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, tenure-track assistant 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.

© 2023 EPFL

C. Küpfer to talk at IDEAS seminar

— Célia KÜPFER is the IDEAS speaker of the day and her presentation is entitled "Reuse of concrete: history, techniques and perspectives" (Tuesday Jan. 11th, 2023). The "Integrated Design, Architecture and Sustainability" (IDEAS) axis is a joint initiative of the Laboratory of Architecture and Sustainable Technologies (LAST) and the Interdisciplinary Laboratory of Project Integrated Performance (LIPID) of the ENAC faculty of EPFL. Later joined by the Structural Xploration Lab (SXL) and the Building2050 group, it responds to the objective of an increased integration of sustainable architecture issues within the Doctoral School of Architecture and Urban Sciences (EDAR). In parallel to the teaching, informal meetings are organized in order to encourage the networking of doctoral students, collaborators of the different laboratories and invited researchers ("IDEAS Lunches").

© 2022 EPFL

Essay on the reuse of concrete components in EspaceSuisse

— The latest Cahiers d'EspaceSuisse publishes an article by Corentin Fivet, Célia Küpfer, and Maléna Bastien Masse (Structural Xploration Lab) on the reuse of concrete components in new buildings. The Cahiers comes as a supplement to this December issue of the Tracés magazine. The special issue on reuse in the construction industry also features an article on the "Circular Cities Switzerland" initiative, an article on and by La Ressourcerie, an interview with Michaël Ghyoot from Rotor, and an article on heritage and sustainability by Anne-Fanny Cotting.

© 2022 EPFL

Podcast: M.Grangeot & M.Loizou on the rebuiLT project

— Archizoom interviewed Maxence Grangeot (PhD candidate at the Structural Xploration Lab) and Maria Loizou (master student in architecture) on the EPFL Make project "rebuiLT": between low-tech and high-tech, what procedures and ethics for the reuse of concrete in building structures? The podcast is part of a series that is being released on the occasion of the Matière Ultime exhibition that took place at Archizoom at EPFL from September 26 to December 2, 2022. Its objective: to share the experience of various actors working in sectors capable of reducing or even eliminating the residues produced by the built environment and to draw possibilities for action.

© 2022 EPFL

C. Küpfer joins round table on prefabrication

— This Wednesday November 7th 2022 evening, Célia Küpfer, PhD candidate at the Structural Xploration Lab, joins Prof. Karen Schrivener, geographer Benoît Charrière, architect Marlène Leroux, and architect Andrea Bassi, for a round table on the Art of Prefabrication. Held in the Sicli Pavilion, Geneva, the event is moderated by Marc Frochaux, chief editor of the Traces magazine. The round table is an event attached to the current exhibit held in the Sicli pavilion at the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Genevese firm Prelco.

© 2022 EPFL

SXL contributes to latest Tracés issue

— The latest issue of the Tracés magazine "Réemploi, mode d'emploi" contains a few contributions from the Structural Xploration Lab. The special dossier on reuse begins with a 6-page article written by Corentin Fivet, Célia Küpfer, and Maléna Bastien Masse: "Matériaux rejetés cherchent nouveaux défis", which proposes a critical contextualization of component reuse in construction, with its risks and levers. Three case studies are then presented. The first focuses on the re:crete footbridge now installed in Valais, with an interview by Vincent Pelissier, cantonal engineer, and Maléna Bastien Masse. The second describes a recent project by FAZ architectes with references to life-cycle assessments done by Célia Küpfer. The third introduces the Polynorm Halle in Fribourg, whose recent dismantling was led by Smart Living Lab colleagues from Transform, HEIA. An article on Cirkla completes the dossier, before a conclusion by Julia Jeanloz, editor of the dossier.

© 2022 EPFL

"Creating without consuming: an ethical responsibility"

— Prof. Corentin Fivet (Structural Xploration Lab) was invited to contribute to the latest book promoting the art of Swiss Engineers, just published by Espazium. The 6-page essay frames the necessity for structural designers to reconsider the extent of their ethical responsibility in light of the climate crisis. It is part of a series of 5 essays linking the practice of civil engineering with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The book also reviews 18 recent exemplary projects in Switzerland.

© 2022 EPFL

SXL's shelter solution tested on field in Juba, South Sudan

— As part of the "Computational Design of Resilient Shelters" CDRS project, a new flood-resilient shelter solution for rural settlements in South Sudan has been successfully tested on site in the city of Juba, with the support of local students from the School of Architecture at the University of Juba. The CDRS project is a joint initiative between the Structural Xploration Lab SXL, Medair, and the University of Juba, that aims at developing a novel shelter design to improve the communities' resilience against seasonal flooding, by employing principles of reusability, circularity, and 100% use of local resources and skills. The successful completion of this testing phase sets one of the final milestones before a widespread distribution of the proposed design among local flood-vulnerable communities. It is expected that the outcomes of this project will help to relieve the current flood emergency that is taking place across the country, where more than 1'000'000 people are affected and displaced annually.

© 2022 EPFL

Guest-lecture at University of Luxembourg

— Jan Brütting, former researcher at the SXL, has been invited as a guest-lecturer in the Master of Architecture Program at University of Luxembourg, on November 21-22, 2022. In a two-day seminar, as part of the structural engineering courses, Jan introduced the students to sustainable structural engineering principles, embodied carbon assessment via LCA tools and circular economy. This included the presentation of a collection of case studies and methods for designing with reused elements as well the showcasing of SXL research including the Re:Crete footbridge. Students were also interactively working on assignments using the Phoenix3D plugin.

© 2022 EPFL

Successful industrial application of Phoenix3D

— The Energie Kosmos building is now completed. Designed by Rapp architects following a competition launched by Primeo Energie, the facade is made of reused members from dismantled electric pylons provided by SwissGrid with the support of Zirkular. The layout of the members is the result of a collaboration between the design team and Jan Brütting and Jonas Warmuth, researchers at the Structural Xploration Lab, who provided the algorithms to optimize the placement of the members with regards to their various cross sections and masses. The employed algorithms are part of the Phoenix3D plugin, now available for all Rhino3D users.

© 2022 EPFL

C.Fivet at Colloque Culture du bâti dans l'existant

— Prof. Corentin Fivet (Structural Xploration Lab), is joining the "Culture du bâti dans l'existant" Colloquium this Wednesday November 23rd, at the EPFL Rolex Forum. From 2pm to 3:30pm, he is taking part in a round table on "Constructing in the existing – saving resources and regenerate ecosystems" with Maria Lisogorskaya (Assemble Studio, London), Sophie Heu Reignier (Estate Development, Geneva), Benjamin Poignon (Baubüro inSitu), and Ariane Widmer (Moderator, Stiftung Baukultur Schweiz). From 4pm to 5:30pm, he will take part in a parallel workshop on the "Baukultur and the culture of Transition, Positions: an inventory" with Charlotte Malterre-Barthes, Anna Livia Friel, and Valentin Bourdon. The event is organized by the "Fondation Culture du bâti / Stiftung Baukultur Schweiz", Prof. Dieter Dietz, and Prof. Sarah Nichols, EPFL, with support of the Swiss Federal Office of Culture.

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