3d printing - the future of construction production?

FOJAB lab has welcomed Dr. Rupert Soar from Nottingham to give lectures and workshops. It is Petra Jenning at FOJAB, a long-time partner of Rupert Soar, who is behind the event. The focus has been on the contribution of the digital revolution to the development of future architecture and building systems.

- Based on digital manufacturing processes for the construction industry, mainly additive manufacturing (AM), such as 3D printing, Soar explores opportunities for faster information flows, increased complexity and more intelligent buildings. "By studying how processes and structures are built up in nature, we can find new approaches to our built environment and how we relate to it," says Petra Jenning.

Termite stacks and houses
Rupert Soar co-founded the world's leading additive manufacturing research laboratory at Loughborough University. With over 15 years of experience in the field and as an advisor to firms such as Büro Happold and Foster & Partners, he has a deep understanding of AM and its use in the construction process. To look ahead and understand the possibilities of AM, Soar embarked on an unusual journey. By scanning termite stacks in Namibia and studying their complex structure, he realized that they act as membranes that actively move energy in and out of the stack. However, this amazing structure is not built according to a predetermined design but emerges organically. It also adapts to each individual site and its specific conditions.

- Nature often uses fractal structures. To the naked eye, they can appear incredibly complex and difficult to grasp," says Petra Jenning. "They provide a maximized surface as an interface with their surroundings and it is precisely in this surface that energy exchange in the form of gas or heat exchange can take place. "I believe that by understanding the process behind the physical expression of the termite stack, we can learn to design buildings according to the same principles.

Today we generally have a 1:1 relationship between the complexity of the drawing and the complexity of the building. The drawing is a representation of the building in physical space. In the case of the termite stack, it is instead most relevant to describe the functions and processes materialized in the structure. These processes can be described in simple terms, or algorithms, despite the high geometric complexity of the physical expression.

Agent system
The workshop explored how formulating algorithms within an agent system can solve complex problems in new ways. It is a way of thinking that has grown out of Soar and Jennings' longstanding collaboration at the University of Greenwich in London and at Freeform Construction Ltd. An agent system consists of a number of simple modules, or agents, that sense their environment and influence it in real time according to their own objective or algorithm. The agent system negotiates solutions over time that meet a large number of requirements, but without, as in the classical building tradition, dividing each function into a separate material or solution. If, in the future, we can use 3D printers to build houses, today's established relationship between geometric complexity and high cost will change. This opens up the possibility of working with functional form in new and innovative ways.