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CENTER FOR BUILDING RESEARCH Full-Grown Architecture Exploring Ecological Architecture Through Digital Design Methods and Digital Fabrication Thesis Report July 2016 Supervisor: Jan Buthke Student: Mathias Højfeldt Nielsen 2011218 +45 24 23 17 08 Master’s degree programme Studio Digital Transformation Aarhus School of Architecture



CONTENTS ABSTRACT INTRODUCTION - Research - Ecological Architecture - Research - Digital Fabrication - Research - Extract and Compile

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ABSTRACT The focus of this thesis project is to explore the possibilities of combining digital and ecological design methodologies in an approach towards a solution to reduce the impacts of human caused climate changes. The building industry is one of the larger emitters of CO2 on a global scale; in the process from excavation of building materials to deconstruction of buildings, huge amounts of energy and chemicals are used. The core values of ecological architecture and design is the understanding of the natural world we live in and why it is crucial to coexist on every level to eventually survive. In this thesis, I hypothesize that by introducing a new fabrication system of building elements, where the concept of planting, growing, and harvesting facade elements is of primary focus, one possible solution to minimizing human negative impact on our climate is given. By proposing a facade element fabricated with living plant material, embodied CO2 levels are drastically reduced and equally important, the fabrication process produces O2 - clean air. The design and fabrication concept of the facade elements derives from the botanical principle of leaching, grafting, and shape-bending plants into a desired geometry. Through the physical phenomena of plant tissues fus-

ing over time, the full grown facade elements become an integrated and durable system. Tree shaping uses living trees and other plants as the medium to create structures and art. There are a different methods used to shape and manipulate trees, which share a common heritage with other horticultural and agricultural practices, such as pleaching, bonsai, espalier, and topiary. Tree shaping has been practiced for at least several hundred years, as demonstrated by living root bridges constructed and maintained by ancient cultures around the world. The qualities of the full grown facade system are not limited to absorbing and sequestering CO2 and emitting O2, the elements also provide controllable shading values, strong integrated joints, variable expression from season to season, and they offer intriguing aesthetic complexity with vegetation that can increase the well-being of human. The hypothesis is being explored through research and investigations of every step of the novel building element; from digitally designing the geometry, simulating the embedded properties, planting the elements, digital manipulation and fabrication, to finally implementing the system in a building scale.



INTRODUCTION During the last few decades, it has become clear that changes are needed to avoid a climate tipping point, a threshold for abrupt and irreversible change. Recently, United Nations gathered to a conference in Paris (COP21)1 where the global pact, called the Paris Agreement was settled between all 195 participating countries. The agreement is counted as the most successful accomplishment in the climate change debate. But the fact that the world is willing to change, is nothing new. Recent evolution in the field of technology and energy consumption shows a clear approach towards a more environmental friendly mind-set in the industrialized and digitalized world. Through the past decade, technological breakthroughs have appeared in droves and environmental concern and awareness amongst the everyday man have increased.

“No one on this planet is going to be left untouched by the impacts of climate change” Rajendra K. Pachauri – Chairman of IPCC 2002-2015

Ecological design has been defined by Sim Van der Ryn (architect and ecologist) as “any form of design that minimizes environmentally destructive impacts by integrating itself with living processes.”2 In the second half of the 20th century, technological change and a rapidly expanding human population have interfered with natural systems to an extent never seen before. As a counter result, interest in ecology has increased to become a key part in research and science. An ecological building is a structure that is designed to create and sustain mutually beneficial relationships with all of the elements of its local ecology. A building’s local ecology, or environment, is made up of particular physical and biological elements and their interactions. Ecological design is naturally site-sensitive. The location of a building has a direct impact on its performance. The local ecology of the site, its gradient, orientation, and exposure provide specific conditions, while the regional climate offers a more general context for design.

as looking more deeply into the actual reality of humanity’s relationship with the natural world. Age of the Digital We also live in a time where technology is predominant and digital breakthroughs are occurring frequently. Since the Digital Revolution took place between the 1950´s and the 1970´s, society has begun shifting from analog, mechanical and electronic technology to a more dominating digital technology. Through digitalization, many procedures have become more optimized with regards to invested time, cost, energy consumed, etc. The presence of the Digital Age is becoming more and more evident as time and evolution progresses. The demand for higher efficiency can not be matched by manual workforce, the quality and abilities of digitalized methods keep increasing rapidly. In architecture and construction, the demand for innovation and technological progress can be regarded equally to the global progression. New knowledge and technology characterizes the industry and pushes it towards more digital approaches. The Digital Fabrication Revolution (proposed by Neil Gershenfeld, professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT) is based on the potential of these new technologies to allow the fabrication of complex objects and structures that manual labour would find overly time-consumning or impossible. The digital fabrication movement has made it possible to convert data into things and things into data.3 The beginning of the Fabrication Revolution dates back to 1952, when researchers at MIT succeeded in connecting an early digital computer to a milling machine creating the first numerical controlled machine tool.4 This method allowed production of components that would have been shaped too complex for manual fabrication.

The term “ecological architecture” recalls the 1970´s “deep ecology” movement, which also brought sustainable design to attention. The deep ecology movement derives from the oil and energy crisis in the 1970’s, when petroleum levels ran low, affecting major industrial countries across the globe. The shortage forced innovation and the mind-set started to change amongst people towards solutions less dependent on fossil fuels. Deep ecology’s core principle is the belief that the living environment as a whole should be respected and regarded as having certain inalienable legal rights to live and flourish, independent of its utilitarian instrumental benefits for human use. It describes itself as “deep” because it regards itself 1 29/01/16 2  Van der Ryn, S & Cowan, S (1996). “Ecological Design”. Island Press, p18

3  Gershenfeld, Neil (2012). “How to Make Almost Anything.” p44 4  Gershenfeld, Neil (2012). “How to Make Almost Anything.” p43



“The first law of ecology is that everything is related to everything else” Barry Commoner – Ecologist and founder of the modern environmental movement



RESEARCH - ECO ARCHITECTURE What is ecology? When was ecology introduced to the industries? Why is ecological thinking necessary? Ever since the Industrial Revolution accelerated in the early 19th century and manufacturing shifted from manual labour to machine production, the need of raw materials has increased drastically. The use of machinery and new mechanical breakthroughs rapidly increased the demand on natural resources such as fossil fuels etc. Evidently, this revolution and continuing evolution up until now has resulted in dramatic environmental changes. In its Fourth Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of 1.300 independent scientific experts from countries all over the world under the auspices of the United Nations, concluded there is a more than 90% probability that human activities over the past 250 years have warmed our planet. The industrial activities that our modern civilization depends upon have raised atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from 280 parts per million to 400 parts per million in the last 150 years. The panel also concluded there is a better than 90 percent probability that human-produced greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have caused much of the observed increase in Earth’s temperatures over the past 50 years. (In 2014, IPCC updated the report, underlining that it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of observed warming since 1950, with the level of confidence having increased since the fourth report.)1 The IPCC´s role in the global political discussion is to generate concrete and factual data functions both as guidelines and recommendations in order to prevent any further damaging changes to the environment and climate we live in. If climate change is allowed to rapidly evolve with the same pace as previously, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment state that climate change is likely to become one of the most significant factors of biodiversity loss by the end of the 21st century. Climate change is already forcing various species to adapt either through shifting habitat, changing life cycles, or developing new physical traits.2 Barry Commoner (biologist and politician) was a leading ecologist and among the founders of the modern environmental movement. In 1971, Barry Commoner wrote The Closing Circle - Nature, Man and Technology, in which he discusses rapid growth of industry and technology and their persistent effect on all forms of life. He proposed that it is possible to reduce the negative effect by sensitizing, creating awareness and educating ourselves about our connection to the natural world. Barry Commoner 1 28/01/16 2 28/01/16

summarized his basics of ecology into what he termed “laws of ecology.”3 The laws navigate through studies and understanding of the relationships and mutuality found in local communities and ecosystems. Furthermore, it is explained that humankind is only one member of the biotic community and that people are shaped and nurtured to the characteristics of the land. • Everything is connected to everything else. Summed up, this first law states that all things are interconnected to each other in some way, sometimes in very obvious ways, and sometimes in very complex and indirect ways. Some examples would be food chains and the relationship between predators and preys. • Everything has to go somewhere. This law is dealing with the fact that Earth is a closed system (energy is able to enter and exit but matter doesn’t enter or leave). Everything that is on Earth will remain on Earth unless it gets externalized (E.g. ejected into Space). This fact has become increasingly clear as we attempt to deal with the waste that we produce every day. Natural systems deal with animal waste and recycles everything. • Nature knows best. Nature is always changing. Ecological succession and evolution is nature’s way to adapt and optimize the properties of its species to the ever changing environment. • There is no such thing as a free lunch. Put in words by Aldo Leopold (author and ecologist); “we abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” Exploitation of nature will inevitably involve the conversion of resources from useful to useless forms. Everything we eat, wear, and use during our lifetime has an environmental cost. • Everything has limits. For many years, it was the general assumption that there were no limits and end to what could be taken and consumed from the Earth; there were always more fish in the sea, more trees to cut ... We now realize that this is not true. Renewable resources can be replaced if conditions are suitable and time is plenty. These resources will continue to be available only if they are replaced faster than they are being used. During this thesis projects, a research was conducted with focus on what kind of possibilities and approaches that are present and beneficial to architecture and design from an ecological point of view. Next page will be an extract of the research phase, and will highlight the primary source of inspiration for the further conceptual development. The entire research including secondary conceptual inspiration are included as appendix. 3  Commoner, Barry (1971), ”The Closing Circle - Nature, Man and Technology” Alfred A. Knopf

• Baubotanik - the use of living plants in a construction. • New Pastoralism - to fuse nature and urbanity in a symbiotic state. Included as appendix: • Recycling - to treat or process used materials so as to make suitable for reuse. • Renewable Resources - to replenish. • Biomimicry - the mimicking of life using imitation of biological systems. • Adaptation - a form or strucmodified to fit a changed environment.




