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Three rules of innovation in the construction industry

By Mirco Pegoraro

Innovation in the construction industry has the power to change the world, but it is not well defined. It is often understood as less energy use, more green surfaces, less negative environmental impact, etc. While these are positive effects they are not the core of the innovation that construction industry needs and can deliver. It is not the innovation that can make a real substantial global impact.

I suggest three rules for construction innovation which set a minimum standard for real substantial global change:

1. Recycled materials are used, no virgin materials

The construction industry is using an enormous amount of materials, probably more than any other industry, and a vast majority of those materials are virgin – not recycled. Today using virgin materials is not sustainable anymore and is creating a deficit. On the other hand, almost everything can be recycled today, including concrete. Recycled materials not only maintain but improve building performance. Our focus should shift towards reusing the old, not creating the new and throwing away the old.

2. Smart design reduces material use

Concrete will remain the perfect material in the foreseeable future. Immediate and most important innovation is not to replace it but to better use it. The main problem with concrete is how it is designed. A big part of its mass is used with no added value. If smarter designs are used building structural performances can be even improved, while the mass is reduced. Additionally, if less material is used, less energy is used for transport and build. In the far future replacing concrete is unavoidable, but until that moment we need to reduce damages of its badly designed use.

3. Innovation must be easily accessible globally

Difference between invention and innovation is the scope of application. Innovation means that something is accepted on a substantial scale. Innovation is not a press release for a technology which is implemented in less than 0,1 percents of global projects. The global demand for construction is growing exponentially. Everyone wants a home. These homes are built globally at a pace never before seen. Innovation which cannot follow this expansion is not true innovation. While smartphones reached more than 2 billion, material recycling and smart concrete design must reach 7 billion.


My work is dedicated to these three rules. I hope you adopt them.