Building with Synthetic Granulates
The Institute for Computational Design (ICD) at the University of Stuttgart studies how such synthetic granulates can be used in architecture. The term "synthetic granulates" designates particle systems where the individual elements are geometrically defined and produced synthetically in large numbers. The defined geometry of the individual elements allows the properties of the resultant aggregate to be calculated. These properties differ significantly from the properties of naturally occurring granulates such as sand or gravel.
In summer 2015 the ICD presented to the public the first architectural structure, the Aggregate Pavilion, created with a synthetic granulate. The study focused on vertical structures, a function that cannot be realized with natural granulates. In addition, the structures exhibit functional grading. Three types of aggregates are used, specifically, in different zones of the vertical structures. In this way, it is possible to achieve load transfer from top to bottom. The system itself can be reconfigured completely at any time, since no permanent binding matrix is employed. Moreover, no formwork is required during the building process.
The structures as well as a number of possible construction techniques were initially tested with scale models and prototypes in a one-to-one scale. The tests were accompanied by distinct element modeling (DEM) simulations, which permit modeling of particle systems with a very large number of particles.
On the basis of these results, 30 000 elements were produced from recycled plastics by means of injection molding. Then, using a specially built robot, test runs were conducted under defined conditions. Following these, the system was secured to four trees surrounding the site. Calibration on-site assured precise placement of the individual elements within the working range of the robot. This allowed the structures to be built and rebuilt repeatedly.