The Footbridge - Ferdinand Ludwig and Oliver Storz - 2005 - Wald, Germany

BAUBOTANIK The term “Baubotanik” stands for a basic approach to engineering with living plants. It is a construction method that provides a technique to let buildings arise out of the interoperation of technical joining and vegetable growth. For this purpose, living and nonliving structural details are joined in a way they can grow together into a botanical and technical compound structure: Single plants merge into a new and bigger overall organism and technical elements are included into the vegetable structure during the period of growth.1 Baubotanik derives from a reinterpretation of timber in construction. Timber buildings are regularly praised for their sustainability, as CO2 absorbed in the trees remain locked in the structure of the building. But what if it was possible to design and construct buildings that not only locked the CO2 in their build structure, but actively and continuously absorbed Carbon Dioxide, as they were kept as living organisms. Baubotanik is also called ‘Living Plant Constructions‘ and is inspired by the ancient art of tree shaping, where trees are guided into a new structure by pruning, bending, grafting, or weaving. Other than by human intervention, the structure can also occur in nature when trunks, roots, or branches in close proximity merge together. The fusion can occur within a single tree or neighboring trees of same or different species. As the branches, roots, or trunks grow, they apply increasing pressure on each other and friction between the two limbs occur. This, eventually causes the outer bark to slough off, leaving the inner tissue exposed and then allowing the vasculature of both trees to intermingle - joining their lifeblood. The process is named inosculation.2 Baubotanik is not only focusing on the qualities within the living plant, but is looking at the possibilities of adding other construction materials, such as metal, plastics, etc. Over time, as the plant ages, the fused joints continue to strengthen, providing further load bearing support.

structure is made out of 64 vertically and 16 diagonally bundle struts, each composed of 12-15 plants. This supporting structure is the base for a walkable platform in 2,5 meter height. The living supporting structure absorbs all the load exclusively and redirects it into the ground where the structure is anchored by the roots.4 Compared to timber constructions, living architecture continues to contribute in the cycle of the ecosystem; they combat soil erosion, absorb Carbon Dioxide, provide Oxygen, sustenance, shelter, and habitation. Living trees can reduce storm water runoff and naturally improve water quality through their roots. Furthermore, they can reduce the overall energy consumption of a building with their cooling shade. Because of the fact that the primary material in a baubotanik structure is a living organism, it is crucial to be true to the botanical rules of growth and work out design rules that correspond to the natural behavior of plants. “If you do not respect the rules of growth in your design, the plant structure will not grow as you want it to and it may even die.“ (Dr. Ferdinand Ludwig)

Not all tree species are suitable for this construction method. The ideal species must be flexible and vigorous with thin barks, such as willow, sycamore/plane tree, poplar, birch, and hornbeam. Dr. Ferdinand Ludwig (architect and PhD professor) and his team has designed and constructed a number of ‘living constructions‘ and over the past years, they have invented a system to maintain the structures if rot and other malfunctions appear. Through selective replanting and technical adaptations, the system is focused on the ability to cut back and replant certain amount of trees without affecting the overall vitality of the structure. This system of redundancy allows losses of up to 30% of the trees without any adverse effects.3 The Footbridge by Dr. Ferdinand Ludwig was realized as an experimental building in 2005. Its simple vegetable-technical structure demonstrates the conceptual as well as the constructive approach of the Baubotanik. The 1 14/02/2016 2 14/02/2016 3 14/02/2016

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Bosco Verticale - Stefano Boeri Architetti - 2014 - Milan, Italy

NEW PASTORALISM “In today’s increasingly virtual environments, Vitruvius’ delight seems to have become less physically relevant, yet we need physical delight and natural engagement more than ever to help balance body and mind. The facade in architecture has become too important; the slick surface detailing of Renzo Piano’s glass ‘Shard’ [...] in London reveal a mechanical animosity. In ancient times we would have been able to delve, move, touch and pass through surfaces, but these seem to reflect and reject us.”1 According to Marta Pozo Gil (head of Sustainability Department, MVRDV), humans have delegated their quality of life to technology and consumerism, degrading the former prominent role of nature as quality enhancer. We now spend most of our leisure time indoors. This retreat indoor is a new trend that alienate us from nature. The separation from nature is also evident in art. After the Middle Ages, nature was the primary source of inspiration and research. Artists, thinkers, and writers from the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and Impressionism showed through their painting and words a harmonious interaction in between nature and humans. This mutual relationship was to break down in the 20th century, as highlighted at the art scene where non-representational and abstract works became evident.2 A contradiction appears when humans become urbanists, they tend to seek to nature. Nature-based experiences are widely popular and is a thriving tourist-industry, but as people seek to these destinations in hordes, the authenticity is lost. The current strategy of developing urban areas, city scapes, and mega structures while ignoring nature to a certain degree has proven unsuccessful, resulting in global warming, dangerous levels of pollution, deforestation, and so on.

ings, land, and nature, creating intriguing and interesting mixes of landscape and building functions. When MVRDV initiated the design of the Autarkic City for the World Horticultural Expo Floriade 2022 in Almere, they asked the question: “Can ecology and urbanization come together to create self sufficient societies?“ MVRDV’s plan is not a temporary expo pavilion, but a lasting green city. The design consists of a grid of gardens on a 45 hectare square shaped peninsula, where each cell will be devoted to different plants to create a plant library. The cells are also devoted to different programmes, ranging from homes to a stacked botanical garden that functions as a university - a vertical ecosystem where each classroom will have a specific climate to grow different species of plants.3 Bosco Verticale by Stefano Boeri Architetti is a model for a sustainable residential building, a project for metropolitan reforestation that contributes to the regeneration of the environment and urban biodiversity. The project is composed of two residential towers of 110 m and 76 m height. It is situated in the centre of Milan, and hosts some 900 trees (each measuring three, six or nine meters tall) and over 2000 plants from a wide range of shrubs and floral plants that are distributed in relation to the facade’s position towards the sun. On flat land, each Bosco Verticale tower equals, in amount of trees, an area of 7000 m2 forest. The vegetal system of the Bosco Verticale aids in the establishment of a microclimate, produces humidity, absorbs CO2 and dust particles and produces Oxygen.4

Urban nature is constantly competing against developments whose revenues are easier to quantify, therefore interest in bringing true natural environments back into the city scape remains poor. With creative and innovative solutions and approaches this tension could be shifted towards a greater mutual beneficial relationship. Slowly, strategies with focus on bringing the man-made urbanism together with the natural environment is being developed. But the question remains: “Where and when can we create spaces for animal and plants to develop among humans? Some architecture firms and architects have invested time and resources in developing architectural proposals and urban strategies trying to answer this problem. MVRDV has established a sustainability department focusing on the growing ambitions for ‘green‘ cities and how to implement nature in the urban landscape. Thinking of the city as the habitat for all living species, and not only people. This strategy can establish a greater symbiotic relationship between build1  Titman, Mark - “The New Pastoralism“ - Architecture and Design, 2013, no. 223 2  Castle, Helen - “The New Pastoralism“ - Architecture and Design, 2013, no. 223

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ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion 2013 - Winding Test


fabrication [...] is an evolving suite of capabilities to turn data into things and things into data� Neil Gershenfeld - professor at MIT



INTRODUCTION - DIGITAL FABRICATION What is digital design and fabrication in architecture? Why is digital architecture beneficial? The increasing diversification of computers and advanced digital modeling software has enabled architects to conceive and construct designs that previously would have been too complex and time consuming to develop using traditional and analogue methods. With the development of numerus Computer-Aided Design software (CAD) and other similar packages and Computer-Aided Manufacturing technologies (CAM), the opportunities for architects to develop and manufacture ideas and concepts are almost limitless. All though, CAD and CAM processes are relatively new in the architectural industry, the industrial manufacturing industry has used these technologies for over 50 years in development and fabrication of cars, boats, airplanes, and smaller consumer goods.1 Architects have been drawing digitally for nearly 30 years. CAD software have made 2D-drawing efficient, easy to edit, and simple to do. Yet for many years, as the process of making drawings shifted from being analog to digital, the design of architecture did not really reflect the change - one form of 2D representation just replaced another. As stated by Lisa Iwamoto (architect and professor at UC Berkley): “CAD replaced drawing with a parallel ruler and lead pointer, but buildings looked pretty much the same. [...] It took three-dimensional computer modeling and digital fabrication to energize design thinking and expand the boundaries of architectural form and construction.“2 An early team to embrace this digital transformation was Frank Gehry and his office. Gehry’s office began using CAD/CAM processes in 1989 to develop and then test the ability to construct the building system of the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Initially, physical handmade models were reverseengineered using a digitizer (analog-to-digital converter) to import the coordinates of the model’s surface into a 3D digital environment. For the purpose of modeling the entire exterior surface of the building, Gehry’s team adapted a software from the aerospace industry, CATIA (Computer Aided Three Dimensional Interactive Application). The office successfully produced cut-stone mock-ups, using tool paths for computer controlled milling machines derived from digital surface models. In other words, the digital model was translated directly into a physical form by using the digitally driven machines that basically sculpted the stone through a subtractive fabrication method (removing material). This building method revealed that the complexities and uniqueness of surface geometries did not significantly affect the fabrication cost. Furthermore, the building contributed in the realization of the fact that it now had become possible to fabricate unique building pieces at the same cost and time (almost) as mass manufactured parts. 3 1  Dunn, Nick (2012), “Digital Fabrication in Architecture“, Laurence King, p20 2  Iwamoto, Lisa (2009) “Digital Fabrications“, Princeton Architectural Press p5 3  Iwamoto, Lisa (2009) “Digital Fabrications“, Princeton Architectural Press p6

The digital process has facilitated a greater fluidity between design generation, development, and fabrication than in traditional analog approaches. The potential to make things directly from design information has precipitated a transformation in design disciplines, as it allows designers and architects to engage with the entire process from concept to final product in an unprecedented manner. Digital design methods and digital fabrications has opened up to a new world for architects and designers giving them the opportunity to embrace digital technology on every stage of an architectural proposal. Next page will be an extract of the research phase, and will highlight the primary source of inspiration for the further conceptual development. The entire research including secondary conceptual inspiration are included as appendix. • Robotic fabrication Included as appendix: • Cutting fabrication • Subtractive fabrication • Additive fabrication



ABB IRB 6620 6-axis Industrial Robot - AAA

ROBOTIC FABRICATION “Robotics over the next few years will without a doubt become a game changer for the entire construction industry. Greater mechanization both on- and off-site will enable manual labour to be minimized, as a means of achieving greater efficiencies and cost savings. This makes it a crucial period of transition for architecture.“1 Industrial robots are distinguished by their diversity. Just like computers, they are suitable for a broad range of tasks because they are ‘generic‘ and not tailored to do any specific job. Instead of being restricted in their operations, the ability to ‘programme‘ a robot to do any job is almost limitless. Their material manipulation skills can be customized to suit any specific constructive intention. It is exactly this quality that distinguish robotic fabrication from any other sort of specialised digital fabrication machine - e.g. laser cutter, 3D printer, etc. The robotic fabrication method is challenging the scale of digital fabrication. An example of a robotic fabricated design in a building scale is the Gantenbein Vineyard facades by Gramazio & Kohler in 2006. The project explored the possibilities of the use of robots in an additive process at full scale by demonstrating the non-standardized assembly of a large number of single bricks.2 Following this project, the architects intensified their exploration and their research let them to various robotic approaches ranging from pre-fabricated assembly to direct use of robots on the construction site. Gramazio & Kohler’s project from 2011 Flight Assembled Architecture demonstrates that ultimately future robotic fabrication is capable of surpassing previous scales of digital fabrication. In this project, several autonomously flying quadrocopters (drones) were employed to collaboratively assemble over 1.500 porous bricks.

lenge yourself.“3 Because of the fact that robots initially were produced and intended for industrial use, such as in the automotive industry, the programming and preparation of a manoeuvre is actually intended for repetitive tasks on an assembly line and not complex, multiple actions as typically required from architects and designers.4 Nonetheless, robots are rising in popularity: Since 2010, the demand for industrial robots has accelerated considerably due to the ongoing trend toward automation and the continued innovative technical improvements of industrial robots. Between 2010 and 2014, the average robot sales increase was at 17% per year (CAGR). The number of robot installations had never increased so heavily before. Between 2005 and 2008, the average annual number of robots sold was about 115,000 units. Between 2010 and 2014, the number rose to about 171,000 units. This is an increase of about 48% and a clear sign of the significant rise in demand for industrial robots worldwide.5

