Gramazio Kohler Research
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Systems for Assembly, Deconstruction and Reuse of Structural Timber Elements, 2024
Innosuisse Flagship, Think Earth, Subproject 7
Joints are key elements for the creation of load-bearing structures in timber construction. Very often they are dimension-determining and responsible for ductile behavior. This project seeks to develop new strategies for timber construction that allow for more efficient reuse of structural timber elements. Within the framework of this project, this challenge is approached in two ways.

First, the physical connections will need to be developed and tested to evaluate assembly and disassembly processes. The main aspects of physical development will focus on the on the following topics:

- the suitability of currently used connection systems for disassembly and reuse, and if necessary the development of new connection systems;

- the reliability of the behavior of timber components and connections after assembly-disassembly cycles.

Key factors are a design concept and tools that allow efficient, possibly partially automated, assembly and disassembly, and reliable methods for assessing the relevant properties after disassembly. Many current connection systems already allow significant disassembly but are not explicitly designed or optimized for reuse of parts. This will require fabricating and testing many prototypical connections and elements. To address the above challenges, the economic partners include manufacturers of fasteners and connection systems.

Second, design and planning tools will be developed to facilitate the design and planning of timber construction. These will focus primarily on two requirements:

- the design requirements for disassembly and reuse of timber structure connections;

- design tools to plan and document the assembly process and to support the disassembly process.

These include functions that help negotiate the challenge of reusing existing building elements, and should integrate with industry-standard software to allow for simple implementation from economic partners. Further digital technologies that will be investigated are Augmented Reality(AR), spatial tracking of construction processes to generate accurate digital twins of the structures as built, and robust digital models that allow interoperability and preserve data over time. A swiss startup focussing on AR for timber prefabrication will aid in developing these technologies.

Planners and timber construction companies are involved as economic partners to test the integration of physical and digital systems. For these partners, the ability to ensure the reusability of their timber parts, components, modules and connections offers a significant economic advantage. This is not expected to diminish the market for their new products and may even lead to business relationships involving the dismantling and deconstruction phases, in which they have not usually been involved to date.

Gramazio Kohler Research, ETH Zurich
Oliver Bucklin (project lead), Prof. Matthias Kohler, Prof. Fabio Gramazio

Professur für Holzbau, ETH Zurich
Prof. Dr. Andrea Frangi

Institut für Holzbau, Berner Fachhochschule
Prof. Dr. Steffen Franke

Structural Engineering Lab, EMPA
Dr. René Steiger, Dr. Pedro Palma

Copyright 2024, Gramazio Kohler Research, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Gramazio Kohler Research
Chair of Architecture and Digital Fabrication
ETH Zürich HIB E 43
Stefano-Franscini Platz 1 / CH-8093 Zurich

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