Embodied Carbon in Buildings: Book out now

Catherine De Wolf, postdoctoral researcher at the Structural Xploration Lab, has just co-edited the book "Embodied Carbon in Buildings | Measurement, Management, and Mitigation" (Springer, 2018), which provides a single-source reference for whole life embodied impacts of buildings. The comprehensive and persuasive text, written by over 50 invited experts from across the world, offers an indispensable resource both to newcomers and to established practitioners in the field. Ultimately it provides a persuasive argument as to why embodied impacts are an essential aspect of sustainable built environments.

The book is divided into four sections: measurement, including a strong emphasis on uncertainty analysis, as well as offering practical case studies of individual buildings and a comparison of materials; management, focusing in particular on the perspective of designers and contractors; mitigation, which identifies some specific design strategies as well as challenges; and finally global approaches, six chapters which describe in authoritative detail the ways in which the different regions of the world are tackling the issue.

Robotics at the smart living lab

On Saturday the Halle Blue of the blueFACTORY at the smart living lab in Fribourg welcomed over 200 people on the occasion of the certificate awarding ceremony of the robotics workshop, organised by the EPFL Science Outreach Department in cooperation with EPFL Fribourg and the « Centre fri-tic », which provided the IT-equipment.

The 24 girls and 24 boys aged 11 to 13 years attended from September to December 2017 in Fribourg the robotics workshop entlitled for the girls Les robots, c’est l’affaire des filles and Construire et programmer un robot for boys. The participants received their certificate from Mrs Anne-Claude Cosandey, Operational Director of the EPFL Fribourg Outpost, and Mrs Farnaz Moser-Boroumand, Director of the EPFL Science Outreach Department. After the official part, the participants showed their parents and relatives the robots they had programmed during the 11 weeks’ workshop.

The interest and the enthusiasm of parents and children as well as the quality of the projects realized during this course session very well illustrate the relevancy of such workshops, which provide an introduction to coding and robotics.

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Cantonal Council to submit proposal to Cantonal Parliament for total budget allocation of CHF 25 million for construction of the smart living building

Press release from the State of Fribourg on 18th October 2017

Cantonal Council to submit proposal to Cantonal Parliament for total budget allocation of CHF 25 million for construction of the building of the Smart Living Lab at blueFACTORY.

The Smart Living Lab is a research and development center dedicated to intelligent housing of the future. It is currently located in the Blue Hall pending construction of the building where it will be definitively housed. In the meantime, it has been experiencing significant growth. In order to avoid jeopardizing its future development, the Cantonal Council has approved a 1000 m2 extension of the initial project for this experimental building and allocated an additional budget allocation of CHF 5 million for this purpose. The proposed budget has thus been increased from the initial CHF 20 million to CHF 25 million. At the same time, BFF SA's Board of Directors is re-prioritizing the various on-site projects in order to optimize its financial plan. A study has shown that reallocation of the old bottling hall (Gray Hall) is not economically feasible at the moment. This project has therefore been suspended in order to move forward with construction of Building B, which would stand adjacent to the building where the Smart Living Lab is currently located.

Smart Living Lab
As a research and development facility devoted to intelligent housing of the future, the Smart Living Lab is one of the spearheads of the Swiss Innovation Park and what makes the blueFACTORY unique. In particular, this technology platform combines the expertise of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL, Fribourg campus), the Fribourg School of Engineering and Architecture (HEIA-FR) and the University of Fribourg (UNI-FR). It is here that the Swiss pavilion, NeighborHub, which has just won the 2017 Solar Decathlon in Denver, was designed and built.
Currently located in the Blue Hall, the Smart Living Lab already has 60 employees (48 in 2015), including 19 employees from EPFL, 13 from UNIFR and 28 from HEIA-FR. At this rate, the research and development center will reach the maximum stipulated occupancy of the new building by 2023 (i.e. 89 workplaces).
In order not to hinder in the medium and long term the dynamics of a national and international reference center for intelligent housing of the future, the Smart Living Lab's management and its academic partners have proposed to the joint steering committee to expand the future building by 1,000 m2 (+25%). This would increase capacity to a maximum occupancy of 130 workplaces (+45%).
The Cantonal Council has expressed its support for expansion of this smart living building, which will offer a gross floor area of 5,000 m2 to its 130 researchers (50% EPFL; 50% HEIA-FR and UNIFR). The Cantonal Council has therefore agreed to increase its contribution by CHF 5 million (from CHF 20 million to CHF 25 million) in order to expand construction of the experimental building for intelligent housing of the future.

Gray Hall and Building B
At the same time, BFF SA's Board of Directors is re-prioritizing the various on-site projects in order to optimize its financial plan.
A parallel studies mandate (PSM) was commissioned by BFF SA to examine reallocation of the former bottling hall (Gray Hall) and its economic potential. The preliminary design showed that reallocation of the hall is not economically feasible in the short term, since the estimated cost is between CHF 26 and 30 million for 4,500 m2 of usable floor space. The Board of Directors therefore decided to analyze the desirability of a transitional solution for use of this building.
Instead, BFF SA intends to accelerate construction of Building B, which lies adjacent to the Smart Living Lab. The additional rental space could then be made available to companies wishing to establish themselves on the blueFACTORY site, and more specifically to work closely with the Smart Living Lab.
Building B and the smart living building could thus be delivered by the end of 2021. However, the timetable depends on final approval of the Cantonal Allocation Plan (CAP), which is currently expected for the first half of 2018 (enquiry process launched on 24 November 2017), as well as on the degree of integration of the two buildings.

