Zero-Waste, Flat Pack Truss Work: An Investigation of Responsive Structuralism

“The design engineer, in his prioritizing of materialization, is the pilot figure of this cultural shift which we have termed ‘new structuralism.’”(Oxman, Oxman, 2010)

“It [architecture] must become more primitive in terms of meeting the most fundamental human needs with an economy of expression and mediating man’s relationship with the world...and more sophisticated in the sense of adapting to the cyclic systems of nature in terms of both matter and energy. Ecological architecture also implies a view of building more as a PROCESS than a product.” (Pallasmaa, 1993)

The exploration of materials and processes leads to an architecture whose expression is tied to the function of the tools and components used to create it. As exemplified in the work of Mark West and others, the material exploration and structural expression can result in novel forms and processes. As new combinations of design and engineering are now the architectural norm, it is necessary to explore the constantly evolving links between materials, fabrication, function and expression. (mark west photo/diagram here?)

The direct and rapid connections between scripting, modeling and prototyping allow for investigations of computation in fabrication. The manipulation of planar materials with two-dimensional CNC cuts can easily create complex and varied forms, volumes, and surfaces. However, the bulk of research on folding using CNC fabrication tools is focused upon surfaces, self-supporting walls, and shell structures, which do not integrate well into more conventional building construction models.

This paper attempts to explain the potential for using folding methodologies to develop structural members. Conventional building practice consists of the assembly of off-the- shelf parts. Many times, the plinth, skeleton, and skin are independently designed and fabricated, integrating multiple industries. Using this method of construction as an operative status quo, this investigation focuses on a single structural component: `the truss. A truss is defined as: “A triangulated arrangement of structural members that reduces nonaxial external forces to a set of axial forces in its members.”(Allen, Iano, 2004)

Using folding methodologies and sheet steel to create a truss, this design investigation employs a recyclable and prolific building material to redefine the fabrication of a conventional structural member. The potential for using digital design and two- dimensional CNC fabrication tools in the design of a foldable truss from sheet steel is viable in the creation of a flat-packed minimal waste structural member that can adapt to a variety of aesthetic and structural conditions. Applying new methods to a component of the conventional ‘kit of parts’ allows for a novel investigation that recombines zero waste goals, flat-packing potential, structural expression and computational processes.