Oct 15
  • Social Impact

This Moment in History: Leaning into Green

If you believe, as does Cassette, that the global construction industry is on the cusp of an industrialization revolution, then consider this: Our current material palette for construction comes from a long evolution of safety code considerations, combined with construction means and methods that have changed very little over the last century.

Utilizing that portfolio of materials, means and methods, building construction is currently responsible for 38% of CO2 emissions worldwide. The question is, do the efficiency and cost differences between factory-based and site-based construction present any opportunity to move the needle on sustainability, as industrialization trends upwards? Let us lean into this possibility and explore whether material innovation can simultaneously move the needle on both production and sustainability.

For a simplistic example of site vs. factory differences that might support this possibility, consider a typical interior wall in a U.S. home and the wet finishes and processes that we use to achieve a traditional aesthetic. We have come to expect one to four weeks of drying time for multiple coats of drywall mud and paint as a regular part of the construction process, just as we have learned to wait days for concrete to cure. In a factory, which lives or dies by its throughput, such stoppage time can be absolutely crippling. These wet processes, or anything else that would halt production, call the logic of today’s interior wall design, as well as other line-stopping materials, into question, as construction leans more and more toward industrialization.

And – not to pick on concrete, but it is worth noting that if the material were a country, that country would represent the third highest CO2 emissions of any country on the planet. 

Is it time to revisit more sustainable materials that might not have penciled out in a traditional site-built project, but could actually improve industrial efficiency? Enter green thinking.

With the growth trend projected in modular construction (already a $112B industry)[i] and prefab as a whole for the foreseeable future, we in this emerging sector have an opportunity to foster and support material innovations that can have an epic effect on global CO2 emissions over the next decade. Let us search out those exciting innovations and, perhaps revisit some that we cast aside for economic reasons years ago. Let us lean into green for our future.

[i] https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/modular-construction-market