2017 Architect R+D winner WholeTrees Architecture and Structures developed a high-tension wing-truss design as part of its efforts to find applications for unmilled timber. The truss, which can bear a load of up to 800 pounds per foot, has steel connectors and reinforcements at major connection points. WholeTrees says unmilled timber has an advantage over engineered wood products because it is subject to fewer local building codes.
2015 Architect R+D winner Breathe Brick is a concrete masonry unit that filters polluted outdoor air so that it becomes healthy enough to bring directly into occupied spaces. Breathe Brick, developed by California Polytechnic State University professor Carmen Trudell, does not require any energy to operate. The system is passive method of improving indoor air quality as well as a load-bearing exterior wall assembly that can be customized or mass-produced.
2016 Architect R+D winner IKD developed the Timber waste Modular Unit (TwMU) to combat the inefficiencies of unused waste from the milling process. TwMU is a hollow, load-bearing block that repurposes the C-shaped trim pieces of log that can comprise up to 38% of a felled tree. IKD turn the trim pieces’ flat, sawn faces out and create blocks that can stack in modular fashion.
Archolab at the University of Michigan has leveraged the strength of tree crotches to create 3D structures. Because crotches, the connection points between a tree and a limb, are a single integrated piece, they are stronger than a joint that forces together disparate vertical and horizontal elements. The team of professors have identified potential forms for their 2018 Architect R+D winning project, Limb, including home frames, columns, and home shells.
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the University of Tennessee, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory collaborated to tackle the energy-consumption challenges posed by cars and homes. The solution, the 2017 Architect R+D winner Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy prototype, is a free-standing 3D printed house and car. The one-room home was modularly printed and the additive printing obviates the need for window or door frames, significantly reducing construction costs and waste.
Francisco Gomes and Dabney Staub of Gomes + Staub Architects created their own building block, MineralBuilt, to update conventional concrete masonry units. The modular concrete unit combines the strength of concrete with the flexibility of wood framing and can accommodate wall reinforcement, insulation, wiring, plumbing, telecom connections, and past installation. The 2018 Architect R+D winner can be laid without the need for specially cut end units, corner units, or framing units around windows and doors. MineralBuilt can fit 33% more units and cover 50% more wall area than conventional CMUs, according to the manufacturer.