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As partners in the European Commission’s New European Bauhaus initiative, member-companies from the German Design Council’s network are researching how industry and business can contribute to making Europe climate-neutral by 2050.

In mid-May, the online event “Shaping a sustainable world by design” took place as the first in a series of congresses. Invited speakers were Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director Emeritus of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and Alessandro Rancati, Policy Analyst at the JRC, the EU Commission’s science service, the planning office of the New European Bauhaus. Björn Asmussen from the architecture and design office 3deluxe and Maria-Liisa Bruckert from Siemens AG presented exemplary projects from their companies.

1.5 degrees Celsius

Kippelemente im Erdystem
Tipping elements in the Earth’s system can have major impacts on the whole environment. © PIK

The Paris Agreement, as adopted in 2015 by the 195 Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) following the Kyoto Protocol, sets the goal of limiting the human contribution to global warming to less than 1.5 °C compared to pre-industrial levels. In 2018, the “Special Report on 1.5 °C Global Warming” reaffirmed the acute need for action and examined the options for successfully achieving the climate target.

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber is an internationally renowned climate researcher who has already advised the German government and the Vatican on climate issues and now works closely with the European Commission. He has intensively studied the scientific background of the topic. The scientist explains the target value of 1.5 – 2 degrees “with a theory I presented a long time ago together with colleagues about disruptive events in the planetary machinery, such as the melting of the Greenland ice sheet or the dying of the Amazon rainforest. We can calculate to some extent where this is happening and what level of warming can typically destroy these elements.” Schellnhuber stresses the urgency of quick action. “We need to get our act together!” Because the effort is getting huge: a 2018 study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) looked at possible solutions. It shows that it is no longer enough merely to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero. “After 2025-2040, we must actively extract CO2 from the atmosphere,” says Schellnhuber.

CO2-Emissionen müssen aktiv aus der Atmosphäre entzogen werden
CO2 emissions must be actively drained from the atmosphere. © PIK

The Silver Bullet of the New European Bauhaus

Der Elefant im Raum: Gebaute Umwelt
The built environment is one of the largest contributors of greenhouse gases and waste in industrialised countries. © PIK

According to the IPCC, afforestation and sensible management could, for example, generate biomass that absorbs carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. This biomass can then be used as an energy source and burned, capturing and storing the CO2 (BECCS). However, the remaining biomass would then have to be “hidden somewhere”, says Schellnhuber. „However, this huge amount cannot be managed in the way that the IPCC has come up with“ he explains. The IPCC report prices in technical solutions to carbon sequestration that do not currently exist on the scale needed or are available with sufficient efficiency.  “But what can be done is in fact a much better solution – and something that is not counter-intuitive in terms of value creation: a ‘silver bullet’, so to speak. So the difference is in the use of the biomass, energetic use vs. material permanent use.”

Schellnhuber sees the built environment as the real problem. „More than 40 per cent of global emissions are caused by construction, operation and demolition of buildings. It also causes 55 per cent of waste”, Schellnhuber explains. However, he also sees this as a possible solution to the problem: “You can take the biggest source of emissions and turn it into an ‘sink’ for emissions. And that has to do with photosynthesis. The basic idea is that if you provide enough forest – and that includes massive reforestation – the wood you get can be used as building material.” This would not only avoid the emissions of cement, concrete and steel, but the wood itself would absorb emissions from the atmosphere and store them in the long term. “I see this as the best possible solution, which really only has advantages; although perhaps not for the concrete industry,” says Schellnhuber.

Forward to Nature!

Forstwirtschaft als Trumpfkarte des New European Bauhaus
Wood can absorb emissions, store them and serve as a building material.

Schellnhuber envisions a “Bauhaus for the Earth” not only in terms of benefits for the climate, but also for the way we plan and build cities and adapt to global warming. If Walter Gropius’ original Bauhaus aimed at “the collection of all artistic creation into a unity, the reunification of all artistic disciplines into a new art of building”, Schellnhuber now wants to unite leading experts to create such an interdisciplinary ‘gesamtkunstwerk’ for the harmonious treatment of the environment.

Recent technical developments make it possible, for example, to build entire skyscrapers out of wood. It is possible to compress wood and process it into a material that is stronger than steel. Termite mounds or the oasis cities of the Sahara, for example, also offer interesting design concepts for new dimensions in settlement construction. For Schellnhuber, the use of wood in particular is not a romantic idea. For him, it is not about technically returning to the time before industrialisation, but about combining natural materials, organic architecture and artificial intelligence: “The cities of the post-war period were designed to imitate machines, and people only feel comfortable in them as if they were living in a machine. But nature is now making its way back into the grey and ugly built environment,” says the climate scientist, “Biology, not physics, will be the leading scientific discipline of the 21st century.” Schellnhuber almost sums up a clear vision: “We are indeed at the foot of a civilisational escarpment that can only be compared to the Neolithic and Industrial Revolutions. At the Dawn of the Cyborganic Age, High-Tech Meets No-Tech. Forward to Nature! “

New European Bauhaus: Beautiful, sustainable, together

Alessandro Rancati is a policy analyst at the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the EU Commission‘s science service and planning office for the New European Bauhaus. He describes the “solar punk” genre of science fiction as one of his sources of inspiration for the work at New European Bauhaus: What would our world look like if all environmental problems were solved?

Rancati explains that the Commission is especially interested in finding out how all of us can be involved in the New European Bauhaus: “The initiative is meant to give the Green Deal a concrete touch. In a way, this has a branding element, a narrative approach around the core themes of ‘beautiful, sustainable, together’. How can we create places and experiences that are beautiful, sustainable and inclusive? This is not just about buildings, but about the spaces we share. How do we interact with people, animals, plants?”

