Structural Xploration Lab

Uniting architecture and structural design, we are paving the way for the upcycling reuse of load-bearing components in buildings, hence contributing to the adoption of a circular economy by the construction industry. We also devise new computational means to enhance designer-machine collaborations at the early stages of the architectural/structural design process. Our research and education activities are driven by sustainability challenges, rooted in history, embracing complexity, and boosted by digital technology.

Launched in July 2016, the Structural Xploration Lab is led by Corentin Fivet, associate professor of Architecture and Structural Design at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). The lab is attached to the School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering (ENAC), is part of the Institute of Architecture (IA) and has connections with the Civil Engineering Institute (IIC). The lab is active in the teaching of structures and construction systems to architects (SAR).

The Structural Xploration Lab is also an integral member of the Smart Living Lab, a joint facility between EPFL, UniFr, and HEIA-FR, in Fribourg, Switzerland. The Smart Living Lab engages effective multi-disciplinary research on user-centered building technology through close collaboration between universities, private firms and public administrations.

© 2024 EPFL

New paper demonstrates the reuse potential of concrete slabs

— 80%! This is the amount of embodied carbon that new floor systems made of reused concrete can save on average! We designed two floor systems for housing and office buildings, with reinforced concrete reused in bending to make the most of its existing properties. A parametric LCA with 20,000 simulations shows drastic embodied #carbon cuts compared to new flat concrete slabs, with solutions as low as 5 kgCO2e/m2, probably a record for building slabs. The cherry on the slab? You save up to 94 % on embodied carbon when combining reused concrete with reused steel.

© 2024 EPFL

Public lecture at EPFL, Sustainability Series

— On March 27th (!), 2024, Prof. Corentin Fivet will give a public talk on EPFL Campus, as part of (and invited by) the EPFL Sustainability Series. He will present recent breakthroughs from the Structural Xploration Lab, focusing on the reuse of disused construction products. Prof. Katrin Beyer (ENAC Dean) will introduce the talk. A round table with Prof. Karen Scrivener and students from the EPFL Make rebuiLT project will follow, moderated by Frédéric Dreyer. A networking aperitif will end the event. Venez nombreux!

Students from EPFL’s rebuiLT project have recovered components from a 1970s building scheduled to be demolished. © 2023 rebuiLT/PJ Renaud CC-BY-SA 4.0

Making construction sustainable by reusing materials

— One way to lighten the construction industry’s heavy carbon footprint is to reuse existing materials – an approach being explored by numerous researchers. Here’s a look at some of their ideas, ahead of an upcoming speaker event at EPFL.

© 2024 EPFL

C. Fivet to talk at intCDC, Stuttgart

— Prof. Corentin Fivet (Structural Xploration Lab, EPFL) is invited for a talk at the University of Stuttgart on March 19th, 2024, as part of the IntCDC Constructive Conversations, organised by the Cluster of Excellence 'Integrative Computational Design and Construction for Architecture (IntCDC), at the University of Stuttgart, Germany. In his talk, he will present recent research outputs of the SXL, highlighting the needed (re-)discovery of the intrinsic value of disused construction products.

© 2024 EPFL

Update on rebuiLT

— The EPFL MAKE students of the rebuiLT project have released a new video presenting the 2023 development of their low-tech building prototype: unprecedented reuse of concrete slab assemblies, participative construction of timber carpentry, reuse of roof tiles, workshops with local schools, mockup of straw-bale walls. The Structural Xploration Lab is delighted to be advising them.

© 2024 EPFL

New paper in Frontiers in Built Environment

— Our new paper on the re:slab project is out in the Frontiers in Built Environment journal. The Open Access paper showcases the premises of "a load bearing system for open-ended component reuse in building structures", or in other words, how to push current limits of design-for-disassembly to embrace the unpredictable nature of future building transformations. The author is authored by Xavier Estrella (Structural Xploration Lab, EPFL), Alex Muresan (Aeternum), Jan Brütting (formerly at the Structural Xploration Lab), Dario Redaelli (HEIA-FR ITEC), and Corentin Fivet (Structural Xploration Lab, EPFL)

© 2024 EPFL

New paper in the Journal of Building Engineering

— Our paper on the "Reusability assessment of reinforced concrete components prior to deconstruction from obsolete buildings" is now published in the Journal of Building Engineering (Elsevier). Authored by Julie Devènes, Maléna Bastien-Masse, and Corentin Fivet (Structural Xploration Lab), the Open-Access paper introduces and tests a new procedure for assessing component reuse from reinforced concrete structures.

© 2024 EPFL

M. Bastien-Masse panelist at Cirkla symposium

— On Tuesday March 12th, Cirkla, the umbrella organization for reuse in the Swiss construction industry, organized an expert symposium at the Smart Living Lab, Fribourg. The afternoon consisted in 4 expert workshops and a concluding round table. Maléna Bastien-Masse (Structural Xploration Lab), was invited to run the expert workshop on concrete reuse and as a panelist to the last workshop. The event gathered about 70 participants (architects, engineers, public servants, and contractors) from al over Switzerland.

© 2024 EPFL

M. Bastien-Masse gives keynote at GUMA

— On March 8th, Maléna Bastie-Masse (Structural Xploration Lab) was invited for a keynote at GUMA seminar, an internal event of the fims De Cérenville Géotechnique, OPAN concept and Norbert Géologues-conseils, organized this year at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne. Attended by about 100 participants, the series of keynotes discussed topics related to circular economy and the maintenance and construction of infrastructure. Maléna Bastien-Masse presented the recent SXL research projects on concrete reuse.


M. Grangeot invited by the Architectural Informatics Society, Japan

— On March 4th, Maxence Grangeot (PhD candidate at the Structural Xploration Lab and the Creative Computation Lab), presented his research to the Architectural Informatics Society (AIS), based in Japan. He was invited by Ko Tsuruta (USI) to present during a roundtable titled “Digital Observation: scan oriented design and fabrication”, where he advocated about “digital tools to harness complexity, not create it”. This echoes his research about the upcycling of concrete rubble from demolition while using pre-existing construction machines and accessible digital components. Other panelists were Matthias Brenner (ETHz) and Philipp R.W. URECH (ETHz).

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