Robots are capable of complex procedures and, in contrast to other digital fabrication methods, which are relatively more constrained and fixed in their movements, mainly because of the machine’s bed or the equipment’s own dimensional constraints. Robots are flexible because of their ability to work in a non-cubic space and their ability to self-orientate the position in relation to the object being worked upon. Furthermore, the tools available and possible to use as the robot’s ‘hand‘, also referred to as the ‘end effecter’, are nearly limitless. The possibility of the tools opens up to endless of experiments and approaches, as put in words by Robert Aish (Director of Software Development at Autodesk): “Tools embody conceptual knowledge. Harnessing tools may relieve the designer of some physical and mental effort, but may also allow or suggest the acquisition of new conceptual knowledge. Therefore, never be limited by the available tools. Think beyond the tool. Tools should challenge the designer. The designer should challenge the tools. Become your own tool builder. Chal1  Castle, Helen - “Made by Robots“ - Architecture and Design, 2014, no. 229 2 16/02/2016

3  Castle, Helen - “Experimental Green Strategies“ - Architecture and Design, 2011, no. 214, p27 4 17/02/2016 5 17/02/2016 21


Local sourcing Plant nusery Rabbit WeaverBird Kangaroo Adapative to seasons




Symbiosis nature













SUBTRACTIVE CNC milling/routing



Rapid prototyping

PLA 3D print


EXTRACT AND COMPILE Moving on from the research and data collection phase, information is extracted to find a path to navigate along in the process of generating an architectural proposal for an ecological and digitally designed and fabricated Center for Building Design. The ECOLOGICAL ASPECT of this Master’s thesis will primarily be through the concepts and visions of Baubotanik (Living Plants Construction). Secondarily, other typologies will support the project; biomimicry, adaptation, renewable resources, and the idea of new Pastoralism. The secondary typologies are all in someway naturally connected to the idea of Baubotanik: • Biomimicry - by allowing parts of a building construction to remain in its natural living state, is the optimal mimic of natures properties. Instead of bringing the material to a dead state, keeping it alive will allow it to continuously contribute to the local and global ecosystem. Furthermore, biomimicry is about finding properties in nature, and adapt it to technologies. Plants have a natural integrated air-purifying system, shading system, and cooling system that will be beneficial for a building in terms CO2 footprint, sun radiation, heat gain, etc.

to be informed with numerous rapid tests and iterations to evaluate and move forward without being limited by time consuming analogue processes. • Algorithms - with the ability to use algorithmic growth patterns occurring in the natural world through digital simulations, can help inform the project on how a living construction will evolve over time. Furthermore, it will inform the project in what way it is possible to manipulate the constructions before break point or over-manipulation. • Performance analysis - with the tools available, it is possible to integrate energy analysis and alike early in the design process, informing the project and help develope the proposal in a credible and efficient way. The DIGITAL FABRICATION ASPECT of this Master’s thesis will primarily be on exploring the possibilities of integrating the robotic approach in baubotanik. Secondarily, other digital fabrication methods will be used throughout the project development, both as means of fabricating scale models and tests, but also as fabrication methods intended for the construction of the full scale Center for Building Research.

• Adaptation - as the construction material is in its living state, it will change properties and appearance over seasons and years, altering the quality and perception of the overall structure. During summer with intense sun light, the leafs of the living plants will provide shade, and during winter when sun light is scarce, there will be no leafs and sun light will pass through the structure and enter the building. • Renewable - a renewable resource is an organic natural material which can replenish to overcome usage and consumption, either through biological reproduction or other naturally reoccurring processes. The fact that the material in the concept of baubotanik is kept in its living state and part of an ecosystem, will minimize the need for using ‘dead’ material and, therefore, not contribute to the release of CO2 into the environment. Furthermore, the plants used in the construction will either be sourced locally or grown in a local plant nursery. • New Pastoralism - the idea of integrating nature and urbanism in a greater symbiosis. By introducing living plants to the building construction, you introduce nature to the built environment. The sensation of the living material and the green perception during spring and summer, can leave the user with a greater sense of connection with nature. The DIGITAL DESIGN ASPECT of this Master’s thesis will primarily be on digital modelling and simulations, mathematical algorithms occurring in nature, and performance analysis. • Digital modelling and simulations - as a tool to investigate and test conceptual ideas. Through simulation, it is possible to run success-or-fail tests to verify further development. Digital modelling allows the process 23











Currently trees are grown for 40+ years before beginning the post- constructed, the timber is transported to a factory where it is processed processing. At each phase of this process, the wood is transformed into into planks, then stored and dried in large kilns, then the big timber planks ROADS AND isTRANSPORTATION TIMBER PROCESSING BUILDING a newFELLING stage, accumulatingBUILDING energy usage. First stage felling down are processed into smaller pieces, and finally the pieces are joined together the trees, disturbing natural habitat, access-roads and transportation are creating objects.









Introducing the process of growing building elements can drastically decrease the Carbon Dioxide footprint by reducing the stages and energy usage required in a fabrication process. When planting the element, the process of fabricating the final pieces will produce Oxygen, and more



importantly, absorb Carbon Dioxide. The post processing and assembly stages will be minimized because of the fact that the element i constructed/grown in a fully integrated system.








THE PRODUCTION OF BUILDING MATERIALS IS ACCOUNTABLE FOR ATLEAST 10-15 % OF THE GOLBAL CO2 EMISSION. • 8-10 % of the global CO2 emission is • The production and usage of concrete in the related to production of industrial concrete building industry is almost equal to the globwith added cement. al CO2 emission in private households (10 %). • Production of steel and aluminium • The industry, including building material accounts for 4 % of the global CO2 emis- industries, is accountable for 35 % of the sion. global electricity usage. The industrial activities that our modern civilization depends upon have raised atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from 280 parts per million to 400 parts per million in the last 150 years. It has been concluded that there is a better than 90 percent probability that human-produced greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have caused much of the observed increase in Earth’s temperatures over

the past 50 years. (In 2014, IPCC updated the report, underlining that it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of observed warming since 1950, with the level of confidence having increased since the fourth report.)12 3 1 28/01/16 2  Minter, Micahel - “Bygningens klimapåvirkning” - CONCITO - 27/02/2014 3  Hammond, Geoff - “Inventory of Carbon and Energy” - University of BATH 08/2015

151 g CO2


6.03 kg CO2


8.24 kg

860 g


1 kg GLASS

6.15 kg

1.07 kg



530 g

2.61 kg









Embodied CO2 per kg processed building material



12 kg

115 kg



5.500 kg

42.000 km



4000 sqm FOREST


4000 sqm FOREST

7.200 kg

260 kg




Yearly O2 and CO2 assessments


CO2 CAN BE NEUTRALIZED BY TREES • 100 tons of CO2 can accumulate in 4000 • Trees act as natural pollution filters by m2 of forest over time. absorbing pollutants through the stomates in leaf surfaces • Each Dane generates approximately 7.2 tons of CO2 per year. • A single young tree can absorb 12 kg of CO2 per year. • Managed forests accumulate more carbon per hectare than unmanaged forests. • CO2 is stored in the tissue of the tree until it is deconstructed to its elements (e.i. burned) • A single tree can absorb CO2 at a rate of 50 kg per year.

4000 M2 OF TREES ABSORBS ENOUGH CO2 OVER ONE YEAR EQUAL TO THE AMOUNT PRODUCED BY DRIVING A CAR 42.000 KM The current level of CO2 is thought to be the highest in 20 million years, and scientists are working on solutions to capture and safely contain atmospheric carbon. One approach, “terrestrial sequestration”, involves the simple planting of trees. A tree absorbs carbon during photosynthesis and stores it in the wood for the life of the tree. The massive trunk of an

ancient oak or redwood represents many tons of sequestered carbon.123 1 2 3 31











Fabrication of the building elements will happen in a cycle. From sourcing seeds or newly plant shoots locally, to planting them in growing devices, to growing them and manipulating them into shape, to trimming and looking after proper growth, to harvesting, to postprocessing, and finally to implementing the elements in a construction. The

excess plant material will be fed into the cycle again, adding to the fabrication process. The fabrication will be a continuously process, starting over as the plants move on to a new phase. This is to ensure a flowing fabrication.












After local sourcing, the young plants will be planted in the exterior plantation. When the branches have reached required properties, they will be moved to individual growing devices. When time is right, the plants are moved on to an interior LAB represent-



ing next phase, ensuring a continuously flow of the fabrication. As any other fabrication-system relaying on natural resources, such as wineries, fruit plantations, etc. a start-up period of several years is expected before the first final product can be introduced.









The manipulation process takes place in different phases. After the seeds have been planted in the local plantation, the young branches are introduced to individual plant boxes, then the grow environments are implemented and the plants are guided into place. The technique of fu-

sion and grafting is taking place determined by the design. The plants are attached within the growing device, keeping them in place while they grow and settle before being harvested.
















The proposed building element will function as a facade element with a variety of different properties. The primary scale that has been investigated is the one of panel scale measuring approximately 1000mm * 800mm * 300mm. The scale is determined by the amount of time for one panel to reach its final stage - the larger the scale, the more time consuming the whole fabrication process would be. Two overall types of facade panels are proposed; a “living” panel and a “dead” panel. The living panel posses different inherent qualities compared to the dead panel: Seasonal changes in the structure will occur providing greater density during spring and summer time, and less density during fall and

Traditional fabrication

winter. As the panel is kept living, the organic tissue will slowly keep increasing in diameter, and therefore a yearly change will occur, as well, until it is determined that the panel is converted into a “dead” panel. Properties applicable for both panel types are the possibility of geometrical variation, changes in degree of branch/material manipulation, integrated structural properties, and shading properties. Furthermore, one of the main assets with full grown facade elements, is the fact that no joining between branches/objects is needed. Compared to traditional fabrication, where multiple pieces are joined together with external elements and the risk of decreasing stability is high as time passes, the full grown facade element has no need of external objects - branches/ pieces fuse together over time, creating an interlocked and durable connection point and extra effort, and eventually, extra energy, is not necessary.

Full-grown fabrication





























High density facade panels

Low density facade panels














No facade panels

The primary function of the facade elements is to act as a complex and variable shading screen ultimately lowering the overall energy consumption of the building implemented in. It is proposed that a range of designs are digitally generated creating a suite of panels with different shading properties accommodat-

ing specific needs according to the path of the sun and the internal programmatic layout of the building. The digital designs are being fabricated resulting in a final product consisting of endless minor variations (due to the fact that the panel is grown from organic and living material) of approximately 10 different panel densities ranging from 20% to 90% closed area. A specific density is implemented according to the specific need of the building. Through solar analysis, the effect of the different panel density is evident on the overall radiation in a generic South facing room; higher panel density results in less direct sun light allowed into the room. In comparison, a room with no panel shading tends to become overexposed. Furthermore, the nature of the 3-dimensional complexity of the panel is advantageous when exposed to varying angles of sun light: The intense sun at a high degree on the sky is passing through more solid matter in the panel resulting is less light in-flow. The low intense sun light at a low degree on the sky passes through the panel with less obstacles and more light is allowed into the room.






