If you are looking for more than an introduction to the ideas of sustainability then this book is for you. There is a clear and scientific case for many changes to how we build and which materials we choose to build from. Each section gives an overview with just enough history, technical understanding and chemistry to give the reader the background and real understanding of the issues and choices.
As the title suggests, Berge is interested in exploring the whole life of materials and components; how they are extracted and manufactured into products and the subsequent energy used during these processes. It also explores how materials are used in buildings and the impact on occupants, and what happens at the end of the building life.
Divided into three main sections the book is clearly presented in a textbook style, which is informative and easy to read. Section one explores the issues of material production, energy and pollution with tables listing the quantifiable environmental effects of each material. Their environmental profile is then explored fully in the following sections giving the reader a real understanding of the issues and a context for decision-making. This book promotes a conscious use of materials and appropriate use.
One of the tables in this book lists the statistical reserve of our raw materials. It is clear from this table that some materials are plentiful (such as; sand, clay, earth, gypsum and stone) and others are very limited (Copper 36 years, lead 20 years, Tin 28 years, Zinc 21 years).
One of the main questions this book seeks to address is: can the materials we build with from finite sources be replaced by materials form widely available or infinite resources and how effectively do they do this?
Although a complex question, the type of analysis would make a fitting conclusion to what is already an impressive volume. Perhaps a second volume is in the pipeline?
Having said that, Berge’s book has just the right amount of information on each subject to really inform the reader and introduce them to all the relevant life cycle issues of each material whilst still managing to be concise.
A fantastic and inspiring reference – all architects/builders and students should read it – I am sure this book will become a text book for many schools and Universities (if not already).