings with a longer lifespan than is currently the case. This conserves resources and is a key objective of building in times of climate change.

The DNV’s objective is to build housing and social housing, especially in view of the current shortage in Germany.

At the start of the event, the State Secretary from the Federal Building Ministry expressed her department’s interest in the renaissance of the material. She pointed out that serial and modular construction is also possible with stone, as her ministry has so far mainly propagated with wood.

CO2-Emissionen: Table by the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

In essence, the renaissance of natural stone means that it is once again being used constructively (with a load-bearing function) in accordance with its properties. This can be extended to include the possibilities offered by modern technology.

There are three main schools of thought, and the speakers at the Parliamentary Evening presented their own and other projects:

* you place small blocks on top of each other (also: without mortar):

Proponent after WW2 was the French architect Fernand Pouillon. Solid stone building in Algiers (<a href=""target="_blank">Report</a>). Photo taken in 2010 by Pouodou99 / Wikimedia Commons
Proponent after WW2 was the French architect Fernand Pouillon. Solid stone building in Algiers (Report). Photo taken in 2010 by Pouodou99 / Wikimedia Commons.

Groupwork + Amin Taha: 15 Clerkenwell Close, London (<a href=""target="_blank">Report</a>).
Groupwork + Amin Taha: 15 Clerkenwell Close, London (Bericht).

* for vaults, self-supporting constructions (stereotomy) made of precisely cut bricks are used:

AAU Anastas: „Stonematters“ in Jericho (<a href=""target="_blank">Report</a>).
Stonematters“ by AAU Anastas is a self-supporting limestone vault (Report).

* steel cables are pulled through the stones and tensioned:

Professor Giuseppe Fallacara, Politecnico di Bari: „Hypargate Vela“ (<a href=""target="_blank">Report</a>).
Bari Politecnico’s Professor Giuseppe Fallacara: an elegant saddle-shaped roofed entrance (Report).

The Stonemasonry Company, Webb Yates Engineers: Stairwell in natural stone with a 320° twist (<a href=""target="_blank">Report</a>).
The Stonemasonry Company, Webb Yates Engineers: Stairwell in natural stone with a 320° twist (Report).

The speakers were:
* Junior Professor Anne Hangebruch, Dortmund University of Technology;
* Pierre Bidaud, Creative Director at the Stonemasonry Company, UK;
* Dr. Markus Hennecke, ZM-I Group, Munich.
They showed current examples from many countries.

Pierre Bidaud pointed out another aspect that is rarely considered in construction: the water consumption associated with the extraction and processing of materials is also marginal for natural stone compared to other building materials.

If natural stone is already experiencing a renaissance in the world, at least to some extent, what is the state of affairs in Germany?

The answer is simple: Germany is a country of regulations and standards, and these do not yet exist for these cases. So, initiatives such as the Parliamentary Evening are needed to kick-start the new way of building.

One thing is certain: Stone suitable for building is available everywhere.

And, last but not least: the diverse possibilities of new construction are only gradually opening up.

For example, one speech referred to building floor ceilings with prestressed stones. This type of construction is much faster than usual, allows for thinner ceilings and, last but not least, the stones can be polished in the factory so that the floor is ready for use immediately after installation.

Deutscher Naturwerkstein-Verband DNV (German)

Solid construction with stone will be a main topic at the Stone-tec Congress in June 2024 held in English (program).

Renzo Piano: Chiesa di Padre Pio (1994-2004):

See also:

(29.04.2024, USA: 04.29.2024)