Sustainable Metal Building Envelopes


The professorship ‘Sustainable Metal Building Envelopes’, supported and funded by the Internationalen Verband für den Metallleichtbau, IFBS, was established at RWTH on the 1st of July 2015. It is chaired by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Markus Kuhnhenne. The professorship incorporates research and teaching, covering aspects of static design, building physics and, in particular, the sustainability of building envelopes made of lightweight metal structural elements. In addition, there are many interdisciplinary research topics based on classical steel construction and other related topics.

Considering the sustainability of construction is an important requirement for future-proofing buildings. The advantages of lightweight metal construction include the high recycling potential, the easy deconstruction and reusability of individual components as well as the high durability and value of the components. In addition to discussing stability and mechanical strength, there is a focus on energy-efficient construction. The increase in the energy quality of lightweight metal building envelopes is through the reduction of heat transfer. In addition, it is becoming increasingly important to consider material and resource efficiency due to increasing production costs and the decreasing economic availability of raw materials. Future-orientated and sustainable construction means optimising the ecological, economic and social aspects of buildings.

Teaching in this area combines design, planning and performance, along with assessing the field of lightweight metal construction and paying particular attention to its sustainability. The teaching and research area ‘Sustainability in Lightweight Metal Construction’ is an academic partner of the German Sustainable Building Council; the Institute of Steel Construction is a founding member of the DGNB.

Professor Kuhnhenne is a member of the Round Table for Sustainable Construction at the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, the TC 7 ‘Cold-formed thin walled Sheet Steel in Buildings’ and the TC 14 ‘Sustainability and Eco-Efficiency of Steel Construction’ of ECCS, the European Convention for Constructional Steelwork.

Research activities

You can find an overview of current and past lightweight metal research projects here.

The ZIM-Network ileM

The technological and expertise network (ileM) was initiated by the teaching and research field “Sustainability in Lightweight Metal Construction”. It was set up on the 1st of January 2016 and is funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, as part of the Zentrales Innovationsporgramm Mittelstand (ZIM).

The main concept of this network is the consideration of the entire lightweight metal construction supply chain; from manufacture to forming and assembly, and renovation and disassembly of components. Above all, finding innovative solutions to improve the energy efficiency and multifunctionality of the building envelope is a central theme of the network. These solutions strengthen the sustainability of the construction industry, both in new and existing buildings. The latest improvements in energy generation and storage can also be applied to lightweight metal construction through these fundamental developments.