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Steel and Adaptive Modularity

Relying on the conceptual tools acquired during the work on my theoretical essay, the task is to develop a flexible building system driven by the site's geometrical constraints and composed by interconnected assemblies ruled by a precise hierarchy.

Following the ideas developed in the theoretical essay, steel will be the material of reference, considering the possibilities it offers for off site construction and the ease to automate the fabrication processes.

The developed building system must have the following characteristics:

  • it should be as light as possible
  • it should allow the creation of flexible spaces evolving with time
  • it should be efficient in its whole life cycle
  • it should be easily adaptable to site constraints
  • it should use whenever possible digital fabrication technologies
  • it should clearly justify steel as a material of choice

The first three considerations clearly point toward a building system relying on dry construction principles and favour the use of steel and wood. The use of concrete solve efficiently most of the problems during the erection of the building but creates huge problems when a building must be upgraded, converted or recycled. In order to use the existing static system of the building, concrete is usually not an option, being too heavy and requiring therefore expensive interventions.

The next two points underline the fact that digital technologies may change the way we conceive building systems. During the last century, we shifted from a construction industry where labour was a small fraction of the whole construction costs, to a situation where labour is the main cost factor. Digital technologies may bring this ratio back to an equilibrium and custom construction details may become an attractive choice again.

Finally, steel must be used when it represents the logical choice in terms of lightness, durability, flexibility and budget. Only a building system relying on these qualities can justify the use of this material. There have been interesting examples of steel prefabricated systems, a possibility is to update them whithin a conception of modularity not centered anymore on the standardization of dimensions.

"Mini System", Fritz Haller, 1971


Posted by Matteo Gino Pitton on Friday 4 March 2016 at 9:33