In a world where climate change is no spectre but a daily experienced reality, architects and civil engineers have to deal with the issue of the future sustainability of their work. In the resource-efficient wall systems- project, WISBA students set out to search for the most resource-saving wall systems. The framework for the analysis was provided by student bungalows on the campus of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, for which a subsequent utilization concepts currently needs to be developed. The four most resource-efficient wall systems were identified from 29 wall variants with different structures and exterior claddings. As a basis for evaluation, the students analysed the lifecycle of the used materials and calculated technical and economic parameters. Additionally, the students considered to what extent the wall can be adapted to subsequent, changing usage requirements.

Executive Summary_Resource Efficient Wall Systems

Construction and utilisation of buildings are responsible for about half of the total resource and energy consumption and cause about one third of waste accrued in the European Union. On the way to resource- and environment-sparing buildings it is therefore important to reliably determine the actual environmental impacts of buildings. This is done via environmental indicators. They gather the different facets of environmental impacts, which are used to carry out evaluations. The central standard for this is EN15804. The students aimed at examining to what extent the EN15804 standard comprises all actually relevant aspects for the determination of environmental impacts of buildings. Otherwise, the analysis on the basis of this standard would systematically lead to dangerous incorrect appraisals. An old people’s home served the students as case example, which they analysed for significant environmental impacts by means of five different analysis methods. Additionally, the students did a literature research on previous studies in this field.

Executive Summary_Environmental Indicators

Central Europe is confronted with an accumulation of extreme spells of very hot weather. This presents a new challenge for architects and civil engineers. Air-conditioning units provide quick relief, but are no truly satisfactory and long-term solution, neither in terms of operating costs nor regarding their energy efficiency. With regards to the project brick design to prevent summer overheating, it was the aim of the students to find out what building components have a particularly strong impact on the behaviour of a building in summer heat and how it can be improved. The Wienerberger e4 brick house in Budapest served as a case example. In this analysis, the student differentiated between exterior walls, floors, roof, and windows as well as the doors.

Executive Summary_Brick Design

Buildings have to meet high demands on load-bearing capacity, sound protection and energy efficiency. In July 2014, the Construction Products’ Regulations came into effect and with it the new “Basic requirements for construction works No. 7: sustainable use of natural resources”. These basic requirements demand that buildings, building materials and components can be re-used or recycled after demolition. Simultaneously, buildings have to be long-lasting and the used resources must be environmentally compatible. What does this legal regulation mean for buildings? To find out the students compared the environmental qualities of different wall solutions with similar properties regarding their load bearing capacity and thermal insulation:

  • Poroton S-9 clay blocks with integrated Perlit insulation,
  • Lightweight concrete blocks with polyurethane insulation,
  • Clay blocks with wood wool insulation boards,
  • Breeze blocks with EPS insulation and a facing brick facade.


Executive Summary_Sustainable Use of Natural Resources

The construction and operation of buildings causes considerable environmental loads. An approach for their reduction is building certifications assessing the impacts of a building on the environment. Since there is no standard definition of sustainability, building certificates considerably vary regarding their statement. The aim of this project was the determination of what the different building certificates actually measure and to what extent these certificates gather the parameters that are crucial for clay blocks as a building material. The British BREEAM, the US American LEED, the German DGNB, and the Swiss SNBS certificate were analysed. Occasionally, these certificates differ regarding the weighting attributed to social, economic and environmental indicators.

Executive Summary_Building Labels

The way buildings are constructed and their appearance have drastically changed in recent decades. In their project work the ethics of bricks, the students attended to the question of what a “correct” and “honest” use if bricks and clay blocks means in the context of contemporary architecture. They analysed contemporary and historic brick buildings regarding the purpose brick was used for, whether decoratively, as a load-bearing brick wall or a mixture of both.

Executive Summary_Ethics of Bricks

Project work conducted by the WISBA scholars resulted in three, not four project papers due to synergies between the Austrian and German topic.

Scholars developed a decision making tool in order to find a proper combination of wall and heating in systems which takes the properties of different solutions into account in order to assure most energy efficient solutions. The study suggests that cogeneration in combination with solar energy provides the highest potential of energy efficiency. From an economic point of view investment decisions depend on regional factors, such as prices of energy resources and fundings.

Executive Summary_Wall and Heating Systems

A combined research on life span and resource efficiency puts great emphasis on design strategies that take time fully into account. This means that in order to guarantee a long life span buildings shall be adaptable to changing using habits. In order to reach this goal design for detailing is an essential strategy. Furthermore prefabrication systems and design for deconstruction are essential.

Executive Summary_Resource Efficiency and Life Span

A research on additional indicators for the assessment of the environmental sustainability of construction works showed that impacts of similar impact categories vary greatly depending on the method applied. Therefore, additional indicators should only be included if the model of calculation is reliable.

Executive Summary _ Additional Indicators