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TRANSFORM - Transformable structures for sustainable development

About TRANSFORM
Researching transformations

Research Team Presentation

TRANSFORM is the research team within the Vrije Universiteit Brussel’s æ-lab that studies the effect of designing, engineering and constructing in a transformable way. The objectives of the team include the facilitation of research and gathering of expertise on the assessment and design of materials, components and structures that anticipate change and time through architectural engineering.

Our research team finds its roots in the spontaneous collaboration between prof. Hendrickx and prof. De Wilde who in 2001 identified the urgent need for a novel approach to design and construct our built environment. They explored an innovative sustainable design strategy based on time as the fourth dimension and the change it brings to the built environment at the level of settlements, structures and components.

In 2009, prof. De Temmerman became chairman of the team, merging the existing knowhow with his own on deployable structures. As a result, considerable expertise on transformable structures has been compiled in our research team.

The researchers of our team are engaged in diverse specific aspects such as the technical and structural performance of transformable structures, their safety, their environmental and financial benefits and drawbacks as well as in their implementations on an urban scale.

After more than ten years of research, three doctoral dissertations and the recent recruitment of several new researchers, we keep on innovating.

Contact chairman prof. Niels De Temmerman or one of the researchers for more information.

Mission Statement

We live in an age where rapid changes in cultural trends, global markets and technological innovation increasingly lead to resource depletion and waste production. Because most of the earth’s mineral and fossil resources are finite, they should be used and reused wisely. As designers, we are challenged to create answers that remain sustainable in a continuously changing context.

The structures of the built environment in which we operate are never end states, but phases of a process. Facilitating transformations is vital to sustainable development. This requires holistic approaches that take change into account and help alleviate future problems.

By introducing transformational capacity at different design levels, we want to maximise the sustainability of settlements, structures and components through time while minimising the waste of resources. We believe that transformability can act as an important catalyst for sustainable development because of the social, economic and ecological qualities it generates over time and the life-cycle resource management it incorporates.

As researchers, we study, analyse, design and assess transformable structures varying in scale, context, time-span and purpose. Through publication, education and projects we share our attitude towards a dynamic built environment.

Key Concepts

What types of change do we consider?

Transformable structures possess a ‘transformation capacity’ allowing them to adapt, anticipate or react on external changing circumstances. This change is inherent to urban as well as emergency situations and might be introduced by new functional necessities, changing climate conditions, new standards or any external condition that requires alterations over time.

How do we design for change?

First, transformation can manifest itself as a deployment or translation, entailing a volumetric or formal transition in order to enhance the structure’s mobility or functionality. It can be introduced through the adoption of mechanisms providing a system with kinematic behaviour, such as scissor and foldable plate structures. Kinematic mechanisms enable a structure to deploy from a closed, compact configuration to an open, expanded state. This ensures the ease of transport and erection on site, and the reuse of the structure in case of mobile applications. This kinematic mechanism can also be introduced for responsive behaviour of building substructures in favour of the building’s internal climate and appearance.

Deployment of an external shading element based on curved-line folding (Aline Vergauwen) Deployment of an external shading element based on curved-line folding (Aline Vergauwen)

Alternatively, transformation can manifest itself as a reconfiguration of a structure, possibly with additional components, upgrading its performance or layout. Demountable and compatible construction components can provide a kit-of-parts system, resembling the Meccano® construction toy. By designing and realising structures with dry and reversible connections between their components, their disassembly is enabled. Consequently, all constitutive components can be reconfigured, complemented, replaced and reused. In the end, disassembly allows the structure’s selective demolition, soft stripping for reuse and recycling.

Graphical representation of a fixed and a dynamic wall assembly (Anne Paduart) Graphical representation of a fixed and a dynamic wall assembly (Anne Paduart)

Which design levels do we consider in our research?

Transformation concerns all levels of our built environment including materials, components, structures and urban fragments, and all layers including public amenities, load bearing structures, a building’s skin, space plan and technical services. Consequently, transformational capacity should be considered from the first stages of design and engineering.

Projects

A full list of the research and educational projects in which TRANSFORM is involved can be found on the projects page of this website.

Latest TRANSFORM Projects

Research Topics

The research conducted within TRANSFORM covers a broad variety of topics concerning transformable building, such as the technical and structural performance of transformable structures, their safety, their environmental and financial benefits and drawbacks as well as in their implementations on an urban scale.

Since 2003, 10 doctoral researches have been completed in the field of transformable building. Others are currently being conducted. In addition to the practical outcomes that focus on a specific field of application, the research findings illustrate the potential and risk of transformable building and learn us how to assess its effects.

TRANSFORM WITH US !
If you are interested in a doctoral research on transformable building, do not hesitate to contact Niels De Temmerman.

Latest TRANSFORM news

2017-05-10TRANSFORM is looking for a researcher in Circular Building Economy - Design for Change!
2017-04-05Circular economy in the construction industry
2017-04-03ReciPlyDome: a temporary, lightweight structure in Copenhagen
2017-01-02Brussels’s Buildings: an opportunity to recover valuable building materials for the future!
2016-12-18Two FWO-SB grants for ARCH researchers

All æ-lab news