To build with nothing – on planetary boundaries and strategies of avoidance

How can avoidance as an architectural strategy enable solutions that work within the planetary boundaries? This is the idea we explore in this session based on the notion that the most sustainable material is the one that is not used. The target of the building industry is not to build in a more sustainable way with present means, but simply to build less and without any impact that affects the climate and the natural environment negatively.

The session falls into two parts. In the first part, a series of case studies and arguments that address global issues will form a backdrop for discussing how principles of subtracting rather than those of adding have reduced the planetary footprint. In the second part the educational tool, the Construction Material Pyramid will be introduced it enables avoidance strategies in the early design phases.

Main questions for the session

How do we define avoidance and can it be applied as an architectural strategy to enable solutions that operate within the safe space of the planet?

How can we develop solutions that are not about being “more sustainable” within the existing mindset of the construction industry, but simply about building less; that is not about “closing” the loop of the ever-growing material circles, but about putting less [stuff /materials] into them?


Mikkel Thomassen

PHD, Postdoc at the Royal Danish Academy and CEO of Smith Innovation

Anne Beim

Professor, Royal Danish Academy, Head of Center for Industrialized Architecture (CINARK), PH.D.

Franca Trubiano

Graduate Group Chair of the PhD Program in Architecture and Associate Professor, The Weitzman School of Design of the University of Pennsylvania

Pelle Munch-Petersen

Associate Professor, Royal Danish Academy, CINARK – Center for Industrial Architecture


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