The facade panel has structural properties as well. Since the harvested panel is 100% organic material, it will react to the changing climatic exterior conditions. Wood constructions and objects swell and contract as a reaction to the level of humidity in the air, and therefore the panel construction will experience some movement. Wood tends to expand and contract in the direction of the grain, and in traditional timber constructions with single direction construction, the structure can move up to several centimeters. But because of the fact that the proposed facade panels are constructed with a complexity of branches with grain running in countless directions, the movement in each branch is compensating for the movement in the adjacent, resulting in a neutralized structure where the movement due to temperature and humidity changes is minimal. The build up of a facade of the full grown facade elements requires a certain withstand to vertical loads that is exponential to the amount of panels stacked on top of each other. Because of the fact that each and every panel is fabricated to have the exact same anchor points in top and bottom, allows forces to move downwards in a fairly linear direction. Furthermore, the nature of the fabrication of the panels where primary branches with thicker diameter is connecting the top and bottom anchor points is suitable for receiving the vertical loads. The degree of complexity/density is also determining the ability of withstanding vertical loads; higher density results in less material deflection when applied vertical loads.

Structural analysis of low density grown element with an average point load of 200 N ( approx. 20 kg) The test reveals where the element is most likely to displace under maximum stress.

200 N 200 N

200 N

200 N

Structural analysis of medium density grown element with an average point load of 200 N ( approx. 20 kg) The test reveals where the element is most likely to displace under maximum stress.

200 N

200 N

200 N

200 N

200 N

200 N

200 N

200 N

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Structural analysisanalysis of highofdensity growngrown elementelement Structural high density with anwith average point load 200 of N (200 approx. 20 kg) 20 kg) an average pointofload N ( approx. The testThe reveals where the element is mostislikely test reveals where the element most likely to displace under maximum stress. stress. to displace under maximum 200 N 200 N

200200 NN

200200 NN

200NN 200

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200NN 200

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200 200 N N

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SALIX VIMINALIS Willow is a deciduous tree growing up to 6 metres at a fast rate. It is in flower from April to May, and the seeds ripen in June. The stems are very flexible. The plant is usually coppiced (cut down to near ground level) annually when grown for basket making etc., though it is possible to coppice it every two years if thick poles are required as uprights. In very good conditions, plants can put on 4 metres or more of new growth in a year when treated in this way. The annual yield can be around 12 tones per hectare. Succeeds in most soils, including wet, ill-drained or intermittently flood-

ed soils, but prefers a damp, heavy soil in a sunny position. Dislikes heavy shade and dry soils. Rarely thrives on chalk. As a fast growing tree, it is very wind resistant. The root system is rather aggressive and can cause problems with drains. Plants are best not grown within 10 metres of buildings. Seed must be surface sown as soon as it is ripe in late spring. It has a very short viability, perhaps as little as a few days. A very important food source for the caterpillars of many butterfly species, it is also a valuable early pollen source for bees. The plants are rich in insect life. It is noted for attracting wildlife.




















Trees grow in height as a result of meristems (the tissue in most plants in vascular plants) each year and as a result the trunk, branches and roots containing undifferentiated cells, found in zones of the plant where growth continue to increase in diameter. can take place) that are located at their branch tips. These meristems are 8.5 11.0 apical meristems. 11.5 Have you ever seen a fence wire or board grown into a tree? 7.5 called 12.5 Roots also expand through the soil by growing at their tips as a result of That is the result of the vascular cambium. The fence wire or board doesn't apical meristems. All buds that you see on a tree contain apical meristems. rise into the air because height growth doesn't occur out of the Trunk diameter growth occurs as a result of the vascular cambium. ground, it only occurs from the branch tip. BRANCH The vascular cambium produces new xylem and phloem (transport tissue BRANCH





Section through the trunk of a seven year old tree, showing relation of branches to main stem. Two branches were killed after a few years' growth by shading, and which have been overgrown by the annual rings of wood. Pith, or medulla, is a tissue in the stems of vascular plants. Pith is composed of soft, spongy parenchyma cells, which store and transport nutrients throughout the plant.





Fusion is a horticultural technique where branches in close proximity fuse together. It can arise within a single tree or neighboring trees of same or different species. Over time, as the limbs grow, they exert increasing pressure on each other, similar to the friction between two palm rubbed



Grafting or graftage is a horticultural technique whereby tissues from one plant are inserted into those of another so that the two sets of



together. This causes the bark to slough off, exposing the inner tissue and allowing the vasculature of both trees to intermingle - in essence, becoming a united system.



vascular tissues join together. This vascular joining is called inosculation.




The robotic assisted test is carried out to examine flexibility in living willow as material for shape manipulation. Properties of willow will be compared to classic “dead� material - timber stick. The use of the robot is to insure correct and precise pressure appliance and downwards motion on every test carried out. Willow branches tested with different diameters and lengths: 15 Timber sticks tested with different diameters and lengths: 13 53


DEFLECTION occurs off-center and off force impact point. This is the result of the varying diameters of the end points of the Willow branch. To the right in the test zone, the thick end is placed and to the left, the thin end is placed. This reveals the relation between deflection and diameter of the branch

650 mm

. STEP 01: 000mm STEP 02: 010mm STEP 03: 020mm STEP 04: 030mm STEP 05: 040mm STEP 06: 050mm STEP 07: 060mm STEP 08: 070mm STEP 09: 080mm STEP 10: 090mm STEP 11: 100mm STEP 12: 110mm STEP 13: 120mm STEP 14: 130mm STEP 15: 140mm STEP 16: 150mm STEP 17: 160mm STEP 18: 170mm STEP 19: 180mm STEP 20: 190mm STEP 21: 200mm

3 3 3 3 5 2 4 4 3 4 4 4 4 4 4 5 5 4 6 5

180 o

175 o

101 o

104 o

107 o

110 o

113 o

118 o

120 o

124 o

128 o

131 o

135 o

139 o

143 o

147 o

151 o

155 o

160 o

165 o

169 o For each step of 10 mm downwards length, the willow branch will deflect with an average of 3.95o In general, the highest deflection occurs when the branch is closest to its 55 rest position and the smallest deflection occurs when the branch is applied most stress.

BREAK POINT is reached in this test and all tests priorly conducted. The increase of lenght of timber stick and increase of distance between anchor points, resulted in delayed break point. Decreasing the dimensions, resulted in earlier fracture.

56 550 mm

STEP 01: 000mm STEP 02: 010mm STEP 03: 020mm STEP 04: 030mm STEP 05: 040mm STEP 06: 050mm STEP 07: 060mm STEP 08: 070mm STEP 09: 080mm STEP 10: 090mm STEP 11: 100mm STEP 12: 110mm STEP 13: 120mm STEP 14: 130mm STEP 15: 140mm STEP 16: 150mm STEP 17: 160mm STEP 18: 170mm STEP 19: 180mm STEP 20: 190mm

3 3 3 4

4 5 4 5 7

180 o

173 o

168 o

164 o

159 o










136 o

139 o

142 o

145 o

5 4


STEP 21: 200mm

150 o

154 o For each step of 10 mm downwards length, the timber stick will deflect with an average of 4.27o until it reaches its break point; in this test, at step 12. Beacuse of the fact that the timber stick is a dead material, it has dried up and its inherent flexibility has disappeared, to some degree, the wood stick reaches break point in every test carried out, 57 concluding that dead material is less flexible than living material.


Carrying out a material test, is essential to understand the properties of organic and living material in contrast to classical “dead� materials. By stress testing willow branches and comparing the results to regular timber sticks, informs you about the potentials of living plant material. To conclude on the tests, willow has a much higher degree of flexibility and is able to bend and twist into desired shapes before it reaches a critical point or breaks. These properties are essential when using living willow in the design/ manipulation process of the facade panels, where bending, twisting, and stress is applied to the branches in order to reach the result of the digital design. 59





The conceptual approach to the design of the facade panels derives from natural growth found in for instance the slime mold, Physarum polycephalum. This organism is an extremely effective forager capable of creating extensive and highly efficient networks between food sources. This single-celled creature, classified as a protist (eukaryotic organism), oozes its way across surfaces in search of bacteria, fungal spores, and other microbes to feed on. As it spreads and grows in search of food, it naturally organizes itself into a network of tube-like structures that quickly and efficiently connect its disparate food sources. Physarum maximizes its ability to find food by ‘remembering’ and strengthening the portions of its cytoplasm that connect to active food sources. By rhythmically contracting and expanding its body, Physarum is able to



move and grow its body in search of food. When it fails to find food or the food source dries up, Physarum retracts its cytoplasm, leaving behind a trail of slime - essentially marking which pathways are useful and which are dead-ends. By trimming back connections and maintaining only active pathways, Physarum uses the least amount of resources and energy possible while still creating a resilient and fault-tolerant system. Links between food sources are made covering the shortest possible distances, but are connected in such a way that a disruption in one area does not impact the overall health or efficiency of the slime mold’s network.




































The organic growth system is capable of moving and evolving in any sort of environment. When the growth occurs in nature, the evolution of the organism takes place on a surface or within a 3-dimensional object. In its search for attraction points/food sources, the Slime Mold spreads out and creates an interconnected network covering the entire surface area or object before it retracts revealing the most effective interconnection.


The nature of the organic growth system allows for seemingly chaotic and freely grown networks, but in fact, the system is based on logical algorithms and can be altered by controlling the environment and the anchor points/food sources - the result is a high level of unpredictable complexity while still obtaining large degrees of control.




Define Define growth growth environment/design environment/design spacespace Define Define startstart pts and pts anchor and anchor pts pts

Agent-based Agent-based modelling modelling of organic of organic growth growth Point-cloud Point-cloud

Interconnect Interconnect pts inptsproximity in proximity withwith line segements line segements Crv-network Crv-network

Join line Joinsegments line segments into polylines into polylines basedbased on a on a princip princip of connecting of connecting line Aline with A with line Bline which B which has an hasangle an angle closest closest to 900toto900thetoworld the world c-plane. c-plane. Repeat Repeat untiluntil no lines no lines to join. to join.

Sort Sort the joined the joined lineslines according according to thetosegements the segements connecting connecting startstart pt and pt anchor and anchor pt onpttop onXtop Y plane. X Y plane. Defining Defining primary primary branches. branches.

Defining Defining secondary secondary branches branches that that will undergo will undergo fusionfusion and grafting. and grafting.

Line B

Angle to C-plane

Clean up crv-network with a specific tolerance



Branching pt



World C-plane Logic based connection of line segments.

