Duration: 4 weeks, 1 unit/week (24 hours total)

Cost: 1000€

Dates: the weeks of October 6th to October 26th

Module Introduction

How a ‘materials transition’ can support the net-zero agenda? A materials transition that applies circular-economy principles and involves healthy and sustainable materials can help to realize global net-zero goals.

Many countries and businesses have so far centered their plans for achieving net-zero emissions on an energy transition, which calls for boosting energy efficiency and accelerating the transition to renewable energy. And rightly so, given that the use of fossil fuels accounts for a clear majority of global CO2emissions and presents obvious emissions reduction opportunities. However, the production, use, and eventual disposal of construction materials such as steel, plastics, aluminum, and cement also account for almost a quarter of all global CO2emissions. To reach net zero, countries, businesses and designers should also consider what might be called a materials transition, which would involve both the implementation of lower-impact ways to produce materials and—crucially—the application of circular-economy principles to optimize the use and reuse of these materials and heaving healthier and more sustainable buildings.

Module Focus

This module gives the basis to read, understand and compare the technical data sheets of different construction materials. In particular, it fully prepares to understand where construction materials come from, where they originate, how they are extracted, processed, produced, put in place, the end-of-life scenarios and their related environmental impacts. Moreover, this information is linked to their specific technical performances (energy, acoustics, lighting and structural) and how the material choice that we made as designers and architects can contribute to the sustainability and health of the whole building.

The Structure

Classes will last 6 hours (3h + 3h) divided in 5 units as below.

The working groups generally consist of 3 students.
MD01 - Material Balance Design for Healthy Materials and Sustainable Products (1 Unit - 3 Hours Lecture)

6 October 2022 (10am-1pm)

The Anthropocene perspective has led to dealing with the Earth in a consumeristic way, opening the path for waste, shortage of resources and climate change. This perspective is no longer viable. A new delicate but deep approach has to be undertaken in order to modify our habits, which starts from how we live, inhabit, design and build. Material Balance Design is a common ground for innovating our practice with a responsible approach, aiming at re-balancing our relationship with the environment through the creation, research, design and test of different innovative products. With the presentation of different case studies, the students learn a holistic approach to design with healthy materials and sustainable products.
MD02 - Discovering Healthy and Sustainable Materials (1 Unit - 3 Hours Lecture)

6 October 2022 (2pm-5pm)

This unit provides the basis for discovering healthy materials and sustainable products (composition, LCA analysis and tools, performances and aesthetic), in particular how they “were born, lived and died”. Some inspiration from vernacular and contemporary architectureare provided, together with the positive social and ecological effects of adopting local-based approach for healthy materials and sustainable products.
MD03 - Load-bearing Materials (1 Unit - 6 Hours Lecture and Tutorial)

12 October 2022

This unit is composed of a theoretical and practical part. In the theoretical part, the constructions techniques of load-bearing materials are presented with a particular focus on the structural behavior and durability issue. At the same time, some insights are provided in terms of innovative processes of building with healthy materials and sustainable products. In the practical part, the studentsare divided into groups. Each group chooses a material to analyze and demonstrate its benefits according to the health and sustainable paradigm learned in the previous lectures.
MD04 - Non -load-bearing Materials (1 Unit - 6 Hours Lecture and Tutorial)

19 October 2022

This unit is composed of a theoretical and practical part. In the theoretical part, the constructions techniques of non-load-bearing materials are presented with a particular focus on the thermal and hydrothermal behavior and durability issue. At the same time, some insights are provided in terms of innovative processes of building with healthy materials and sustainable products. In the practical part, students are divided into groups. Each group chooses a material to analyze and demonstrate its benefits according to the health and sustainable paradigm learned in the previous lectures.
MD05 - Learn by Doing @ MaBaSAPERLab (1 Unit - 6 Hours Laboratory)

26 October 2022

This "hands-on module" collects real-life experiences that can prepare students to apply their knowledge. It includes physical workshops to understand materials, technical experiments to test different ways of building and takes place in the MaBaSAPERLab facilities of Politecnico di Milano . Bio-based materials, e.g. mycelium and wood-based biocomposites are chosen as examples of healthy materials and sustainable products. The final meeting includes the presentation of students' projects.

Module Leader

Ingrid Paoletti - Associate Professor ABC Department at Politecnico di Milano

Associate Professor in Architectural Technology at Politecnico di Milano and a Material Activist, she holds a Ph.D. in Construction Technology from Politecnico di Milano and has been a research associate at MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is the founder of the research group in theoretical and design experimentation Material Balance, where she deals with innovative technologies and materials to develop new and responsible material culture. She is Vice President of the Fondazione Politecnico. Her latest book is Siate Materialisti! (Einaudi 2021).

"Only when waste becomes return, the Next will become Now " Ingrid Paoletti

Module Assistants

Olga Beatrice Carcassi - Postdoctoral Researcher, ABC Department Politecnico di Milano

Giorgio Castellano - Ph.D. Researcher, ABC Department Politecnico di Milano

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