August 2018

My First International Conference teaser image
Finland is currently the happiest country in the world overtaking Norway and ahead of Denmark and Iceland. For years, I had been dreaming of ways to make more affordable building materials. I had encountered clients who were scraping to achieve their dreams of building a house. Slowly I came to understand that building was a gift. Many had resources but were not interested and some had a little but went at length to erect a structure. For the latter, a way to provide streams of resources to achieve their dreams is necessary. The construction industry accounts for 13% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) and is expected to increase to 15% by 2020.

The International Society for the Environmental and Technical implications of Construction with Alternate materials was founded in 1991 for better use of materials. They organized a smooth conference. “WASCON 2018, No Cradle, No Grave” was the theme of the conference. Abstracts can be found at WASCON means Waste Construction and this conference holds once every three years. Since its inception, there have been over 1000 papers. For this year’s papers here is the link.

This was the 10thconference. I made up my mind to attend once I saw the theme. At that time the closest Schengen visa location was in New York but I was not deterred. I applied for financial aid and got three of them. These aids made my trip worthwhile and encouraged me because I had to tear myself away from my husband and two daughters. 

The Merriam -Webster dictionary defines conference as a meeting of two or more persons for discussing matters of common concern, it also involves a formal interchange of views. At the conference, our common concern was optimizing waste from industry and domestic sources. Before the conference I had to prepare and it was not easy. My faculty chair and advisor Dr. Ahmed K. Ali reviewed my presentations a lot to ensure that it was presentable. I had the nerves and made some inquiries. Mingqian Liu directed me to the University Writing Center at Texas A&M University where I read a lot of articles that gave me good counsel and boosted my confidence. The trip to Tampere, Finland was very long and later I got to meet a lot of like-minded people. This experience gave me context and helped me understand more about my research topic.

The conference was from 6th-8thJune 2018. Two days were for presentations and the third day was for excursion. The first two days began with two keynote lectures and we proceeded to numerous breakout sessions. Topics ranging from brick to brick, geopolymer development, urban recycling, material flow assessment, circular economy hubs, design for change, developing mechanized systems for concrete and many others were presented. My topic was “Alternative Architectural Design Methods in the Reuse and Remanufacturing of Scrap Metals for Commercial Building Facades.” The next day we went for an excursion and it was very interesting. We visited waste recycling companies and saw firsthand how waste is converted to treasured building materials.

I found out that most people had scheduled conferences back-to-back and here I was pining away for home. With time I will increase my attendance at conferences. I enjoyed my presentation and the question that followed. I also made wonderful new acquaintances who are now friends. The sauna experience was great too because that was my first time in a sauna. I moved from electric sauna to local sauna with delightful trepidation and chilling rests in between. The food was good. Free breakfast at hotel to free lunch at conference and tea breaks. I encourage students to look out for conferences and attend because it builds community and resources. It also reminds us of the importance of our research shows us others on the same journey with us and the resultant impacts in society. 

Patricia Kio
Patricia is a Ph.D. student in the College of Architecture

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