Digital timber for affordable housing: from form finding and optimisation to digital fabrication

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Architecture


Digital design and fabrication are changing the relationship between design and construction. New methods are giving rise to innovative ways of thinking about architecture, where the realization of complex forms is becoming fast and affordable. This project aims to expand timber structural applications through digital design for future sustainable and affordable cities. Timber is a sustainable material with excellent structural properties. Through offsite digital fabrication and fast on site assembly, it could reduce not only construction time but also emissions, cost, transport and the weight of
buildings. The development of the construction sector in the digital era is well behind the automotive or aerospace industries. The CO2 emissions of the construction sector in 2009 accounted for the 23% of the global emissions. Harvesting timber from mature forests gives space for new planting, leading to continued carbon uptake, allowing increasing timber infrastructure to store evermore carbon. The UN Declaration of the Human Rights stipulates the right for adequate living, however more than a billion people do not have access to adequate housing. With a much needed environmental change in our way of living and improvement on housing standards, digital timber could be the answer to the design of new affordable and environmental cities. This research project proposes a holistic approach to the use of digital timber, from form finding and optimization to digital fabrication.


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