A Parametric Form Language for Fibre Reinforced Concrete Prefabricated Façade Elements using 3D Printed Formwor

  • Lombardi, D. (Supervisor)
  • Rosa Urbano Gutierrez (Co-supervisor)
  • Christiane Herr (Co-supervisor)

Activity: SupervisionPhD Supervision


In an age where the traditional boundaries between form design and construction are increasingly fluid, contemporary design methods offer new opportunities to engage more closely with the construction process. The evolving role of architects, akin to that of digital craftsmen, reflects the integration of design and construction phases. Utilising parametric design tools and advanced fabrication technologies, a landscape of possibilities has emerged for fabrication-involved design methodologies. Concrete has stood out for its structural integrity and durability, remaining a material of preferred choice in the era of advanced digital fabrication. Digital design and fabrication have broadened potential approaches to intricate geometries, yet the interrelations between geometric variability and viability in the fabrication process has not been systematically understood.
Prior studies have explored fabrication-involved design methods; however, detailed research into the early integration of fabrication constraints within specific design cases remains insufficient. Existing studies predominantly focused on 3D concrete printing, yet often strugglinged with the geometric limitations resulting from lack of inter -laminar bonding resulting from the layer-by-layer printing logic. The use of 3D Printed Formwork (3DPF) has undergone extensive investigation across various scales. However, integrating traditional reinforcement frequently leads to linear geometries, which constrains the full geometric potential achievable by 3D printing technology. Ultra-high-performance concrete (UHPC), with its use of short and thin fibres as an alternative to traditional reinforcement, has the potential to push beyond the current geometric boundaries. Nonetheless, its façade application in practice is still predominantly limited to 2D repetitive planar shapes.
This research extends the existing studies by systematically examining the interrelations between parametric façade design, fabrication method constraints, and material properties. Employing UHPC with 3DPF, this research investigates the design and fabrication of façade elements that are geometrically variable, structurally viable, and material efficient. It develops a parametric façade form language that harmonises geometric design with fabrication and structural requirements, creating façade components that are both geometric variable and structurally and fabrication viable. A design-driven approach guides the development of façade designs, informed by empirical assessments of prototyping feasibility and structural performance. The empirical method also includes design-related experiments with participants who are digital designers to test the overall design workflow.
This study formulates a design strategy that is informed by material properties and fabrication processes, through the exploration of a parametric form language for UHPC façade elements utilising 3DPF. This approach integrates fabrication constraints and material properties from the beginning of the design phase, fostering interactive feedback loops among geometric design, prototype fabrication, and structural evaluation. This study expands the potential of combining UHPC with 3DPF to produce elements that are geometrically variable as well as viable in terms of both structure and fabrication. The produced full-scale prototypes exhibit high geometric complexity without the need for rebars. These prototypes measure up to 1m by 1m with a minimal thickness reaching down to 25mm. This advancement not only enhances structural performance but also overcomes the challenges associated with the weight and thickness of concrete elements.
PeriodJun 2024
ExamineeDeyan Quan
Degree of RecognitionInternational