Precast Concrete Components 2.0

The Precast Concrete Components 2.0 Project (PCC 2.0) develops circular economy strategies for concrete components of obsolete buildings.

Project Summary

Within the project Precast Concrete Components 2.0 (PCC 2.0) an interdisciplinary team develops novel circular economy processes to reuse concrete components of obsolete buildings. The project aims at overcoming linear material flows within architectural construction and avoiding further exploitation of scarce resources. The team digitizes and disassembles buildings and transforms them into refurbished components: PCC 2.0 – Precast Concrete Components 2.0.

Process diagram visualizing the real-digital process chain as well as the circularity for PCC 2.0 from urban mining to assembly of the refurbished precast concrete components 2.0.

Project Aims

Current design and planning processes are stuck in a linear notion of material use. Rare materials, precious energy and design intelligence invested into building components are too often hastily demolished and downcycled into inferior goods. Climate change, resource scarcity and an increasingly growing demand for future housing requires us as a global society to truly implement a circular economy. This project seeks to contribute to this inevitable paradigm shift.

Our interdisciplinary team of researchers and industry experts in architecture, engineering, surveying and building digitization aims at flipping the order of conventional digital-real process chains: While currently a building design starts with digital planning and subsequent materialization, PCC 2.0 starts from an existing, obsolete building and transforms it into a repository for precast concrete components (PCC). In a real-digital process chain concrete components, harvested from disassembled buildings, are digitized, refurbished and robotically transformed into PCC’s. Computational tools then help to aggregate the discrete elements into dry-joint structures that serve as both, buildings for today and component repository for future buildings. PCC’s are elements decoupled from the lifespan of a single building and rather circulate through time and space.

This project contributes to a more sustainable, resource-efficient circular economy in the construction industry while at the same time counteracting the increase in construction costs predicted among others by the German Construction Industry Federation due to a shortage of raw building materials.

Project Objectives

The team develops a digital circular economy platform that enables acquisition, design, management and logistics for PCC’s. A real-digital process chain linking existing technologies like digitization, planning, production and data management.

In the first step of this novel process chain FARO Labs is 3D-scanning existing building structures to identify their reusable concrete components. These components are then tagged by RFID technology and indexed as a digital twin by THING TECHNOLOGIES using a Building Information Model (BIM). ITE at TU Braunschweig produces the PCC’s by standardizing the deconstructed concrete components through subtractive post-processing. DDU develops discrete, graph-based computational design tools as well as combinatorial optimization algorithms to ensure a highly flexible reassembly of novel buildings made from PCC 2.0. A comprehensive, accompanying life cycle analysis (LCA), carried out by ENB at TU Darmstadt will allow an assessment of the method’s ecological and economic impact.

Preliminary Work

DDU regards the fusion of creative work, computational technology and interdisciplinary research as the key to mastering the manifold challenges of our time. Important preliminary work for PCC 2.0 includes geometry development for modular, reversible structures, their digital generation, analysis, and attribution using bespoke software.

DDU explores the use of digital design and fabrication to combine the old with the new. Within the process chain “Scan-Print-Assemble”, real objects are 3d-scanned and complementary components are then modelled and 3d-printed. DDU has also conducted extensive previous research in the field of geometry development for modular, reversible structures, their digital generation, analysis, and attribution using bespoke software. Especially in the field of topological interlocking assemblies (TIA), numerous systems of dry-jointed, modular constructions have been examined and software solutions have been developed, currently implemented as the WASP Plugin for the Rhinoceros/Grasshopper modelling environment. WASP allows for rule-based design and construction using discrete modules by attaching information about geometry, orientation, connection details and requirements as attributes. Through defining topological graphs based on connection details, WASP can be used for the aggregation of large numbers of modules as well as the exploration of their diverse possible combinations – a crucial step in “upcycling” existing building components into new modular and reversible constructions using dry-joint connections.

Wasp is a set of open-source Grasshopper components, developed in Python, directed at representing and designing with discrete elements using graph- and rule-based aggregation.
Compression-only arch made from natural rocks that were scanned as well as complementary 3d-printed joints. within the process chain “Scan-Print-Assemble”.