Ezra's Round Table / Systems Seminar: Felix Heisel (Cornell AAP) - From resource crisis to material abundance: the potential of circular construction




Globally, the construction industry is the biggest consumer of energy and materials. Over the full life cycle, building construction and operation accounts for 40% of energy use and process-related greenhouse gas emissions, as well as 50% of raw material extraction and solid waste production. Since the rate of construction is significantly higher than demolition and discard, society is building up an important economy-wide anthropogenic stock. By some estimates, existing buildings account for as much as 90% of all materials ever extracted from the Earth’s crust. The built environment and its stock of components consequently represent a valuable, local, and low-carbon reserve for the construction of future cities, which could - if utilized - significantly reduce the negative effects on our planet, while enabling a new architectural language. Circular construction promotes a paradigm shift in how we design, construct, and operate buildings, and in the way resources are being managed within the built environment. This seminar will highlight ongoing research projects of the Circular Construction Lab at Cornell AAP and discuss systemic changes to today’s construction industry. Bio: Felix Heisel is an architect and academic working towards the systematic redesign of the built environment as a material depot of endless use and reconfiguration. At Cornell University, he holds the position of Assistant Professor, and acts as the Director of the Circular Construction Lab Opens a Cornell link. He is a faculty fellow at the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability, and a field member of the Department of Architecture as well as the Systems Engineering program. Heisel is also a partner at 2hs architects and engineers Opens an external link, Germany, an office specialized in the development of circular prototypologies. He has received various awards for his work and published numerous books and articles on the topic, including Addis Ababa: A Manifesto on African Progress (Ruby Press, 2019, with Hebel, Wisniewska, Nash), Cultivated Building Materials (Birkhäuser, 2017, with Hebel), Lessons of Informality (Birkhäuser, 2016, with Kifle) and Building from Waste (Birkhäuser, 2014, with Hebel, Wisniewska). Heisel graduated from the Berlin University of the Arts and has been teaching and researching at universities around the world, including the Berlage Institute; the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction, and City Developments; ETH Zürich, both in Switzerland and Singapore; and Harvard GSD.