Cracking concrete for other building possibilities

abstract

In this presentation, I crack concrete by suggesting the need to rethink the construction sector’s heavy reliance on modern concrete. In an environmentally changing and economic crisis-ridden world, concrete construction has been implicated as a key driver. The rapid expansion of urban development in Southeast Asia over the last 50 years, for example, has made massive demand for building materials including Portland cement based, steel reinforced and aggregate filled concrete. This is highly visible in the use of concrete in constructing high rise buildings, expanding housing–even in informal settlements, and widening infrastructure. Concrete is seen as the most desirable building material due to its relative strength, durability and affordability and it has significantly replaced all vegetation-based building materials in many parts in the region. Yet, present-day concrete is prematurely aging and has been implicated in accelerating climate change due to its embodied carbon and in deepening exploitative practices related to its political and economic entanglements (e.g., concrete construction laced with corruption and informal aggregate miners digging and crushing stones for the cutthroat construction industry). I argue that the cracks in concrete should serve as entry points for exploring future building possibilities in diverse ways.

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