4.s12 (prev. 4.s14)
Special Subject: Architecture Design — Carbonhouse Workshop

Permission of instructor

Note: As of 9/22/2017 subject number changed to 4.s12 (previously 4.s14).  All students registered for 4.s14 have been automatically moved to the new number.

This will be a design workshop that pursues several small architectural projects concurrently, each requiring inventiveness in the use of lightweight composite materials. The goal is to witness the potentials offered by such stiff and light structural elements, both formally and functionally, attaining human comfort with a new elegance of spatial material deployment.

The projects respond to expressions of interest by pioneering client groups, who are looking to execute them as prototypes. So there is potential that they will be fabricated (if they are practical and cost-effective), likely in 2018; and if so, they could contribute to the MIT Housing Exhibition being organized in the Spring.

The ambition is to evidence carbon-based building envelopes and elements, enhanced by digital control of all building elements, exploring what this might offer in terms of environmental and performance benefits: graphene, for instance, permits energy absorption (solar skins), energy storage (battery capacity), electrical signaling and sensing (no wiring), heating (electrical), and structural performance. 

Projects (one or many to be taken on individually or in groups)

A new ecological hotel group is interested in developing a prototype room, and discussion has been to target a lightweight ontology where comfort is witnessed in the materiality of the composite elements – for instance in thin ceramic finishes in zones of sun-penetration where heat is transported by sub-dermal fluids, and solar gain directed by dynamic shading, glazing, furniture deployment … So an ActivRaum. 

An actuation company seeks to develop a new range of dynamic window and door elements to permit a new level of coordinated shading and ventilation, with composite or glass elements bedding directly into precise building-envelope moldings. Looking at EtherCAT industrial protocols, that permit ultra high-speed closed-loop operation, we will envisage nuanced modulation of elements to permit a breathing and socially-sentient architecture ... So an ActivSkin.

A progressive sustainable developer (MA) is looking for a prototype mini showhouse that witnesses the potential benefits of ultra-lightweight, thin-skin composite materials, looking to deploy this as a ubiquitous new materiality. The challenge is to layer in solar skins and building control systems to witness a new performativity, teasing out a new aesthetic that revels in how fabric and precise CAD-CAM might offer a new elegance ... So an ActivHaus.

A Scandinavian construction group is looking to develop self-sufficient off-grid cabins for weekend retreats in the Swedish countryside. These aim to be rapidly deployable, environmentally benign, and svelte as hell, but offering a minimal existence ... So an ActivHut.
Others (to be invented)

We aim to bring these designs to a level of technical legitimacy and design elegance — suggestive new models of a carbon architecture.  

The workshop will involve the CAD CAM expertise of Ehsan Baharlou, an MIT postdoc arriving from Achim Menges’ group in Stuttgart; and a visiting engineering scholar from Taiwan, Prof Chien-Ho Ko who has interest in lean manufacture, robotics and sensing systems. There will be input from a variety of composites groups, engineers and fabricators, as we will look to fully specify and detail the projects we develop, aiming at lean manufacture. These include Waterfront (engineering), TPI Composites (fabrication), MouldCam (milling) who will be called upon to help define elegant and cost-effective technical solutions. We will also witness structural and fire testing of a variety of prototypes done under MITei funding, which will give insight into the technical and code issues that impinge upon polymeric materials in buildings.

Of salient interest will be quantifying the potential benefit of using lightweight composites in buildings, and a detailed Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) study will be run in parallel by Stanford University Dept of Civil and Environmental Engineering (Prof Mike Lepech). I would also like look at Prof Christoph Reinhard’s software to assess and calibrate climatic performance. 

The Workshop is open to all students, but it will help to have good CAD CAM skills, since composite fabrication goes hand in glove with CNC fabrication, which requires “perfect” models! But Ehsan is an excellent computation instructor, so he can help with this. Understanding of composites will draw from the on-going research of the group (so you will learn quickly). 

The workshop will meet for 90 minutes twice a week, aiming to conclude before pressure on studio becomes too intense. The times will be by negotiation to suit the group of students who express interest. My experience is that fabrication of prototypes is a very exacting and time-consuming process, so projects that are accepted by the sponsors for execution will likely involve further in-depth development during IAP, with fabrication likely by specialist groups in Rhode Island in the Spring (we will rely on experienced fabricators to handle noxious resins and irritating glass or carbon fiber)! 


Possible travel to Rhode Island is under consideration.