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Non-orthogonal Light Timber Frame Design

Gerard Finch, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Awards RIBA President's Awards for Research 2018
Category Design & Technical

X-Frame X1 - Conceptual Proposal, © Gerard Finch

Orthogonal structural timber framing is the predominant method for building low density residential buildings in a large proportion of developed countries.

Today this framing system is highly refined to be economically advantageous – making use of low-value and widely available materials. However, this construction product largely ignores the emerging ‘Circular Economy’ (CE) sustainability agenda.

At the end of a buildings life, and when deconstruction is attempted, most materials integrated into an orthogonal frame are irreversibly damaged. Furthermore, deconstruction is time consuming and yields very few valuable materials. Thus, this research questions the suitability of conventional framing methods to achieve true life-cycle sustainability and suggests a series of radical non-orthogonal solutions in response.

These solutions are centered around maximizing the recovery of all materials attached to (and located in) the structural frame at the end of a buildings life. Non-orthogonal frames are the superior solution as they are generally inherently resistant to lateral loads and can be dynamically modulated to fit within many different building conditions.

The research uses computer-aided fabrication technology to integrate jointing and assembly conditions in the non-orthogonal timber frame geometry that substantially speeds up end-of-life deconstruction.

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