Automating the Construction Site
Digitally Designed & Built Projects: Using Technology to Explore New Ways of Construction
By now, it is clear that technology has taken over almost every aspect of our lives. It has changed the way we communicate, how we connect, how we work and study, and has even modified our buying and eating habits. Architecture and construction were not the exceptions, and technology is also now present in the way it is being thought, designed, and built.
The use of digital tools in the built environment has a variety of applications and outcomes. In this selection, we will look into projects in which technology played a major role from the conception of the project, through the design of each of its elements, and finally to the construction and result. These prototypes are also examples of thorough research in order to optimize time, costs and minimize waste associated with traditional building processes.
Digital fabrication, robotics, augmented reality fabrication interface, 3D printing and scanning, and diverse software, are applied to optimize processes but also keeping an eye on maintaining certain craftsmanship, design elements, and aesthetics for high-quality architectural spaces, allowing the interference of architects and designers inputs throughout the whole process as well.
Automating the Construction Site
“To address the challenges of limited mobility and dexterity of existing industrial robots, the project reintroduces craftsmen into a digital fabrication process. By optically instructing masons with tailored digital information through a custom augmented reality user interface, a direct connection to the digital design model can be established.”
The developed augmented bricklaying process combines the power of computational design with the dexterity and skills of a human craftsman, introducing an entirely new fabrication paradigm.
Dipl. Ing. Christoph Zechmeister, Research Associate at ICD: “The BUGA fiber pavilion is made of 150.000m of specifically arranged glass- and carbon fibers. Given the complex geometrical behavior of fibrous structures, established modes of design and modeling are not sufficient to thoroughly navigate the design space opened up by fiber systems. Computational, data-driven design is typically based on established building systems and related data sets, this does not fully exploit the generative potential of digital technologies and fails to negotiate the complex interrelations of a multi-layered fiber system.”
Rather than using a linear toolchain, we aim to develop an architectural design, structural engineering, and robotic fabrication concurrently, to establish a Co-design methodology based on continuous computational feedback. Utilizing an integrative approach across different fields unlocks the full potential of computation and allows for concurrent innovation across all involved areas.
“This co-design approach is considered throughout all project phases. Already in the preliminary stages, the first digital design sketches are based on immediate feedback and are linked to initial structural simulations and informed by physical hand models to gain insight from structural design and fabrication constraints. The digital model encapsulates all this feedback and information in the design environment and enables us to directly interact with different disciplines without the need to reiterate drawing sets or models. We can for example generate tool paths for robotic fabrication or data sets for structural analysis directly out of the design model.”
MSc. ITECH Hans Jakob Wagner, Research Associate at ICD: “Written in C-Sharp within the Environment of the Grasshopper3D Plugin for Rhinoceros, the agent-based modeling tools allow for the algorithmic morphogenesis of spatial form. While the automatic generation of three-dimensional geometries and their embedded logics for materialization is empowering a more differentiated articulation of the pavilion’s structural tectonics, it was of crucial importance to implement smooth modes of direct interaction of the designer with these computational tools. This means that the emergent intelligence of an embedded and distributed agent-based modeling system was coupled with the intuitive design decisions of the planning team.
Through the universal validity and well-defined taxonomy of programming languages, the computational system is practically indifferent to disciplines and hierarchies. This means that as soon as such artificial system is accessible to human designers, it fosters more smooth and direct collaborations between architects, engineers, builders, and construction robotics specialists. Such an approach is crucial for the intrinsic embedding of both sustainable and cultural aspects within an increasingly digitalized world. Finally, we believe it will lead to a more inclusive and integrated architectural design paradigm that we call co-design.”
Konrad Graser, Ph.D. Researcher at NCCR Digital Fabrication: “The design intent was to develop an architectural language that expresses the process of its making. Therefore, the design opportunities, as well as constraints of each IO technology, were used as design inputs starting in the earliest conceptual design stage. This triggered an interactive design process in which certain architecture/planning information (e.g. room or building envelope boundaries, structural engineering constraints) was used as input for the IO generative tools and the result of the generative process was fed back into the master model, providing the basis for the next design iteration. In addition, some of the generative tools were modified to allow design modifications by the architecture team and provide real-time constructability feedback.”
DFAB HOUSE is unique in the sense that the first conceptual 3D models were done with the digital fabrication tools in mind. This kicked off a co-creation process in which the DFAB technology upscaling, design, and engineering occurred in parallel. This was possible because demonstrating the novel digital fabrication technologies was a central goal of the project, naturally aligning the design with the technologies.
“We used MAYA software according to the needs of entity modeling, and carried out the space shape and structure rationality to determine the implementation model. Then through the printing path planning and printing coding to complete the digital file, and then the digital files drive the robot 3D printing equipment to concrete the materials layer by layer stack printing, thus building the curved shape of the Book Cabin.
The printing of the Cabin uses 2 sets of robotic arm printing systems, one in situ printing building foundation and main structure, another in situ pre-printing arc wall, and a dome roof. Each printing equipment needs 2 people to operate, a total of 4-5 construction technicians to participate in the construction process.”
This article is part of the ArchDaily Topic: Automation in Architecture. Every month we explore a topic in-depth through articles, interviews, news, and projects. Learn more about our monthly topics. As always, at ArchDaily we welcome the contributions of our readers; if you want to submit an article or project, contact us.