Structural Xploration Lab

Uniting architecture and structural design, we forge new ways of designing load-bearing systems that are less material-intensive and reusable over multiple use cycles, hence accelerating the adoption of an industrial circular economy by the construction sector. We also devise new computer 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.

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© 2021 C. Küpfer

New article in Frontiers in Sustainability

— Reuse everything, a little, or nothing? Balancing environmental, technical, logistical, and economic criteria can be tough when designing structures with second-hand construction components. So, how to proceed? Our latest publication proposes a novel framework that combines optimization with multi-criteria decision analysis to find the best solution.

© 2021 EPFL, Sonia Villegas

Exhibit of the GEO∙GAMI pavilion @ Smart Living Lab

— The GEO∙GAMI pavilion is a free-form shell made of discarded skis and interwoven panels. Making the most of the inherent mechanical properties of skis, the pavilion is a manifesto for the "upcycling" of waste materials, a key strategy for the development of a circular economy. The pavilion is the result of a collaborative research project led by doctoral student Nicolas Montagne, during which new computational methods, combining differential geometry and parametric construction, were developed to explore the family of free forms that avoids any torsion in the skis, ensures the flat overlapping of crossing curves, and allows their seamless cover by quadrangular panels, while controlling upstream the final mechanical behaviour of the structure. The project demonstrates that the definition of "waste" is relative and that a product abandoned by some can at any time feed new loops of use for others.

© 2021 Espazium

J. Brütting interviewed by Espazium in latest special issue

— Jan Brütting's doctoral work, and more generally research activities at the Structural Xploration Lab, are featured in the latest special issue on "Circular Architecture" by Espazium, the overarching body of Tec21, Tracés, and Archi, Swiss architecture magazines. The 6-page long interview (pp. 24-29) explores how automated placement of reclaimed structural parts could impact future construction and circular architecture in general. The special issue was commissioned by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment.

© 2021 Ioannis Mirtsopoulos

I.Mirtsopoulos invited to Smart Living Lunch

— Architectural design only represents a tiny subset of the design space and it is often constrained by premature design fixation and lack of diversity and/or creativity. The exploration of variant structural forms is constrained by the lack of computational tools that unveil structures in static equilibrium, which are liberated from precedent structural typologies. The generation of bespoke networks of bars in static equilibrium during the early conceptual design is crucial for the design of unconventional structural forms.

© 2021 Anna Heringer

C. Fivet to lecture for CAS on Regenerative Materials

— Corentin Fivet (SXL, EPFL) is giving a 3-hour lecture on "Re-valuing the building stock" this Tuesday in Zürich, as part of the ETH Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS) on 'Regenerative Materials'. The 5-weeks program leads designers and builders towards a more sustainable use of building material resources. Prof. Fivet will review current barriers, opportunities, strategies and metrics of component reuse in architecture and engineering, a key strategy to achieve a circular economy in the construction industry.

© iStock

EPFL researchers put technology to work for the global South

— Tech4Dev, an EPFL program to develop technology that addresses the specific needs and living conditions of communities in the developing world, has announced four new winning projects for its research grants.

© 2021 EPFL

C. Küpfer (SXL) to present at Fondation Braillard

— Célia Küpfer, PhD candidate from the Structural Xploration Lab, EPFL, will give a lecture at the Fondation Braillard, this Thursday May 27, 17h30-19h30 (French speaking). The lecture is part of the Transition Seeds program. Célia Küpfer will talk about current and future challenges related to the reuse of construction components in architecture, and the role of the existing stock as urban mine. The discussion will be co-animated by Marc Angst, architect at the Baubüro In Situ.

© 2021 EPFL

SXL works featured in Werk, Bauen+Wohnen magazine

— Recent research results produced at the Structural Xploration Lab, EPFL are discussed in the latest issue of the Werk, Bauen + Wohnen magazine (issue 5-2021 "Marterialkreislauf"). Werk, Bauen + Wohnen is the most widely read architecture magazine in Switzerland and is also distributed abroad. The 5-page article completes a series of articles on the recent developments of architecture in the context of the circular economy. With the title "Wiederverwendbare Tragsysteme – Erwägung einer Neuauflage des Metabolismus", the author Tibor Joanelly argues that prospects of reusing building parts may well contribute to a revision of the Metabolism movement.

© 2021 Barbara Lambec, EPFL

Students build cabins with nothing but found materials

— Bachelor students from EPFL joined the Atelier popup, next to the Smart Living Lab in Fribourg, during the first week of May, as part of the ENAC week program. A group of 25 students was involved in the "Seconde-Main Constructive" ENAC week. The one-week goal of each team of 5 students was to design and build a cabin, with the trick that materials had to be reclaimed and freely obtained from the area. From conventional materials like wood or plastic sheets to more exotic, yet highly common waste products like louvers or drainage pipes, students had to pay attention to the functionality and stability of the cabin, as well as to its potential for mass production. To achieve their goal they could benefit from the very large panel of tools and technical skills available at the Atelier popup. A live demo concluded the week.

© 2021 TedXEcublens

Corentin Fivet @ TEDxEcublens

— Corentin Fivet, Prof. at the Structural Xploration Lab, is invited at TEDxEcublens this Wednesday April 28th, 2021. His talk "Let's reuse building parts" will introduce the reasons why beams, slabs, walls, columns, etc. should outlive the lifespan of the buildings that they are part of. The theme of the night is "Rebuild to Thrive". Among others, it will feature Marcel Hug – Paralympian Athlete, Claude Nicollier – Astronaut, and Jane Royston – entrepreneur of the year.

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