Design By Making: Fabrication at Autodesk’s BUILD Space

So much of the current architecture design process appears to live inside the computer. Hand drafting and balsa wood models are now quaint relics of a time in the profession when the analogue aspects of design governed the way spaces are created. Today’s advancements in digital design techniques and manufacturing technologies are giving space for physical creation to recover its place in innovation, by the way they influence and open possibilities within design and construction. Outside of the AEC space, the broader maker movement is a signal connecting innovation to a culture of making.

Autodesk, leading CAD and 3D software company, is stepping outside the computer to create its first Building, Innovation, Learning and Design (BUILD) Space – an incubator and fabrication facility that desires to connect the dots between design, technological innovation and physical creation. Perkins+Will partnered with BUILD Space to explore emerging materials, prototypes for building assemblies and their associated fabrication workflows. These workflows denote a shift in construction techniques towards digital fabrication, which is rising with the rise of building performance requirements, increasing demand for precision and speed in construction, and rising complexity of building forms.

We recently spent a week at Boston BUILD Space building a complex curvature Nail Laminated Timber (NLT) structural panel; a proof of concept prototype for a landmark project we are designing in Vancouver, and is slated for construction in spring 2017. The prototype is composed of standard 2x lumber, laminated together using aluminum nails to form a faceted structural shell following complex double curvature. Leveraging computational design and advanced fabrication techniques, the shell was milled by a 5-axis CNC router to achieve smooth curved interior surface finish. Tens of the shell panels are planned to be assembled together for the actual build of the project.




The work explores what is achievable in wood construction and is made possible with digital fabrication. The smooth NLT shell highlights innovation in applying advanced industrial fabrication methods to a historic natural and sustainable building material, enabling wood structures to address complex building forms, and thus opening up new possibilities for the future of wood construction in the industry.

Yehia oversees a robot modifying a wood panel.

Yehia oversees a robot modifying a wood panel.

A number of different concept prototypes from around Perkins+Will are slated for production at Autodesk BUILD Space to streamline our digital fabrication workflows and explore their potential, in an effort to inform our design process through the act of physical creation. Upcoming collaborations include a thermoplastic lattice panel to be fabricated  using industrial robots and 3D printers.  The ongoing collaboration with Autodesk will explore a full range of material assemblies and advanced fabrication methodologies.

The opportunity to physically construct prototypes of our designs and test digital fabrication at Autodesk’s BUILD Space helps Perkins+Will bridge the gap between design and construction.  The partnership enables more informed design while facilitating the development of increasingly complex and demanding building systems. The collaboration creates a rich medium for continuous exploration of new construction techniques, building materials and assemblies by providing a feedback loop between designers, fabricators and software developers. We see the future of the AEC industry blurring boundaries between disciplines, and giving technology an ever increasing role to play – our collaboration with BUILD Space provides exactly that, opening up infinite possibilities to develop the smarter building systems we expect for our future.

Authors Jeremy Luebker (second from left) and Yehia Madkour (center) with the BUILD Space team.

Authors Jeremy Luebker (second from left) and Yehia Madkour (center) with the BUILD Space team.

#Designbymaking #NLT #PWatBUILDSpace

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