The public expenditure on the blueFACTORY site, both for the container and in support of the various technology platforms, already amount to some CHF 78.8 million.
This figure includes purchase of the site in equal parts by the Canton of Fribourg and the Town of Fribourg (CHF 24 million); a non-repayable contribution from BFF SA of CHF 1 million (split equally between the Canton of Fribourg and the Town of Fribourg); a loan repayable to BFF SA of 10 million francs (split equally between the Canton of Fribourg and the Town of Fribourg); guarantees and loans from the Canton of Fribourg amounting to CHF 15.6 million for the SICHH platform (CHF 12 million) and BCC platform (CHF 3.6 million) as well as a non-repayable contribution from the Canton of Fribourg for the Innosquare platform (CHF 2 million) and for the Smart Living Lab (CHF 26.2 million).
In addition to these amounts, the Canton of Fribourg will also provide CHF 25 million for construction of the Smart Living Lab building. This amount and the building’s operating expenses will be subject to additional analysis to be provided to the Cantonal Council for approval, followed by a decree and a Cantonal Council Dispatch to be submitted to the Cantonal Parliament for approval.
As part of the Smart Living Lab R&D facility, funding will be provided for professorships at the EPFL, UNI-FR and HEIA-FR. This will result in an annual cost of approximately CHF 7 million for the Canton of Fribourg, an amount that has already been included in the financial plan.

Building a nomad pavilion out of old skis

Could recovered materials play a key role in tomorrow’s civil engineering? EPFL researchers set out to answer that question by creating an easily demountable pavilion out of more than 200 reclaimed skis.

Is there a middle road between producing new materials and recycling them? You bet – reusing them! Researchers at the smart living lab in Fribourg came up with a slightly off-the-wall project based on the idea that the stuff we throw away could be the makings of sustainable construction. Guided by this concept, the researchers collected hundreds of old skis, whose mechanical properties proved ideal for building a collapsible pavilion.

"In the construction industry, talk about sustainable building usually revolves around insulation, energy efficiency, materials, recycling and biodegradation,” says Corentin Fivet, who heads EPFL’s Structural Xploration Laboratory (SXL). “But recycling is expensive and biodegradation is not always a feasible option. Another way to avoid producing new materials and use less energy is to repurpose materials as they are."

We need more research on the topic before ensuring its feasibility. But it could, for example, be paired with other existing building methods. Two examples are prefabrication and nomad architecture which uses support structures that can be repeatedly assembled and disassembled. “In our lab, we’re focusing on the support structures used for buildings because conventional structures – between their foundations and roofs – account for most of the eventual waste.”

Elastic gridshell
After some trial and error with various materials – fishing rods came up short in terms of their mechanical properties and supply – they settled on skis. Like many other types of sports equipment, skis are technological wonders. Fivet says: “Skis typically bring together extensive technical refinements and, even if they’ve outlived their original purpose, should be reused.”

One aspect of the project was to determine the structural potential of skis for their new purpose. They had to be flexible in one direction and rigid in the other. They also had to be able to withstand applied loads and perform consistently over time.

“We tested all types of skis – downhill, slalom, cross-country and freeride – and placed them at strategic points of the pavilion depending on their properties,” says Sofia Colabella, another researcher on the project. “Skis, which are made from high-tech materials, turned out to be almost better than wood, which is more commonly used in this type of structure.”

Colabella specializes in elastic gridshells, which are as flexible as metallic netting but become as stiff as a shell when fastened in place. The trick lies in arranging the individual components in two directions, so that they become a very flexible grid of rectangles. The grid is first built flat on the ground, and then the edges of the grid are pulled in. Because the individual modules are flexible, the center of the grid consequently arches upward. Once the structure has obtained its final shape, it is held in place by attaching other components diagonally in certain spots. This makes it stable and stiff. This structure can be used to cover a large area with small components, and it doesn’t require complicated tools or a formwork.

Headed for Lyon this summer
The researchers’ nomad pavilion is made out of 210 skis and held in place by 300 bolts – less than a hundred of which are needed for the reassembly. This project was selected for the Biennale Architecture Lyon, where it will be on display starting this June. The researchers hope to be able to set up their pavilion in different, popular areas of the city over the course of the event.

“Our goal isn’t to make buildings out of skis. It’s to show that we can use uncontrolled and uncontrollable materials with a sufficient level of confidence in the structure’s safety and performance. It’s an exercise, a manifesto, that shows there are some interesting things to be done in this relatively unexplored field,” says Fivet.

Corentin Fivet (project investigator), Sofia Colabella (gridshell designer and worksite manager), Bernardino D'Amico (engineering consultant), Claude-Alain Jacot (construction), Jan Brütting (construction), Valeria Didonna (construction), Endrit Hoxha (Life-cycle analysis)