ArboSkin: Durable and Recyclable Bioplastics Facade Mock-Up

ITKE (Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design) -Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jan Knippers, University of Stuttgart, Germany; Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning

Ilsfeld-Auenstein, (PresseBox) - Mock-Up:

The bioplastics facade mock-up was created within the framework of the Bioplastic Facade Research Project, a project supported by EFRE (Europäischer Fonds für Regionale Entwicklung / European Fund for Regional Development). It demonstrates one of the possible architectural and constructional applications of bioplastic materials developed during the course of the project. The blueprint is based on a triangular net composed by mesh elements of varying sizes.

Bioplastic Façade Research Project:

The ITKE has many years of experience in teaching and research in the fields of computer based design, simulation, and production of cladding for buildings with complex geometries. Currently, materials made from oil-based plastics, glass, or metal are mainly used to encase these structures. Thermoformable sheets of bioplastics will represent a resource-efficient alternative in the future, as they combine the high malleability and recyclability of plastics with the environmental benefits of materials consisting primarily of renewable resources. The interdisciplinary group of material scientists, architects, product designers, manufacturing technicians, and environmental experts was able to develop a new thermoformable material for facade cladding made primarily from renewable resources (>90%). Developed by project partner TECNARO within the framework of the research project ARBOBLEND®, a special type of bioplastic granules was employed, which can be extruded into sheets and further processed as required: the sheets can be drilled, printed, laminated, laser cut, CNC-milled, or thermoformed to achieve different surface qualities and structures and eventually produce various moulded components.

The semi-finished products serve as cladding for flat or free-formed interior and exterior walls. The material can be recycled and meets the high durability and flammability standards for building materials. The goal of the project was to develop a maximally sustainable yet durable building material while keeping the oil-based components and additives to a minimum.

The ecological audit was completed by project partner ISWA (Institute for Water Engineering, Water Quality, and Waste Management). Furthermore, the material's resistance to microbial degradation was also determined.

Innovative Character of the Research Project:

This research project marks the first occasion for the development of bioplastic sheets primarily based on renewable resources. The sheets can be freely formed, are designed for applications in the building industry and are specifically meant for building exteriors and cladding. At the beginning of the project such product was not available on the market. The conception of this material as flame-retardant sheet material also aims at applications for building interiors (spek DESIGN).

With this new development, we can therefore soon offer a product that addresses two trends:

- the increasing demand for resource-efficient and sustainable building materials
- the increasing development of buildings featuring double-curved geometries and planar facade components with 3D effects (relief)

Project Information:

Duration of project: 20 Dec 2011-31 Oct 2013 Mock-Up Presentation: 17 Oct 2013

Mock-Up Production Concept:

Extruded sheets made of bioplastic material developed by TECNARO are thermoformed into identical pyramidal moulding components.

Project partner BAUER THERMOFORMING is an expert at thermoforming thick-walled bioplastic sheets. The necessary process of contour milling allows for multiple variations among the moulding components as identical thermoformed parts can be processed differently using various CNC milling paths. This allows for the cladding of freeform areas with a single moulded component. The plastic waste that results from CNC milling process is regranulated and directly returned to the extruding process. At the end of their useful life, the facade sheets can be composted or disposed of almost carbon-neutrally.

Mock-Up Supporting Structure:

The freeform bioplastic facade works as a sheet material, shell-based structure with additional loadbearing and bracing ring carriers and joists. Contrary to common non-loadbearing facade constructions, this construction involves the loadbearing properties of the double curved skin (made of 3.5 mm thick bioplastic pyramids which are coupled together) as main bracing element for the entire system. On the one hand, this innovative measure shows the potential of modified bioplastics as a bracing material (up to E≈4000N/mm²) suitable for exterior applications as it adds only a minor load due to its reduced self-weight (13kN/m³); on the other hand, it allows for the construction of a facade that utilizes a minimised number of support points and/or mounting brackets on the structural system behind it.

ITKE, a “Landmark in the Land of Ideas”:

In Germany’s nation-wide competition “Landmarks in the Land of Ideas 2013/14,” ITKE’s idea for the conception of bioplastic facades made from thermoplastic semi-finished materials in the framework of the Bioplastic Facade Research Project received one of the fourteen awards in the science category. For the first time, this competition had adopted a theme: „Ideen finden Stadt“ a pun on the German words “Stadt” (city) and “stattfinden” (to take place), resulting in a playful tension between “Ideas take place” and “Ideas taken to the city.” The initiative “Deutschland - Land der Ideen” / “Germany - Land of Ideas” and Deutsche Bank confer these awards to honour ideas that suggest solutions for the challenges facing the cities and regions of tomorrow. In the course of the Research Project Bioplastic Facade, project leader ITKE and its project partners TECNARO, BAUER THERMOFORMING, spek DESIGN, and University of Stuttgart’s Institute for Water Engineering, Water Quality and Waste Management were able to answer the question how free-formable and recyclable semi-finished products with a renewable resource content of more than 90% could be produced.

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