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All around the world, construction methods have begun an accelerated shift towards increased innovation and efficiency, whether in building design, the implementation of constructive solutions, or the distribution and placement of building materials. One dimension of this revolution is the energy efficiency of buildings. Insulation solutions, in particular, are undergoing an unprecedented wave of innovation.

Asia and key emerging countries have embarked in an impressive movement of infrastructure urbanization and modernization. And while these major projects mobilize international expertise, they are however quite different from those conducted in Europe or the United States. The decision-making processes are not the same, and today's architects and planners are putting an emphasis on the very experience of space, which varies considerably from one culture to another.

Revenge of the brick

Industries May 15th, 2013, François Amzulesco / Chief Technical Officer, Terreal

Fifteen years ago, with the advent of the “new economy”, brick and mortar businesses embodied the ancient world. But the energy transition has just turned the tables: the construction sector is going through a phase of unprecedented innovation. And the industry of brick and tile is at the heart of this revolution – a revolution which focuses on the energy performance of buildings but also on the life cycle of materials.

20 years ago, they were considered a true revolution. Today, ecodistricts are growing fast and in many ways it seems they constitute a promising solution towards inventing the ultimate sustainable city. But they are also a cause of debate, and their ability to prevail outside Europe is also in question.

Chemicals, IT and other disruptive innovations: what’s up in fire safety?

Industries October 31st, 2012, Philippe Mangon / Technical Director, Siemens Building Technologies

How does one manage fire hazards in a hospital, an airport or on a plane? If detection technologies are evolving, the key today lies in consolidating and processing information, with Danger Management Systems which also monitor security breach risks and transit management. By specializing in the design of system architectures, major industrial players have evolved into becoming service providers. Fire protection, thus, increasingly appears as one of the most technical elements of a wider business line: security.

Urban water: when engineering met social science

Society October 23rd, 2012, Bernard Barraqué & Laure Isnard / Research Director and Research Engineer, Centre international de recherche sur l’environnement et le développement (CNRS, EHESS, AgroParisTech, Ponts ParisTech, CIRAD)

For a long time, the one and only mission of public water service was to provide the best possible supply, both in quantity and quality. But the increasing stress on water resources and the rise of other environmental issues now force suppliers and local authorities to completely rethink their approach. Technical innovation is part of the solution, but the whole models are to be reinvented. Along which lines?

The urbanization of the world now takes place in the digital era, where connectivity is a core feature of urban functions. New, smarter cities are emerging. But technology falls short of creating urban dynamics by itself. Rather than just implementing smart devices, the challenge is empowerment and participation.

Mobile phone communications have provided fertile territory for research into the spatial dimensions of communities. Studies of calling patterns have shed new light on the complex nature of networks. The analysis of billions of calls across a number of countries has led to a surprising conclusion: telephone exchanges are still largely dictated according to administrative boundaries laid down long before the arrival of the mobile handset.

Construction is an age-old activity but the interest that architecture evokes -like the interest that other arts generate- is cyclic. Why? Today some reasons appear to be quite obvious: the growth of cities means increased construction, technological advances open up new possibilities, and the need for sustainable development calls for a drastic change in habits. All the ingredients are in place for an architectural creation. And this should be enough. But some countries, cities, and organizations still feel the need to express wealth, power, progress, or ambition through buildings. This desire does not ignore, at least in general, the functional aspect of construction. But it is no longer able to completely justify itself through this feature alone. Architecture becomes "a means of communication" and architects become "stars" like the great communicators. This article, a contemplation of forty years of private practice, does not judge this evolution. But it can help in understanding and eventually guiding it.

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