Building more with less material

To the point - three questions for Thorsten Hahn, Chief Executive Officer at Holcim in Germany and the Netherlands. As part of the Designing the Future initiative, we asked Mr Hahn for his opinion on the construction of tomorrow.

As part of the world's leading building materials group Holcim Ltd, Holcim is one of the most important building materials manufacturers in Germany - and Thorsten Hahn has been the top representative of the companies in this country and in the neighbouring Netherlands since 2018, and not without reason. After studying civil engineering at RWTH Aachen University with a focus on building materials science, he went on to study industrial engineering at the University of Hagen in the early 2000s. Thorsten Hahn is also involved in many associations in the building materials industry, including as a member of the Presidium of the German Cement Works Association.

"I wish that the potential of the choice of building materials to reduce CO2 would be seen and realised by many more stakeholders - and not in competition of materials, but in meaningful cooperation."

What are your expectations for tomorrow's construction and what contribution can Holcim make?

Hahn: We don't have to build less, but better, more sustainably and faster. And we urgently need to work on replacing linear construction with one that consistently implements the circular idea. For Holcim, this means in a nutshell: Concrete must become concrete again. Our raw material sources of the future are no longer primarily gravel pits and quarries, but the already built environment. We want to be at the forefront of shaping the new way of building - with sustainable and innovative solutions. They are not perfect yet, but with the right awareness, a lot is already possible today.

In your experience, how willing are architects, craftsmen and other players in the construction and real estate industry to focus more on sustainable solutions?

Hahn: We are already seeing a very clear increase in demand for our sustainable solutions, such as the climate-friendly ECOPlanet cements. Awareness is growing and we are trying to contribute to this through webinars and direct communication. Knowledge is one side, the other is partly outdated regulation, which often still slows down the breakthrough of sustainable solutions. "We have always done it this way" is still often said. If we overcome this, sustainable building cannot be stopped.

What approaches is Holcim taking on the road to CO2 neutrality?

Hahn: We consistently pursue three approaches in parallel. Firstly, the continuous improvement of the ecological footprint of our products through optimised concrete formulations and the use of CO2-optimised cements. One example is our ECOPact concrete. Those who use it get about 60 kilograms of CO2 reduction for seven euros extra cost per square metre of gross floor area. Secondly: The development of intelligent building solutions that require fewer resources and thus follow our credo "Build more with less material". And thirdly: The conversion of our cement production according to the principle of carbon capture and utilisation, i.e. with the aim of capturing the CO2 that inevitably escapes during the burning of the rock in the production process and, ideally, using it further as a raw material. For us, a CO2-neutral world always includes the conservation of resources and the cycle.


HERE you will find more information on the Designing the Future initiative.