Population growth in cities leads to high raw material consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. In temperate climates were heating of buildings is among the major contributors to greenhouse gases, thermal insulation of buildings became a standard in recent years. Both population growth and greenhouse gas mitigation may thus have some influence on the quantity and composition of building material stock in cities. By using the case study of Vienna, this influence is evaluated by calculating the stock of major building materials (concrete, bricks, mortar, and plaster, steel, wood, glass, mineral wool, and polystyrene) between the years 1990 and 2015. The results show a growth of the material stock from 274 kt in the year 1990 to 345 kt in the year 2015, resulting in a total increase of 26%. During the same period, the population grew by 22%. On a material level, the increase of thermal insulation materials like polystyrene and mineral wool by factors of 6.5 and 2.5 respectively were much higher than for other materials, indicating energy efficiency and greenhouse gas mitigation in the building construction sector. The displacement of brickwork by concrete as the most important construction material, however, is rather a response to population growth as concrete buildings can be raised faster. A question for the future is to which extent this change from brickwork to high carbon-intensive concrete countervails the achievements in greenhouse gas reduction by thermal insulation.
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