Computational Structural Optimization and Digital Fabrication of Timber BeamsResearch, 2016 - Present
Structural optimization techniques offer means to design efficient structures and reduce their impact on the environment by saving material quantities. However, until very recently, the resulting geometrical complexity of an optimized structural design was costly and difficult to build. Today, fabrication processes such as 3D printing and Computer Numeric Control (CNC) machining in the construction industry reduces the complexity to produce complex shapes.
This research aims to combine computational structural optimization and digital fabrication tools to create a new timber architecture. A key opportunity for material savings in buildings lies in ubiquitous structural components in bending, especially in beams. This research explores old and new techniques for shaping structural timber beams.
Computational Structural Optimization and Digital Fabrication of Timber BeamsPaul Mayencourt, Joaquin S. Giraldo, Eric Wong, and Caitlin Mueller, Proceedings of the International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures (IASS) Symposium, 2017
This paper focuses on optimizing beams made of solid timber sections through a CNC subtractive milling process. An optimization algorithm shapes beams and reduces the material quantities by up to 50% of their initial weight. A series of these beams are then fabricated and load tested, and their strength is compared to standard timber sections.
Paul Mayencourt presents at Wood at Work Montreal2017-10-27, Tags: computation fabrication digital-manufacturing embodied-carbon structural-optimization timber
Paul Mayencourt presented research on opportunities for using structural optimization and digital fabrication to shape wood structural beams and building components at the third annual Wood at Work conference in Montreal.
Low-Cost, Low-Carbon Structural Components for Housing in IndiaResearch, 2017 - Present
In More Economically Developed Countries (MEDCs) such as the United States, labor costs constrain affordable construction. As a result, architects and engineers design with systems that reduce the time and complexity of assembly – making use of standardized structural components, nominal sizing, and elements that are not materially efficient or optimal for estimated loading conditions. On the other hand, in Lower Economically Developed Countries (LEDCs) material costs, rather than labor, inhibit affordable construction. Conservatively, materials account for an estimated 60-80% of construction costs in LEDCs such as India. This incongruity highlights an opportunity for structural components optimized for material efficiency and suit the context of a developing LEDC such as India.
This research explores the design of structural components and standards that could be disseminated by partners involved in India’s affordable housing construction. It is an application of emerging technology and practices in structural optimization. The exploration will involve not only defining ideal structural forms, but also designing the mechanisms required to build and assemble these components – reducing the environmental and economic costs of construction through the entire process of realization. This research is being done with the support and guidance of the MIT Tata Center.
Structural Optimization of Folded Plate StructuresResearch, 2016
This project explores the potential of folded plate structures to be a structurally optimized architectural typology.
A custom Grasshopper script was developed in which the designer can determine the form of a spanning folded plate structures by adjusting the control points of two curves through which the base surface is lofted. The input geometry is then connected to two different optimizers, Goat and Digital Structure's own Stormcloud, to generate different optimized alternatives close to the base shape.
The findings demonstrated that the folded plate typology inherently performed better than a continuous shell of the same shape. Structural optimization was shown to offer a wide design space for the global morphology of folded plate structures.
A video overview of the parametric modeling process and a few case studies is presented here.
4.450: Computational Structural Design and OptimizationClass, 2015 - Present
This research seminar focuses on contemporary applications of computation for creative, early-stage structural design and optimization for architecture. Topics covered include computational design fundamentals, including problem parameterization and formulation; design space exploration strategies, including interactive, heuristic, and gradient-based optimization; and computational structural analysis methods, including the finite element method, graphic statics, and approximation techniques. A range of historical and contemporary examples of structural optimization in theory and practice are introduced and investigated as case studies. Students will also complete semester-long individual research projects, which will focus on the development, implementation, or application of an innovative computational approach for structural design. Project images by Juney Lee, Chikara Inamura, Mike Stern, and Geoff Tsai.
Integrating constructability into conceptual structural design and optimizationAbbigayle Horn, MIT MEng Thesis, 2015
This thesis encourages interdisciplinary design exploration through consideration of constructability in conceptual structural design. Six new metrics are introduced to measure variability in structural components, impose reasonable construction constraints, and encourage standardization of structural characteristics which can improve the ease, efficiency, and costs of construction. This thesis applies these original constructability metrics to truss façade structures for an objective, quantitative comparison with structural performance metrics. The primary contribution of these new metrics is a computational method that can aid in identifying expressive, high-performing structures in the conceptual design phase, when decisions regarding global structural behavior have the greatest impact on multi-objective project goals.
Integrating constructability into conceptual structural design and optimizationResearch, 2014 - 2015
This research encourages interdisciplinary design exploration through consideration of constructability in conceptual structural design. Six new metrics are introduced to measure variability in structural components, impose reasonable construction constraints, and encourage standardization of structural characteristics which can improve the ease, efficiency, and costs of construction. This research applies these original constructability metrics to truss facade structures for an objective, quantitative comparison with structural performance metrics. The primary contribution of these new metrics is a computational method that can aid in identifying expressive, high-performing structures in the conceptual design phase, when decisions regarding global structural behavior have the greatest impact on multi-objective project goals.
New Structural Systems in Small-Diameter Round TimberAurimas Bukauskas, MIT BSA Thesis, 2015
Trees, when used as structural elements in their natural, round form, are up to five times stronger than the largest piece of dimensioned lumber they could yield. Additionally, these whole-timbers have a lower effective embodied carbon than any other structural material. When combined into efficient structural configurations and joined using specially-engineered connections, whole- timber has the potential to replace entire steel and concrete structural systems in large-scale buildings, bridges, and infrastructure. Whole-timber may be the most appropriate structural solution for a low-carbon and fully renewable future in both developed temperate regions and the developing Global South. To reduce barriers to adoption, including project complexity and cost, a standardized “kit of parts” in whole-timber is proposed. This thesis proposes new designs for the first and most important element of this kit: a structurally independent column in whole-timber. A 20’ compound column in whole-timber is prototyped at full-scale. New, simple calculation methods are developed for estimating the buckling capacity of tapered timbers. Based on conservative assumptions, the embodied carbon of whole-timber column systems is shown to be between 30% and 70% lower than conventional steel systems.