Line A

Apply mesh to crv-network with Cocoon through crv-charge



The organic growth system of the Slime Mold is translated into a digital agent-based stigmergy algorithm mimicking the properties of the natural organism. The algorithm is developed for Grasshopper as a series of components. The work is carried out by Ma Yidong, student at Tsinghua University, China. By segmenting the growth process into individual parts, the logic of the system can be explained: First of all, it is necessary to define a design space for the algorithm to run within. Then the definition is put together, and start points and anchor points are setup. The evolution of the algorithm can be altered by changing a broad range of parameters such as birth/death rate, escape settings, speed settings, guide settings, etc. When the simulation has run, the path between each agent can be traced, and a visual representation is output as a curve network representing the natural growth of the Slime Mold. By developing an algorithm that is able to clean up and join line segments into large pieces representing willow branches, allows us to define primary branches connecting start points with top anchor points and afterwards, secondary branches can be detected informing us about the position of external grafting. This algorithm is performed with a looping script that analyses each line

Input facade surface.

segment with the adjacent one and determines which one to join with based on a logic comparison to the relative angle of the line segment to the world c-plane - picking the one with the more vertical degree, as a representation of the primary branches running from bottom of panel to the top. Translating the digital simulation to a digital fabrication method is done with point of departure in the curve network - each connected curve represents either a primary branch or a secondary branch that is attached through grafting. Furthermore, the process of fusion between overlapping branches is present in the digital model through a system; when two curves intersect, a point is created in a X, Y, Z coordinate system. The position of the points is translated into a robotic action locking the position of the branches in order for the fusion to occur at the exact placement as in the digital model. The physical facade panel that is ready for implementation on a building scale is a result of pre-designed digital models (10 variations with different densities), that is translated into robotic fabrication (placed to precision in a growing mold), resulting in mass fabrication of full grown panels each with a slightly different expression than the other because of the natural state of the living material and the unpredictable growth extending the digitally designed model.

Subdivide facade in panel dimensions.

Extract specific panel.

Apply thickness to design space.

Specify start points and anchor points.

Run organic growth algorithm.

Interconnect point cloud with line segments.

Clean up line network with specific tolerance.

Apply mesh for visual output.


























Soil-box of reused timber Frame with rail for anchor-points Adjustable anchor-points

Extruded grid for guiding willow

A generic growth environment for the panels is developed. Constructed by recycled metals and timber, the device is also designed to be disassembled and re-used over and over. The device consists of a generic frame and beam

grid system, with movable anchor points (in case a custom order requires multiple connection nodes, etc.) The plant box is to ensure proper soil and root conditions for the panels in their growing state.

Customized tool that will guide and attach willow to mold Robotic assisted manipulation

The willow branches are planted and weaved in between the horizontal steel beam grid and attached with flexible place holders according to the

digital design. The fabrication is carried out by exterior terrain movable robots. Furthermore, the grafting and fusion is secured in the same process. 79


Drone assisted tending and trimming

Grow and settle for a few years

After being planted and the young willow branches have been put in place, the panels will grown and settle in their form for approximately 48 month. In this period, specialized drones will tend and take care of the panels re-

assuring the wellbeing and healthy state of the living plant material. The drones will carry out trimming when analyzed to be necessary.

Disassemble growing mold Robotic harvesting

When ready to be harvested, the panels with growing device arez transported to the interior facilities where the post process will begin. The growing device is being disassembled and reintroduced to a new panel

ready to be grown, and the panel is being harvested to precision reassuring the correct dimensions to fit in the building system.



By translating a specific curve generated digitally, the robot is informed with a toolpath mimicking the exact position of the digital willow branch.

Furthermore, the information contains X, Y, Z values about the position of grafting and fusion points in the panel. 83



kWh/m2 68.33 61.49 54.66 47.83 41.00 34.16 27.33 20.50

Solar Radiation Analysis Analysis period: May Shading type: None/Glazing

13.67 6.83 0.00

kWh/m2 2.60 2.34 2.08 1.82 1.56 1.30 1.04 0.78

Solar Radiation Analysis Analysis period: January Shading type: None/Glazing

0.52 0.26 0.00

kWh/m2 56.86 51.18 45.49 39.80 34.12 28.43 22.74 17.06

Solar Radiation Analysis Analysis period: August Shading type: None/Glazing

11.37 5.69 0.00

kWh/m2 42.56 38.30 34.05 29.79 25.54 21.28 17.02 12.77

Solar Radiation Analysis Analysis period: May Shading type: Full Grown Panels

The full grown facade panels offer a primary function as shading elements with varying properties. In order to asses where and why the certain panel types are needed in the process of implementing the system on a building scale, it is necessary to evaluate the context of the building and the specific values of that exact position and orientation. Through simulations of solar radiation values affecting the interior spaces of the building, a conclusion on where to place what type of panel density can be made. The decision of what panel to chose is also determined by an assessment of the adjacent programmatic content; does the program require large amounts of light inflow, are views to the exterior a priority, and so on. When analyzing the range of solar radiation simulations run in different seasons of the year, a quantitative conclusion can be drawn: Due to the orientation of the building with large and wide facades facing South/Southeast, the light inflow during the day and during the changing seasons is reaching large radiation values. In comparison, the North/ Northeast facing facades are limited to minor direct light inflow resulting in low radiation values.

8.51 4.26 0.00

An overall strategy for panel density: • Panels with high density is placed on South/Southeast facing facades to lower direct light in flow during the whole day and preventing interior overheating. • Panels with low density is placed on East/Northeast facing facades to increase light intake and raise solar radiation levels, naturally relieving these spaces from the accumulated colder night temperatures. • Panels with medium density is placed on Southwest/West facing facades to shield off the high and intense midday summer sun but also provide external views. • Panels with very low density is placed on facades facing North. As direct sun light is not an issue, views into the building is prioritized and the point of arrival and first impression of the building is in focus. All facades will be constructed by a mix of different panel types to accommodate specific needs on specific points on the/in the building. Facades facing the path of the sun will have a “living” panel introduced at specific places. The living panel will add to the shading value during spring and summer and will function as a green aesthetic addition to the intriguing facade. 87


Direction: Northwest Direction: Northwest Programme: Storage Programme: Storage Panel type: Mix.Mix. Medium density towards WestWest Panel type: Medium density towards LowLow density towards North to allow views in from exterior arrival density towards North to allow views in from exterior arrival

Direction: Direction: Southwest Southwest Programme: Programme: Classroom Classroom Panel Panel type: type: Mix.Mix. Increase Increase in density in density upwards upwards to shade to shade highhigh andand intense intense midday midday sunlight sunlight

Direction: South/Southwest Direction: South/Southwest Programme: Canteen Programme: Canteen Panel type: Mix.Mix. Increase in density towards WestWest Panel type: Increase in density towards to shade fromfrom lowlow afternoon sunlight. to shade afternoon sunlight. Lower density to allow views out out on the context andand plantation Lower density to allow views on the context plantation

Direction: South/Southeast Direction: South/Southeast Programme: Office Programme: Office Panel type: Increase in density Panel type: Mix.Mix. Increase in density upwards to shade intense upwards to shade highhigh andand intense midday sunlight. density to allow occasional views midday sunlight. LowLow density to allow occasional views out out

Direction: South/Southeast Direction: South/Southeast Programme: LABLAB - maturing Programme: - maturing Panel type: HighHigh density panels to shade sunlight Panel type: density panels to shade sunlight in order to betoable to controle in order be able to controle the the interior climate interior climate



Living panel. Green vegetation. Summer interior. Shading off larger amounts of direct light. 91


Living panel. No vegetation. Winter interior. Light deeper into room. Beneficial heating. 93


Fabrication post-process. Complex expression meets rigid structure. 95





Essentially, the panels are a building system that through connection points make up an entire facade. Each panel is constructed in a way that it can be joined together with the adjacent panel. By developing a generic joining-system and assuring that each panel is precisely grown to have exact starting points and anchor points, the connection between each panel is solved with a minor node keeping the visual transition between panels minimal. The node design is taking into consideration that the facade element is organic material and must therefor not be exposed to still standing water for a longer period of time. The design of the node is allowing water run off and prevents critical water collection.

Furthermore, the node is fabricated to be flexible to minor horizontal movement while still withstanding the pressure from vertical loads. Though, the whole concept is mass fabrication of a full grown facade element, the individuality of each panel is obvious. Despite the fact that every panel has the exact same starting and anchor points, does not have any influence on the complexity of the geometry that evolves within this design space. Furthermore, the fact that the facade element is grown from organic and living material, the natural behavior of each branch in each panel, will create another level of individuality in the expression.




400 mm

2 mm

20 mm

18 mm

20 mm


330 mm

1100 mm

Data sheet. Harvested “dead” panel.

900 mm



Willow Density

400 kg/m3

Panel Volume

0.0169 m3

Panel Weight

6.7 kg

Fabrication Time

48 month

Emitted O2

40 kg/year

Sequestered CO2

4 kg/year

Solid Area

45 %

Open Area

55 % * Estimated numbers


400 mm

2 mm

20 mm

18 mm

20 mm


330 mm

1100 mm


Data sheet. Harvested “living” panel.

900 mm



Willow Density

400 kg/m3

Panel Volume

0.0142 m3

Panel Weight

5.7 kg

Fabrication Time

48 month

Emitted O2

35 kg/year (continuous)

Sequestered CO2

3.8 kg/year (continuous)

Solid Area

50 %

Open Area

50 %

Watering Points

4 * Estimated numbers



NO HORIZONTAL CONNECTION To compensate for minor swell and movements due to temperature and humidity changes ADJACENT PANEL

VERTICAL CONNECTION Rigid Natural Rubber DOWEL 6 x 20 mm PIN 2 x 30 mm SUPPORT PROFILED WOOD END PIECE To allow water run off and prevent still standing water causing rot SUPPORT 10 x 20 mm

SEALING MEMBRANE To prevent water collection at exposed wood





The rigid rubber node is fabricated to be stiff and stable in vertical direction to withstand loads. Flexible in horizontal direction to absorb and tolerate minor movements in each panel.






The living panel is kept alive by an integrated watering system that collects rain water from the roof and has supplements added in order for the living tissue to get appropriate nutritions. In the fabrication phase, the living panels are grown to have additional anchor points in a horizontal direction. These branches will function as the supply points. Since every tissue in the panel has fused together over time, the panel is one integrated system that can be supplied with nutritions and water from any entry point. The system can be controlled; if faster and more dense vegetation is wanted, more watering sockets are attached, and vice versa. The watering system runs between the glazing and the panel, and with its transparent tubing and socket build up, another dimension of controlled complexity is added to the expression. The system consists of water collection tanks, primary water tubes, secondary water tubes, and flexible water sockets with a flexible sealing membrane.



TRANSPORTATION TUBE Secondary tubes are connected to a primary tube that collects rain water on roof

ROOT NETWORK IN WATER The water is mixed with healthy nutritions



SEALING MEMBRANE Flexible in order to attach to the irregular organic end-pieces of each panel



Roof detail

Slab detail

Foundation detail




11% of Denmark is covered by forest. The total forest area is around 480.000 ha. 69% on Jutland 31% on the islands 63% coniferous forests 37% deciduous forest. The most common tree in the coniferous forest is the Spruce covering an approximate area of 132.000 ha. In the deciduous forests, the most common tree is the Beech, covering an approximate area of 80.000 ha. The growth rate in the Danish forests is larger than the amount harvested.

