Up to date, concrete is one of our main construction materials at large and depending on how you use it, loads are determined on a specific point in coordination with its structural members. This makes it a structure that reacts towards lateral movements and vertical momentum which tenses and compresses according to the stress created. But can it be adaptable to these effects? Can we design with concrete and use it depending on its load while saving material? Until recently we actually have studies that reflect this idea. In 2008, the dissertation titled Principles of a Biotectonic Culture was conceived as a structural catalogue of bio-inspired parameters aiming to establish a new tectonic order for seismic-resilient concrete frames. Exploring the adaptive morphology of the human femur, the thesis proposes a non-prismatic Special Moment Resisting Frame whose form was inspired by Wolff’s Law, thereby shaping the form according to the accustomed stresses the frame will be subjected to. The typical earthquake’s motion defines the diverse loads were taken into account to craft the structural prototype. Structural analysis performed with softwares SAP and ETABS demonstrates certain level of optimization. Because of the resultant non-prismatic form, the proposed concrete frame improves its structural output becoming lighter while stiffer than current typical frames. In 2010, the project evolves into a deep material investigation seeking to foster resilient concrete structures inspired by the mechanical properties of bones. The research also measures tectonic implications of such kind of technological approach. Wilfredo Mendez, principal investigator of the research strongly believes that -“the way we are crafting objects and shaping spaces will change the very meaning of architecture”-. The project aims to translate the hierarchical complex architecture between the mineral and the fibers in bones in order to reproduce their structural response on a concrete structure. In order to achieve such objective, different dimensions have been explored, from growth-inspired fabrication to nanotechnology. The research, which was the Grand Winner entry of the inaugural Thinking-In-Practice Competition (2013), is being conducted by the School of Architecture of the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico (PCUPR) in collaboration with the Department of Chemistry and the Biotechnology Program, PCUPR; Department of Structural and Geotechnical Engineering of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, DAZA Structural Engineering, and Essroc San Juan, Italcementi Group.
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