The intention is not to focus primarily on the challenges that still lie ahead, Rancati stresses, but to put the spotlight on projects that are already being realised. He highlights a central concept of the New European Bauhaus: “It is not a one-size-fits-all model. The EU Commission wants to listen and understand which places citizens and experts already consider successful examples of this concept and what ideas they have for creating such spaces.”

For this purpose, the Commission is offering prizes for pilot projects, on the one hand for projects that have already been realised successfully and on the other hand for “Rising Stars”, ideas from people under 30.

Green architectural spaces

V-Plaza, Kaunas
V-Plaza, Kaunas. © 3deluxe

Björn Asmussen develops different concepts for environmentally friendly and humane cities with the architecture and design office 3deluxe. 3deluxe uses innovative materials and technologies for forward-looking architectural solutions that meet the challenges posed by the climate crisis and the resulting urban and social dilemmas.

One of these projects is the V-Plaza in Kaunas, Lithuania. This car-free space can be used in a variety of ways and invites people to picnic, watch films or skateboard together here with extensive areas, water basins and fountains. As an “urban hub”, the plaza offers space for micro-mobility solutions. The question of which shops or infrastructure are needed in the immediate vicinity and which can be located further away played a role in the design.

Another example of the studio’s architectural solutions is the project concept “The Ark” in Manhattan, New York. It is based on the basic idea of “green densification”: green roofs reduce the heat impact of the interactive building, and its residents can stay in touch with nature here in the middle of the big city. The concept follows 3deluxe’s “50/50 rule”: at least half of what is built should be nature.

Grüne Städte fürs New European Bauhaus: The Ark, New York.
The Ark, New York. © 3deluxe

Building ecosystems

Maria-Liisa Bruckert from Siemens AG presents the technology company’s smart and energy-efficient infrastructure projects: Siemens views buildings as ecosystems that must constantly evolve and adapt to people’s needs. To achieve this, smart buildings are combined with intelligent energy solutions. Examples of this approach are the Wunsiedel project and the Sello shopping centre in Finland.

In Wunsiedel in Upper Franconia, Germany, hydrogen is a crucial energy source. Generated with solar and wind energy, the combustible gas serves as a resource and energy store. In addition, the heat generated during electrolysis and the oxygen released are also integrated into Wunsiedel’s energy cycle.

The Finnish shopping centre Sello has been in animated development for 20 years, pursuing a holistic approach together with its customers and seeking answers to the question of how their needs can be realised. The result is an interactive and sustainable ecosystem that continues to evolve. The building combines photovoltaic, hydrogen and wind energy and supports e-mobility.

Gebäude als Ökosystem: Sello in Finnland
© Siemens

Learn more about the New European Bauhaus

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber

Visionär des New European Bauhaus, Prof. John Schellnhuber
© PIK/Karkow, 2020

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Hans Joachim “John” Schellnhuber is a member of the German National Academy Leopoldina and the US National Academy of Sciences, among others. As founding director, he headed the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) from 1992 to 2018. He worked as a scientific advisor for German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, among others. In 2011, he received the Federal Cross of Merit 1st Class, and in 2021 the Grand Cross of Merit of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. Since 2019, Schellnhuber has been working intensively on the creation of a “Bauhaus of the Earth”.

New European Bauhaus

© New Europan Bauhaus

The New European Bauhaus was initiated by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in September 2020. The New European Bauhaus follows the core values of “sustainability, aesthetics and inclusiveness”. At the point of contact between art, culture, social inclusion, science and technology, the initiative will explore how our lifestyles can be shaped in the future in order to successfully make Europe climate neutral by 2050 as part of the European Green Deal.

As an official partner of the New European Bauhaus, the German Design Council supports the initiative with its extensive network of innovative design companies. Companies and research institutes of the foundation from among its members are actively addressing the question of how industry needs to address the issue of sustainability and what changes companies need to implement in order to achieve a green economy and sustainable production. It is also important to contribute to public understanding of the issue through positive communication as branding.

Homepage der Initiative.

The European Green Deal

The European Green Deal includes an action plan to restore natural diversity and combat pollution through more efficient use of raw materials in a clean and circular economy. The goal is to make the EU climate neutral by 2050. To this end, all sectors of the economy are invited to promote environmentally friendly and climate-efficient methods and technologies in different thematic areas. Between 2021 and 2027, the EU will provide 100 billion euros for the most affected regions to implement.

Sustainable Branding: Panel discussion at “Fashionsustain” at Frankfurt Fashion Week

© Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH

As part of Frankfurt Fashion Week, the German Design Council organised a panel discussion at the Fashionsustain conference on the subject of “Sustainable Branding”.

Design and brand provide orientation and identification, embody values, are sensual and emotional and can influence decisions. But what exactly does sustainable branding mean? How can an appropriate brand strategy be built? And what does credibility mean in this context? What does good communication of sustainability look like? How can design and brand management support the sustainable transformation of a company? This is what the panel discussion “Sustainable Branding” at Fashionsustain 2021 was all about.

Speakers included Matthias Mey (Managing Partner at Mey GmbH & Co KG), Heidrun Angerer (Executive Creative Director at Peter Schmidt Group), Bernd Draser (Lecturer at ecosign / Akademie für Gestaltung) and Lutz Dietzold (CEO German Design Council).

Date: Thurs. 8 July, approx. 2:20 to 2:50 p.m.
Host: Siems Luckwaldt, journalist for fashion, lifestyle, beauty, watches, mindfulness

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