Numbers show that Denmark has around 75.000.000m3 timber in the forests. Every year, an approximate amount of 2.000.000m3 is harvested, but the natural biological increase is around 5.000.000m3 leaving the total biomass increasing every year. The ownership of the Danish forests is split between private owners 46%, companies 26%, the state 23%, and other public institutions 5%1 1 24/02/2016

69% 31%


80.000ha BEECH

132.000ha SPRUCE

170.000ha 43.000ha OAK 13.000ha ASH

30.000ha OTHER 9.000ha MAPLE

34.000ha 273.000ha SITKA 12.000ha NOBILIS 28.000ha 15.000ha NORDMANN OTHER FIRS



220.000ha PRIVATE


100% 26% COMPANIES




72.000ha OTHER

120.000ha COMPANIES




ROSENHOLM FOREST 50% Deciduous 50% Coniferous forest 56°21’1.1” N, 56°19’31.1” S 10°17’53.5” W, 10°20’2.8” E 325ha Ownership: Private

LISBJERG FOREST Deciduous forest 56°15’10.1” N, 56°13’22.8” S 10°8’56.8” W, 10°11’28.3” E 280ha Ownership: 30% Private 70% Aarhus Municipality

RIIS FOREST Deciduous forest 56°10’59.2” N, 56°10’8.8” S 10°13’5.2” W, 10°14’3.5” E 80ha Ownership: Aarhus Municipality

MOLS BJERGE NATIONAL PARK Deciduous forest 56°18’9.4” N, 56°9’4” S 10°29’35.9” W, 10°42’37” E 18.000ha Ownership: 80% private 20% the State and Syddjurs Municipality

MARSELISBORG FORESTS Deciduous forest 56°8’19.7” N, 56°3’0.4” S 10°11’22.2” W, 10°16’8.8” E 1.300ha Ownership: Aarhus Municipality

Larger forest areas in Eastern Jutland








Forest areas in Aarhus 117


Aarhus Golf Club Public recreational golf club

MoMu a Danish regional museum dedicated to archaeology and ethnography

Danmarkslunden Memoriam grove where the public can plant a tree. Owned by Aarhus municipality

Aarhus University Moesg책rd Institute of Culture and Socierty Antropology Archeology


Moseg책rd Husene Private housing area

Moesg책rd Greenery Public plant nursery

Oddervej Direct connection to Aarhus centre in 14 min

Context around Moesg책rd 119



Manipulation Triming

Casting “Dead”



Plant Nusury Mock up



“Living” Wood



Constructing/ implementing



Meeting rooms



Event space


PUBLIC Lecture hall Sanitary


Situated in the natural context of Moesgaard, Center for Building Research is providing research and educational facilities in an effort to promote ecological full grown building elements. In addition, the Center houses the fabrication and commercial activities in conjunction with the processing of the full grown facade panel. The three main functions of the building (fabrication, research, education) is not single-standing programmes but are all sharing functions and facilities. All activities evolve around a central space connecting both physically and visually the entire building to the development and fabrication process of the ecological facade panel. The building is a joint venture between Aarhus municipality and the higher education facilities in Aarhus and a privately owned company. The Center will host public speaking and events with the intention to pro-

vide a broader and more general understanding of ecological buildings and building industries. Since the Center is as much the place for fabrication of the panels, it will also become the manifestation of the implementation of these new building elements - functioning as a large scale showcase.



FABRICATION Supporting research and fabrication Production of growing molds

Central space. Distributing users. Exhibition the work and research of the building


20-30 students/room Accesible for the higher educational institutions of Aarhus

Experimentation and research on plants and growing



100 m2

90 m2



300 m2


Accommodate lectures, public speakings, receptions, etc.


50 m2

130 m2

730 m2




105 m2

20 m2

Experimentation and research on micro level

2-8 people/room - transparent but soundproof to Mock Up

CANTINA 115 m2

Servicing the whole building

Accommodate researches, teachers, and builidng staff

Production line of grown ecological building elements

Accesible for public, students, and staff

The overall architectural intention with the building massing and design is reflecting the layout of the programmatic content and is a simplistic response to an overall ecological strategy, where facade area is minimized and volumes pushed away from the path of the sun accordingly to whether is houses human less activities or not - and so on. The Center is primarily constructed of timber and glass allowing full transparency to the natural context and the variety of functions in the building. It has been taken into consideration that thermal mass and insulation is of great importance, and as a result, the North facing facades are primarily constructed of solid structure in a fully insulated cassette system, where as the facades facing the sun is responding to these changing conditions by integrating appropriate full grown facade panels.

of interconnection between functions and relation to need of sun or shade, views or no views, connection to plantation or arrival point, etc. The simplicity of the building design is allowing full attention to the expressiveness of the complex full grown facade panels, highlighting these novel building elements. The Center is directly connected to the five hectare large plantation that is segmented into smaller areas of specific panel growth all supervised and maintained by terrain robots and drones equipped with appropriate dock-in station for recharging and storage. The plantation is public accessible and with its linear and simple layout, visitors can experience row after row with complex shapes growing into becoming new building elements.

The composition of the programmatic content is a result of a combination 123






2nd floor

Roof plan







• Students Study rooms


• Staff Meeting room


• Exterior growing field • LAB 01 Harvesting

5ha 65m2

min. 1.9m2/person


5 people/room

10 people/room


3 rooms



Continuously flow of plant boxes


shared with education staff

• Workshops Woodworking

min 1.9m2/person 30 people in total 2 rooms


Industrial CNC-mill

• Lecture hall



Harvesting 4 times a year

• LAB 02 Maturing • LAB 03 Post-processing

240m2 70m2

Power tools

Continuously flow of elements


Manual tools

100 people capacity

6 workstations

• LAB 04 340m2 Storage and exporting • Control rooms 15m2



• Staff Offices


6 workstations


1 office with meeting room

• Cantina


Self-service 1.9m2/person 50 people capacity





1.8m2/workstation 2


Research LAB



12 workstations

• Greenery • Mock-up space • Service Unisex toilets

40m2 400m2 5m2

2.3m2/toilet 2 toilets

Food Beverage

• Service Unisex toilets


min. 2.3m /toilet 2

5 toilets

Handicap toilet


3.5m /toilet 2

2 toilets








Section AA






Section BB



Trible layered glazing in timber frames

Ceiling timber laths - 22 x 45 mm

Insulated FSC certified timber facade cassettes

Flat roof - 300 mm insulation -2.5/1000 slope

Floor timber laths - 45 x 90 mm

KertoÂŽ plywood frame stucture - 180 x 300 mm

LecaÂŽ block foundation

Overall structural composition and build-up 133


135 South facing facade. Summer.


137 North facing facade. Summer.


139 Entrance North. Fall.





Diving Bell Water Spider - reinforcing an air bubble - ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion 2014-15

BIOMIMICRY Life has been on Earth for 3.8 billion years, and in that period of time, life has learned what works and what does not. Biomimicry is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies. The goal is to create products, processes, and policies - new ways of living - that are well-adapted to life on Earth over the long haul. The core idea is that nature has already solved many of the problems we are struggling with. Animals, plants, and microbes are the consummate engineers. After billions of years of research and development, failures are fossils, and what surrounds us is the secret to survival. Biomimicry seeks to the natural environment and asks the question; “how does nature solve this problem?” Nature is based on unified base principles: Life runs on sun light (except a few organism in sulphur vents on the bottom of the ocean). We run on ancient photosynthesis trapped in fossil fuels. Life does its chemistry in water as the universal solvent. We tend to use very toxic solvents, such as sulphuric acid. Life depends on the local expertise. Organisms have to understand their specific context - the limits and the opportunities . Life recycles everything and does not foul its nest or home. Life uses a small subset of the elements of the periodic table and then very elegant recipes; low temperature, low pressure, low toxicity. (Organisms make material in or near their own body - E.g. a spider). The synthetic chemistry used by man is completely different: We use every element in the periodic table - even the toxic ones - and then we use brute force reaction to make elements bond or brake apart.1

on site. It allows you to look to nature for inspiration in a focused, detailed and scientific approach. Technology, design, and architecture has always looked to nature for answers to immediate problems, but as research of nature evolved and got more an more sophisticated and detailed in their discoveries, the innovation inspired from nature, too, got more sophisticated and detailed. The ability to examine nature on micro scale has enabled scientists and designers to look beyond the apparent features of nature. Today, a vast amount of technologies and designs are inspired of nature’s qualities. At CalTech, students have come up with a new wind farm based on studies of how fish move in a school. When fish move, they group together. The ones in front throw of vortexes and the ones behind them, curve around those spirals and get flung upstream saving movement and, therefore, energy. The CalTech students mimicked these principles an placed vertical wind-turbines close together. When the first turbine started turning, vortexes were created, making the surrounding turbines react, and thereby escalating the effect throughout the wind farm. It eventually resulted in 10 times more wind power than a traditional wind farm system.3

Biomimicry in design and architecture is often associated with the stylistic imitation of natural forms, such as the seashell’s spiraling structure. But biomimicry is much more than just form replication. According to Janine Benyus (natural sciences writer) a biomimetic approach is one that favors ecological performance research and metric over shape making.2 How nature handles problematic situations is very depended on what kind of ecosystem the problem is occurring within. The solution to a problem is very site specific. Janine Benyus defines ecological architecture and design as very placebased, taking into consideration a site’s unique ecology and land-type. ‘Genius of Place‘ is a study form that goes beyond the typical context check-list. By exploring the context in depth, analyzing the ecosystems on site, you will gain a greater knowledge of the context including the hyper-local properties. The analysis could be focused on the specific seasonal changes, how the ecosystem reacts in extreme heat or cold, and so on. Essentially, ‘Genius of Place‘ is introducing a more thorough understanding of the given context, explaining to the architects and designers how the ecosystem functions, and basically how nature reacts to different situations 1 11/02/2016 2  Peters, Terri - “Nature as Measure“ - Architecture and Design, 2011, no. 214

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Villa Welpeloo - 2012Architecten(SuperUse) - 2009 - Enschede, the Netherlands

RECYCLING Buildings are large objects and, as such, they have various ways to impact the environment locally and globally. Contemporary designs clearly consume large quantities of physical resources such as materials, money, and energy in their construction, use, and maintenance. In order to reach an ecological and sustainable building approach and practice, and even reduce the environmental impact, it is necessary to reevaluate the use of resources and rethink a building in the context of its life-cycle. An approach is to incorporate ‘cradle-to-grave‘ analysis. Building material can be considered to have five stages in its life-cycle1: • mining/extraction/harvesting (raw materials) • manufacturing (building materials) • construction (erecting the building) • use (inhabiting the building) • demolition (removing the building) For most building materials, the major environmental impacts occur during the first two stages but as waste-disposal problems increase, we are also being made increasingly aware of the impacts associated with the demolition stage. It is apparent that the energy used to produce the building material (its embodied energy) is only an approximate indicator of its environmental impact.

Harvest maps function as a local material catalogue indicating the available supply of reused material in the vicinity of the construction site. This strategy can ultimately help decrease the energy consumption in relation to transport and transformation of material into a new design. The urban metabolism refers to the interconnected system allowing organisms to grow and reproduce, maintain their structures, and respond to their environment. In an urban context, this can be translated into the growth, maintenance, and resiliency of a city structure. The internal flow of material and energy is an important factor when assessing the sustainability of a city. To visualize these material and energy flows, a Sankey diagram can be used. The diagrams use arrows to represent flows and are characterized by having the width of the arrows proportional to the flow quantity. By mapping out and visualizing the situation of material available for reuse in a city or any given context, these analysis and research tools can facilitate the process of designing more ecologically.

