German civil engineer.
|Born in||1973 in Berlin, Germany, Europe|
|Place(s) of activity:|
Roland Bechmann is a board member and partner of the engineering office Werner Sobek in Stuttgart. He studied civil engineering at the University of Hanover and has been with Werner Sobek since 2000. Roland Bechmann heads the department for acquisitions and competitions. He has extensive experience in the field of project work, especially in the area of complex large-scale projects such as the ADAC headquarters in Munich or the new underground station in Stuttgart. Since 2013 Mr. Bechmann has been the German representative of the CTUBH (Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat). Since 2017 he has also been a member of the Committee for Competitions and Awarding of the Baden-Württemberg Chamber of Engineers.
7 questions about “Sustainability in Construction” to Roland Bechmann, CEO of Werner Sobek AG
1. What prompted you to orient yourself sustainably both privately and professionally? What is your personal motivation?
A simple look at the facts, such as global warming, environmental damage, or scarcity of resources, quickly shows that progressive industrialization without sustainable transformation is destroying most people's livelihood. Also due to my family background, I was always aware of these relationships, so that I had made sustainable building one of my focal points during my studies. Then there was a lecture by Werner Sobek, which I heard in Hanover at the end of the 1990s. At that time, he very precisely addressed the responsibility of the engineer for material-optimized structures and recycling-friendly construction. Unlike many others at the time, however, he showed solutions that were not only sustainable, but also met the highest aesthetic standards. I found that fascinating and it ultimately led me to Stuttgart.
2. What is the importance of sustainable building for your company?
Sustainability is our driving force. Company founder Werner Sobek anchored this very early on in the Triple Zero strategy: Zero Energy, Zero Emissions, Zero Waste. Our goal is a built environment that is breathtakingly beautiful and that also serves the interests of future generations. We want to build emission-free and using less material for more people. Werner Sobek's work is characterized by high-class design, innovative constructive solutions and integral concepts to minimize energy and material consumption.
3. By 2030, the construction sector is supposed to reduce emissions by 66-67% as compared to 1990. Can we do this with the current efforts and incentives of the German federal government?
No – at least not if the incentives and guidelines of the federal government continue to focus so strongly on operating energy alone. Instead of the just the service life, we have to look much more closely at the entire life cycle.
And we should aim not so much at the energy consumption as such, but at the associated emissions, because these are the real problem!
4. Why is the so-called Gray Energy so important?
A small clarification to begin with: We usually don't speak of "gray energy" but of "gray emissions". In our eyes, the amount of emissions generated is more important than the amount of energy consumed. In an office building constructed today with a high energy standard, approx. 50% of the total emissions are attributable to the manufacturing phase, i.e. the extraction and manufacture of the building materials and components as well as the construction process itself.
This share, together with the emissions from the maintenance and dismantling of the building, is also referred to as "gray emissions". In contrast to emissions during the operating phase, the gray emissions do not arise over a longer period of time, but instead over a very short one – and then have their full effect over a long period of time. With regard to the damage potential for our climate, the construction phase of a building is therefore much more important than its operation.
5. How can we achieve this? What options (building materials, construction methods) are there?
The amount of gray emissions is closely related to the design of the structure, as this has the greatest influence on the material consumption and thus also on the ecological balance of a building. Werner Sobek's goal is therefore to minimize the building materials used as much as possible and to use materials that are as climate-friendly as possible. Wherever possible, existing buildings should be preserved. Ideally, new building fabric should be obtained from renewable raw materials or from recycling processes – in any case, the new building fabric must be 100 percent recyclable in technical or biological cycles. Other measures include the mass optimization of all components (e.g. through the use of hollow members), the use of CO2-reduced cement, and the reduction of emissions in the manufacturing and delivery process of many other components.
6. Sustainable building is almost always considered in the context of buildings. What about the construction of bridges, tunnels, and other engineering structures? How can you build them more sustainably?
Since engineering structures often only require a low level of energy to operate, they have so far not been the focus when talking about sustainable construction. However, as there is often a particularly large amount of gray emissions in engineering structures, we must, of course, take these into account. We have to carefully examine every measure: is it really necessary – and sustainable in the long term? Are there alternatives such as upgrading an existing structure instead of replacing it? If a new structure is necessary, the following applies: We have to ensure that the new building is realized with as little material and as little interference with the natural environment as possible. The new structure must be designed in such a way that maintenance, refurbishment, and conversion can be carried out as easily as possible – and that later dismantling and recycling of all used construction materials in natural or technical cycles is possible without any problems.
7. Why is it so difficult for us to build or act sustainably?
The level of suffering is obviously not great enough. In the past few weeks, we have seen how quickly and comprehensively governments and societies around the world can react if the threat only seems serious enough. For many, climate change and the lack of resources are apparently still not important (or threatening) enough because the dramatic effects of our actions have a considerable time lag. In the coming months and years, we will, therefore, have to work much harder than before to actually implement the change of course that was actually agreed upon in the Paris climate agreement. We need a broad-based discussion and decision-making in order to achieve the urgently needed change in our overall societal objectives. And surely we also need regulatory interventions with regard to gray emissions, as has been the case for operational energy in the form of the EnEv (German Energy Directive) for years.
Interview published on 6 May 2020.
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