Modern digital design and fabrication methods in architecture, engineering and construction, provide enhanced freedom in the sculpting, optimisation, fabrication and construction of building geometries, be they free-form structural shells, cladding elements or performance optimised lightweight structural components. However to date, constructing these geometries in practice has often required expensive supporting falsework structures, complex reinforcement layouts, extensive one-time-use bespoke formworks with high material waste, and/or the use of concrete mixes with high embodied energy.
This research project is a collaboration between the University of Sheffield, the Integrated Civil and
Infrastructure Research Centre (ICAIR), and Laing O’Rourke, a large UK construction company. It aims to address these issues by utilising cutting-edge fabrication techniques and formwork technologies (e.g. wax 3D printed formworks) to enable structurally optimised building elements to be produced, considering their role at the assembly/construction scale. The latest optimisation methods will be employed to guide the placement of concrete and reinforcement, to balance overall performance and structural efficiency with the materials consumed in the temporary and permanent works.
The research will be a synergy between optimisation methods, digital geometric modelling, and available advanced manufacturing resources, with the goal of realising full-scale physical demonstrators after the successful completion of smaller proof-of-concept models. There is potential scope for the physical testing of these prototypes, making use of the modern laboratory facilities at ICAIR.
The successful applicant is likely to have a first degree in engineering or architecture. He/she will also have sound computer programming skills, to enable them to take full advantage of state-of-the-art mathematical optimisation and form-finding methods.
Hands-on experience of digital fabrication processes, such as CNC milling, additive manufacturing/3D printing, and also parametric design modelling tools, such as Rhinoceros and Grasshopper, are an advantage, though can alternatively be developed during the research.
ICAIR website: http://www.icair.ac.uk
Civil and Structural Engineering Dept, University of Sheffield website: http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/civil
Industry partner: Laing O’Rourke