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Author's profile photo Stefan Weisenberger

The house that paper built

Origami architecture

I asked my daughter to fold me a paper house. FullSizeRender(1).jpgIt took a few minutes, and she presented me this beautiful piece of architecture, rather a fast prototype. I recalled the fairy tale of the huffing and puffing wolf, and also had my concerns around fire and rain.


So, how about you? Would you move into a house made of paper?
Or would you prefer a building made of concrete?


Fire, water and earthquake-proof and 12-times lighter than concrete

Swiss architect Fredy Iseli and this company Ecocell AG won the Construction & Living category of the GreenTec Award, Europe’s biggest environment award, for its sustainable concrete honeycomb material. The Ecocell building elements are a fascinating cross-over of two very different materials – concrete and corrugated board – plus some nature-inspired innovation.


The panels are made from 100% renewable resource like wood, fibres, and raw paper recovered from recycled paper and cardboard packaging. The self-engineered cardboard panels have a hollow honeycomb-like cell structure, which is then coated in cement. After the coating, the dried elements are planked with wood panels. The resulting sandwich of corrugated board, cement and wood is then industrially manufactured into modular building elements which can be easily joined together.


The resulting building material offers a high thermal insulation and fire protection, and is very lightweight making it possible to build manually or with only light lifting tools on the building site.


Germany’s international broadcaster “Deutsche Welle” has featured Ecocell in a recent video.

DirectIndustry’s emagazine talked directly to Fredy Iseli about his innovation. Find the interview here.


Breaking industry boundaries

In a recent digitalist blog, Alfred Becker wrote about new business models and the shift to new, more profitable products and markets: from Sappi’s highly profitable shift to dissolving pulp (which is used in textiles, like lingerie or sports wear), UPM’s “Biofore” initiative to provide a fibre- and bio-mass-based sustainable alternative to mineral oil – including biorefineries, base chemicals, and bioplactics.


I recently visited Europe’s larget textile research center DITF and was intrigued to see carbon- and glass-fibres weaved into new high-end composite materials for lightweight automotive performance parts, aerospace and defence applications. The ancient textile technologies of weaving, spinning or knitting are applied to fascinating new use cases like 3D-knitting, smart- and e-textiles, or entirely new 3D-fibre-based structures. A wide variety of materials likeKevlar, Nylon, glass fibre, metal, carbon, or biobased yarns are combined and transformed into new materials – competing with e.g. steel or aluminum for car parts.


Ecocell’s composite material is another example of “transforming industries” to enter into new markets – blending material-characteristics of corrugated packaging, concrete and wood, and competing with classical wood or concrete construction elements.



Transformation is happening all over the mill products industry. Commoditization, overcapacity, and cost-pressure dominated the discussions in the past years.

Today, we see innovators moving beyond their industry boundaries seeking higher profits and new markets, pushing plant operations to new efficiency levels with new digital technologies like the industrial internet of things, or applying digital commerce strategies known from the B2C context.


For more on how Digital Transformation can help transform your Building Products industry, check out this TED Style video and take this short survey to benchmark your company against your peers..

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