The Fabric Future of Construction

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    The Fabric Future of Construction

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As Parametric architecture rises in popularity among architects, there is a need for new technologies to bridge the gap between design and construction. Designers Ron Culver and Joseph Sarafian have instigated a method of construction that could aid this development.

Futuristic designs require futuristic technologies, and the design duo have come up with just that. The breakthrough method involves six axis robotic arms that stretch Lycra sleeves into the desired form, which are then filled with a concrete fiberglass mixture.

Though its use is yet to be seen on a large scale, the benefits are expected to be considerable on the industry. As we see more parametric designs in architecture, traditional methods of construction just don’t cut the bill. In parametricism, there’s a big need for variation. Dramatic forms can be created by digitally altering a set of variables in the design stage. If conventional methods were to be used to produce such forms, each unique shape in the design would require a unique mold. Once the mold is used it is devoid of function, making it costly process that’s also labour intensive.

This concrete casting concoction is much more suitable for the job; with ease of production, the fabric allows users to create a variety of shapes without manufacturing a new mold every time. This has great implications such as lessening construction time, lessening construction cost, as well as lessening construction waste, as the Lycra material is simply stripped away and reused once the concrete is cured.

With such a technique, the floodgates could be opened for designs that, with conventional methodology, were previously unfeasible. Designers would be released from the necessity of repetitive design. Sarafian, who carried out the Fabric Forms project at the University of California, sees the casting method being scaled up to create unique building façade elements, or perhaps even being used as the primary structure of a building.

Could this be the future of construction? It certainly has the credentials. 

Photo credits:  
Header image Photo credit: conarcist via Foter.com / CC BY-NC
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