A possible solution to minimizing the impact of the building material is to asses the possibilities of expanding or removing stages of the material’s life-cycle. In stead of restarting the life-cycle, re-using could be introduced. As stated previously, the first two stages (mining and manufacturing) are considered as the biggest contributors to building materials’ impact on environment. By removing these two stages, a large percentage of the total impact will be cut off, leaving materials’ environmental impact smaller and more sustainable. Recycling or reusing building materials in the execution of a new architecture proposal has become practice for some architecture firms around the world. Superuse Studios was founded in 1997 in Rotterdam and has ever since directed their attention towards the creation of symbiotic architectural environments. The core goal of the firm is to transform the current unconnected city into a healthy ecosystem that eventually will turn into a resilient environment.2 Superuse Studio includes recycling in all scales in their approach towards ecological design. The facade on Villa Welpeloo is made out of the inner parts of reused cable reels. The firm uses research tools such as harvest maps, material flow analysis, studies of the urban metabolism, and Sankey diagrams to develop, communicate, and analyze ecological design possibilities that include recycling at all scales. 1 09/02/2016 2 09/02/2016 147


RENEWABLE RESOURCES A renewable resource is an organic natural material which can replenish to overcome usage and consumption, either through biological reproduction or other naturally reoccurring processes. Renewable resources are a part of Earth’s natural environment. For instance is bamboo and straw known for their ability to rapidly regrow. One of the ways to reduce the energy and environmental impact of the materials and resources used in the constructing of a building, is to implement alternative strategies, products, and systems. It is necessary to acknowledge the potentials of natural, renewable, and reused materials as an alternative to traditional produced material. Renewable and natural materials for construction and insulation can be composed of biological resources such as flax, hemp, wood, straw, sheep’s wool, etc. They can be combined into composites with low impact materials, such as lime and earth, opening the possibilities of major benefits in terms of less pollution, less energy used, and so on.1

create a solid and lightweight insulating concrete. Bamboo is by some described as ‘green gold‘, not because of its price, but because of its possibilities. Bamboo is similar to hemp, as it is one of the fastest growing plants, and thus ideal as a renewable material. Bamboo has structural qualities and is as well converted into a wide range of composite products, such as flooring. Bamboo is very climate and geographic specific, and is mostly used in Asian countries as an excellent substitute for slow growing timber, but bamboo can be grown in more temperate climates. Even though timber has a fairly slow regrowing pace, it is regarded as one of the most familiar renewable materials. The fact that the process of regrowing a tree can take several years can be compensated by having every timber felled replaced with multiple planting. It is important to ensure that woodland and forests do not get clear-felled but thinned as part of proper management.

When assessing the sustainable or ecological state of building materials, it is necessary to understand the origin of the material. Sourced locally, is a term that can be misunderstood; it is not where materials are manufactured, but where they are mined, harvested, or extracted. If material, such as earth are dug up on site, and timber felled from surrounding woods, then this is a valid form of local sourcing. Local sourcing is minimizing energy consumption in relation to transportation, and therefore, it is helping lowering the environmental impact caused by construction. It tend to be the general assumption that using renewable and natural materials is a fringe activity, only relevant to self-builders in the countryside using ‘handmade’ approaches, but in fact, there has been some progress the past years for alternative ecological materials and methods of building. The ecological approach has started to become accepted in the public sectors, housing associations, and some major business. Also, a range of highly profiled architecture firms have started to implement ‘greener‘ approaches by establishing in-house departments focusing on renewability, ecology, sustainability, and so on. When looking at insulation in a building, materials such as hemp and sheep’s wool are considered renewable because of their ability to rapidly reappear and regrow. Wood based products can be used in insulation as well, but because of timber’s rather slow ability to regrow, the renewable aspect gets a little complicated. In some products, wood fibre and wood chipboards can be made from virgin timber decreasing the regrowing time. Hemp fibre is used to make insulation quilts and boards. Industrial hemp is similar to marijuana but with minimal drug content. Hemp is a very strong and tough plant that requires special processing. the fibre has to be stripped from the shiv. The leftover shiv can be mixed with a lime binder to 1  Wooley, Tom (2013), “Low Impact Building”, Wiley-Blackwell 149


Al Bahr Towers - AHR Architects/Aedas - 2012 - Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

ADAPTATION “Adaptation is the evolutionary process whereby a population becomes better suited to its habitat. This process takes place over many generations, and is one of the basic phenomena of biology.” “On the Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin. Adaptive and responsive architecture is mimicking nature’s ability to change character to the ever changing surrounding environment. E.g. sunflowers rotate towards the sun to optimize their energy intake. Adaptation in nature occurs through generations, with constant improvements, feedback evaluations, and survival of the fittest, based on certain fitness criteria. Many architectural projects dealing with adaptive architecture are dealing with the more present state of environmental changes. Adaptive architecture can be sub-categorized as interactive, dynamic, kinetic or responsive architecture. A traditional building skin intends to provide protection; stability with its structural qualities, regulates air pressure through fenestration, and protects the interiors and inhabitant from direct environmental impacts, such as rain, wind, and direct sun light. The issue with a traditional building skin is the fact that it is static. As stated earlier, the environment is constantly changing, this being on an hourly, daily, monthly, seasonally, and yearly basis. If a building should truly be able to protect against the environmental impacts, it must be able to change its properties accordingly to the context. A building that has succeeded in being adaptive to its context is the Al-Bahr Towers in Abu Dhabi by AHR Architects and Aedas. Being situated in the harsh and extreme environment of the Middle Eastern city where temperatures can reach 70oC at midday and the humidity is around 100% forces the building to incorporate features that are adaptable to the context. Inspired by traditional Middle Eastern architecture with wind catchers, solar screens, cooling courtyards, water features, and self shading geometry, the design team behind the towers came up with a responsive facade system that would shade the building when necessary and let light in according to needs. The facade system is constructed by regional traditional wooden lattice screens that functions as adaptive kinetic shading. The screens are controlled by the building management system. Each shading unit will deploy into their unfolded state when a facade zone is in direct sunlight, shading the glazing completely. The dynamic structures will reduce glare and solar gain, lower cooling loads, allow views to the outdoor, and bathe the floor plates in natural day light.1

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DIGITAL FABRICATION CUTTING FABCRICATION. There is a range of different methods when it comes to fabricate through the method of cutting, but essentially they enable fabrication of flat components using a cutting head that responds to instructions provided by digital design data to shape elements from sheet materials - e.g. timber sheets, metal sheets, glass panels, etc. The cutting head moves along two axis in relation to the sheet material. The cutting technique are usually limited by the thickness of the material, which also generates different cutting technologies for different materials, such as laser-beam, plasma-arc, and water-jet. A laser-cutter focuses a high-intensity beam of infrared light mixed with a highly pressurized gas, normally Carbon Dioxide, to cut through material. Laser cutters are suitable for use with comparatively thin materials, but provide a high degree of accuracy and precision. Laser cutters are able to handle varies materials, such as paper, card, plastic, wood, metals (e.g. aluminium and brass) and textile. The precision offered by this cutting method allows designers and architects to fabricate components with complex shapes and geometries. The fabrication process of laser cutting is perhaps most analogues with conventional methods of physical fabrication and prototyping, since components are cut from a flat sheet and then assembled to form 3D geometries. The basic plasma cutting process involves creating an electrical channel of ionized gas through the work piece to be cut, thus forming a completed electric circuit back to the plasma cutter via a grounding clamp. This is accomplished by a compressed gas (oxygen, air, inert and others depending on material being cut) which is blown through a focused nozzle at high speed toward the work piece. An electrical arc is then formed within the gas, between an electrode near or integrated into the gas nozzle and the work piece itself. The electrical arc ionizes some of the gas, thereby creating an electrically conductive channel of plasma. As electricity from the cutter torch travels down this plasma, it delivers sufficient heat to melt through the work piece. At the same time, much of the high velocity plasma and compressed gas blow the hot molten metal away, thereby cutting through the work piece. Plasma cutting is an effective means of cutting thin and thick materials alike. Hand-held torches can usually cut up to 38mm thick steel plate, and stronger computer-controlled torches can cut steel up to 150 mm thick. Since plasma cutters produce a very hot and very localized “cone” to cut with, they are extremely useful for cutting sheet metal in curved or angled shapes. The water-jet forces a high-pressured jet of water mixed with an abrasive, through the cutting head, slicing the material. The term abrasive-jet refers specifically to the use of a mixture of water and abrasive to cut hard materials such as metal or granite, while the terms pure water-jet and water-only cutting refer to water-jet cutting without the use of added abrasives, often used for softer materials such as wood or rubber.

Water-jet cutting is the often the preferred method when the materials being cut are sensitive to the high temperatures generated by other methods. SUBTRACTIVE FABRICATION. Machine controlled subtractive fabrication covers a broad spectrum of diverse techniques. The subtractive process can both be applied through 3D and 2D processing of a given material. Basically subtractive fabrication processes remove material from an existing solid volume, resulting in specific desired components and geometries. The excess material is typically removed through a milling or routing process. These milling and routing machines are available with a range of different axially constrained cutting heads depending on the required task. Two-axis milling machines work by having the rotating drill move along X and Y axes, thereby subtracting 2D patterns of material. Three-axis machines enable the drill to be moved up and down along the Z axis allowing material to be subtracted volumetrically. Four- and five-axis machines allows complex 3D shapes and geometries to be milled out of a solid volume. By introducing two additional axes, further manipulation is allowed, either by the rotation of the milling/routing head or rotation of the bed where the material is applied. Furthermore, the drill bits come in different diameters and heights, allowing a variety of finishes and accuracy. Also, the milling and routing speed can be adjusted according to the material type - e.g. density, thickness, etc. Numerical control (NC) is the automation of machine tools that are operated by precisely programmed commands encoded on a storage medium, as opposed to controlled manually by hand-wheels or levers, or mechanically automated by cams alone. Most NC today is Computer Numerical Control (CNC), in which computers play an integral part of the control. In modern CNC systems, end-to-end component design is highly automated using computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) programs. The programs produce a computer file that is interpreted to extract the commands needed to operate a particular machine by a post processor, and then loaded into the CNC machines for production. Since any particular component might require the use of a number of different tools – drills, saws, etc., modern machines often combine multiple tools into a single ‘center‘ containing automatic tool changers, tool magazines or carousels, CNC control, and coolant systems. In other installations, a number of different machines are used with an external controller and human or robotic operators that move the component from machine to machine. In either case, the series of steps needed to produce any part is highly automated and produces a part that closely matches the original CAD design. CNC milling and routing have a significant role in the world of digital fabrication. Since the G-code (CNC commands, short computer scripts) interface may be used to optimize the arrangement and number of components fabricated from one piece of material, this process may also reduce the amount of

waste material and facilitates effectivity and relatively economical making of non-standard components. This kind of optimization is core to the growth and spread of digital fabrication, because it allows the material volume to be fully used within its limits. Milling and routing processes are similar since they both use a rotating drill bit to remove material from a solid piece. However, milling is mostly useful for metals and other materials, and routing is typically only used for wood and plastic - because of the relative low density of these types, the router is able to remove much larger amounts of material.1 ADDITIVE FABRICATION. In direct contrast to the previously described method, subtractive fabrication, additive fabrication is based on the technique of building of materials in layers to result in a physical representation of the digital data fed to the machine. All additive processes work on the basis of translating digital design information into series of 2D layers. The data of each individual layer is then used to direct the head/dispenser nozzle of the machine, and the physical object is made through an accumulative process of layering.

