A growing focus within contemporary architectural discourse is the repurposing of existing structures. This shift reflects an inclination to prioritize sustainable practices by maximizing the use of current buildings, rather than constructing new ones, aligning architectural processes more closely with sustainability principles.
At the core of our work is the utilization of earth and construction waste as building materials, tailored to the distinct conditions of each site and the preferences of our clients. Collaboration plays a crucial role in our methodology. Working alongside specialists such as UKU Pure Earth, Eestimaaehitus – Competence Center for Ecological Building, and in coordination with other prominent local sustainable and traditional construction companies, we combine diverse expertise. Practical insights derived from these partnerships, along with our public workshops, steer the prototyping process, assessing how designs align with material properties and specific site conditions.
For architects, developers, and other potential clients, understanding the properties of materials is essential. Through our partnerships with the Department of Geology at the University of Tartu and TTK University of Applied Sciences, we conduct in-depth studies to explore the physical characteristics and structural capabilities of earth and construction waste. These materials are analyzed for their potential in architectural projects adapted to each unique location.
Beyond material selection, our sustainability initiatives encompass a detailed, site-specific evaluation. Environmental life cycle assessments (LCAs) are conducted to quantify the environmental burdens associated with the materials, utilizing metrics such as greenhouse gas emissions, resource consumption rates, and waste production. This methodological approach ensures that the architectural outcomes are not only in line with client specifications but also consistent with widely-recognized sustainability benchmarks and criteria.
The practical implementation of research is a central focus for the lab. Actively working on topics that bridge design principles with innovative material use, the LAB delves into projects that have real-world, site-specific implications. An exemplar of this is a research endeavor undertaken in 2022, which aimed to explore the potential use of excavation leftovers from new real estate developments in Tallinn, Estonia, specifically those from Sõpruse pst.
The research led to the development of a range of finishing materials under the name "Mustamäe Gray". These products, formulated from a blend of excavation residues, crushed concrete, and limestone production byproducts, offer a sustainable solution to construction waste.
The future of the lab's research in sustainable architecture is intertwined with the evolving needs of clients and the architectural field at large. Our principal aim is to apply our sustainable architectural research to projects within the public sector. Venturing into this domain presents unique challenges and opportunities, requiring adaptation and innovation in our methodologies. By harnessing the potential of repurposed construction materials, we seek to meet the demands of larger public infrastructures while ensuring environmental responsibility.