Stereolithography (SL): A layer manufacturing technology in which the layers are formed by using a laser to cure the surface of a bath of photosensitive polymer resin in the desired shape. The process takes a CAD design and makes a solid 3D prototype (model) using a combination of laser, photochemistry, optical scanning, and computer software technology. To date, the most significant limitation to rapid prototyping processes has been the size of objects they are able to fabricate. This factor, alongside with the relative high expenses of the fabrication machines and the relatively long time required to make an physical object, has led to reasonably narrow use in architecture on a building scale.

3D Printing: a manufacturing process for rapid and flexible production of prototype parts and tooling, layer by layer, directly from a CAD model. It can create parts of any geometry, including undercuts, overhangs, and internal volumes. A thin distribution of powder is spread over the surface of a powder bed and the computer calculates the information for the layers. A binder material joins particles where the object is to be formed. A piston then lowers so that the next powder layer can be spread and selectively joined, this process is repeated until the part is completed. Rapid Prototyping is the speedy fabrication of sample parts for demonstration, evaluation, or testing. It typically utilizes advanced layer manufacturing technologies that can quickly generate complex 3D objects directly from computer-based models devised by Computer Aided Design (CAD). This computer representation is sliced into 2D layers, whose descriptions are sent to the fabrication equipment to build the part layer by layer. Rapid prototyping includes many different fabrication technologies: Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM): a process which forms 3D objects from CAD-generated solid or surface models. FDM patterns are generally used when an acrylonitrile- butadiene-styrene thermal plastic part is required for a working prototype. Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM): a process that creates models from inexpensive, solid- sheet materials. It is similar to stereolithography in that it slices a three-dimensional electronic file from the computer to the LOM machine to produce parts for visualization models, casting patterns, and designs. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS): a flexible technology that uses a CO2 laser beam to fuse (sinter) layers of nylon, metal, or powdered materials into a 3D model. It is a leading rapid prototyping technology, providing more choices of materials for flexibility, and more applications than other technologies. 1  Dunn, Nick (2012), “Digital Fabrication in Architecture“, Laurence King, p96 153


DIGITAL DESIGN AND SOFTWARE “Design environments are undergoing a perceptible shift in authorship. Advances in scripting interfaces are empowering architects to create parts of their own design environments. The boundaries between end user and developer are falling down around a network of designers sharing their creations as part of an emerging design ecosystem.“1

“[...], with its increasing simulation capabilities, the computer lets architects predict, model and simulate the encounter between architecture and the public using more accurate and sophisticated methods. In this way, computation makes possible not only the simulation and communication of the constructional aspects of a building, but also the experience [...]“3

While CAD software has included scripting and programming for many years and selected individuals who used this digital tool have always been present, it is only the past couple of years that the number of designers and architects using these scripting interfaces has increased. The potentials of scripting and programming is no longer limited to a few specialists with software knowledge, and managing construction data and boost efficiency, but also much more about designing and generating shapes and geometry. Beyond the scripting interface, designers and architects are finding further potential to shape the design environment itself. A number of designer have developed plug-ins for well established CAD software, and these additions have over time become core parts of these platforms - e.g. Grasshopper3D.

This chapter will focus on digital tools primarily for Rhino using Grasshopper that allows the integration of custom add-ons. Digital tools can, somewhat, be put in generic categories explaining their primary focus:

“Not only are more and more architects computer programming, writing scripts and creating plug-ins, but these are increasingly being shared via the Internet, conferences and workshops. This marks the formation of a new design ecosystem, one under constant evolution and catalyzed by sharing at a scale never before seen [...]“2

• Environment - add-ons that can simulate, calculate, and evaluate natural occurring processes

Architects are increasingly implementing experimentations with software and computation when designing with awareness to performance analysis, knowledge about building materials, tectonics, and parameters for fabrication. These new custom tools and the increasing use of them in the architectural industry allow greater feedback on multiple levels of the architectural design proposal; the tools benefit the design loop, constantly evaluating and delivering crucial feedback. When using these tools actively in the design process, the feedback provided on structure, materials, tectonics, and environmental performance can potentially become a highly valuable parameter in the invention of the architectural form and geometry. Computational software and the digitalization of a lot of processes is a potential partial replacement, now a supplement, to the valuable lessons learned from hands-on assembly, in-field-studies, physical property tests, and environmental conditions that can be (used to be) carried out in the physical world. As time progresses and the digital tools become more efficient and powerful, a lot of time consuming processes can be replaced and integrated digitally in the design process, constantly informing the project development, and not only at the end of the project. 1  Castle, Helen - “Computation Works“ - Architecture and Design, 2013, no. 222, p126 2  Castle, Helen - “Computation Works“ - Architecture and Design, 2013, no. 222, p126

• Basics - here defined as the ‘mother’ software that hosts the additional plug-ins • Iterations - add-ons with the capability to adapt and optimize though digital testing and solving • Geometry - add-ons that helps shape and test complex shapes and structures


GRASSHOPPER is a visual programming language developed by David Rutten at Robert McNeel & Associates (Rhino).Grasshopper is a plug-in for Rhino. Programming a definition is done by dragging components onto a virtual ‘canvas’. The outputs to these components are then connected to the inputs of subsequent components, ultimately making up an algorithmic sequence that results in the desired output. Grasshopper is a parametric modelling software that allows the user to set up objective, repeatable, and calibrated definitions that will result differently according to what parameter is adjusted or input to a component. GHPYTHON is for designers who want to use the same flexible language everywhere, GhPython is the Python interpreter component for Grasshopper that allows to execute dynamic scripts of any type. Unlike other scripting components, GhPython allows to use the rhinoscriptsyntax to start scripting without needing to be a programmer.


GALAPAGOS is an evolutionary computational problem solver. It is a plugin for Grasshopper developed by David Rutten. The software implements two generic solvers (one using a genetic algorithm and the other using a simulated annealing algorithm). A generic solver will find a solution to a problem that can be expressed in a mathematical way. 3  Castle, Helen - “Computation Works“ - Architecture and Design, 2013, no. 222, p13 155


Simulated annealing is a probabilistic technique for approximating the global optimum of a given function. The way an annealing solver progresses is by jumping randomly across the ‘landscape‘ in ever decreasing steps. If it does not accept the new location, it will revert to the previous one. Eventually, all jumps will be very small and the solver will be very picky about accepting new states. The lifetime of the solver can therefore be divided into two parts: First it tries to find promising states, then it will fine tune its position in order to find the optimal state within the promising state. Genetic algorithm is a heuristic search that mimics the process of natural selection. This solver is also know as Evolutionary algorithm. The solver applies biological principles of mutation, selection, and inheritance. It will populate a ‘landscape‘ with virtual individuals and then proceed to breed the ones located at promising states in the hope that their offspring will be closer to an optimal state.4 To use the generic solver of Galapagos, it is necessary to set up a phase space and define a fitness. A phase space is a space in which all possible states of a system are represented, with each possible state corresponding to one unique point in the phase space. Fitness is whatever we want it to be. We are trying to solve a specific problem, and therefore we know what it means to be fit. If for example we are seeking to position a shape so that it may be milled with minimum material waste, there is a very strict fitness function that leaves no room for argument.


KANGAROO is a collection of algorithms that enable a computer to simulate some aspects of the behavior of real world materials and objects. It is a plug-in for Grasshopper developed by Daniel Piker. Kangaroo is embedded directly in the CAD environment, enabling geometric forms to be shaped according the specific material property and applied forces. WEAVERBIRD “[...] is a topological editor that contains many of the wellknown surface subdivision and transformation operators, and makes these accessible to architects and designers. Instead of doing work repeatedly, [...], this plug-in reconstructs the shape, creates an infinitely defined, continuous surface from any mesh, and helps prepare the model for fabrication.“5 The software is a plug-in for Grasshopper developed by Giulio Piacentino. Weaverbird gives architects and designers the possibility to gain greater geometric control when dealing with complex shapes and surface structures. Furthermore, it enables designs to reach a realistic and possible fabrication state. RABBIT is a plug-in for Grasshopper that simulates biological and physical processes. Rabbit provides an easy way to explore natural phenomena such as pattern formation, self-organization and emergence. The add-on gives architects and designers the opportunity to integrate these models of organization 4 17/02/2016 5  Castle, Helen - “Computation Works“ - Architecture and Design, 2013, no. 222, pp140-141

in their own designs.6


GECO allows you to export complex geometries very quickly, evaluate your design in AutoDesk’s Ecotect and access the performances data, to import the results as feedback to Grasshopper. This could be done as single process or a loop to improve performance and the design of a building in the context of its environment. The single results of the process could be saved inside Rhino in the vertices of the analysis mesh to store data for later use inside different design approaches. Through iterative analysis and geometry adaptation and modification, the performance of an architectural proposal can be optimized in the context of its environment. Results generated in Ecotect using GECO are applied and saved directly into the original model, allowing values and data to be assessed locally and globally. As a result, the original model is enriched by crucial environmental data, generating a dynamic catalogue of information. LADYBUG is an environmental plug-in for Grasshopper to help designers and architects create environmentally conscious architectural design. The initial step in the design process should be the weather data analysis; a thorough understanding of the weather data will, more likely, lead designers to high-performance design decisions. Ladybug imports standard EnergyPlus Weather files (.EPW) in Grasshopper and provides a variety of 2D and 3D designer-friendly interactive graphics to support the decision making process during the initial stages of design. The tool also provides further support for designers to test their initial design options for implications from radiation and sunlight-hours analysis. Integration with Grasshopper allows for an almost instantaneous feedback on design modifications, and as it runs within the design environment, the information and analysis is interactive. HONEYBEE connects Grasshopper to validated simulation engines such as EnergyPlus (whole building energy simulation program), Radiance (a suite of tools for performing lighting simulation), Daysim (day lighting analysis software that models the annual amount of daylight in and around buildings) and OpenStudio (collection of software tools to support whole building energy modeling) for building energy and day lighting simulation. PHYSAREALM is a plug-in for Grasshopper developed by Ma Yidong. Physarum polycephalum, literally the ‘many-headed slime’, is a slime mold that inhabits shady, cool, moist areas, such as decaying leaves and logs. P. polycephalum is one of the easiest eukaryotic microbes (cell type) to grow in culture, and has been used as a model organism for many studies involving amoeboid movement and cell motility. For example, a team of Japanese and Hungarian researchers have shown P. polycephalum can solve the Shortest path problem. When grown in a maze with oatmeal at two spots, P. polycephalum retracts from everywhere in the maze, except the shortest route connecting the two food sources.

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Exploring Ecological Architecture Through Digital Design and Fabrication  

Cand.Arch Thesis Report July 2016 Aarhus School of Architecture, Denmark

Exploring Ecological Architecture Through Digital Design and Fabrication  

Cand.Arch Thesis Report July 2016 Aarhus School of Architecture, Denmark