STF#8 - 2023: Presentations
Sugar Slab – upcycling industrial waste into a construction material for interlocking kit-of parts systems designed for disassembly and reuse.
Critical environmental impact of the construction industry challenges architects to seek for alternative sustainable construction systems. At the same time, existing industrial processes from other industries generate considerable amount of waste. For instance, almost two thousand million tonnes of sugar cane are produced worldwide yearly for sugar refineries, resulting in six hundred million tonnes of fibre bagasse as by-product.
Harvesting this opportunity, Sugar Slab project aims to use bagasse as the core resource for a novel material system. Due to a three-way collaboration between Grimshaw, UEL and Tate and Lyle Sugars, the project harvests Grimshaw's AEC industry expertise, university knowledge base and an industrial partner's production capacity.
The resulting Sugarcrete material is four times lighter than traditional brick and has only 15-20% of its carbon footprint. Using only 30% of the world bagasse production, Sugarcrete could replace the traditional brick industry entirely, offering potential saving of 1,08 billion tonnes of CO2, 3% of the global CO2 production.
Challenging misconception of waste-based materials being inferior in structural strength, Sugarcrete can offer self-supporting structural applications beyond infill. Furthermore, material is insulating, fire-resistant, easy to use with unskilled labour in-situ or off-site; and has reduced supply chain due to a simple composition.
A novel kit-of parts interlocking system, Sugar Slab, has been tested with Sugarcrete in 1:1 scale. The system enables large span construction from small discrete components with no mortar. Due to reciprocity and distributed forces network the system performs superior to the conventional monolithic assembly. Casting is used to minimise material waste, while enabling formwork reuse, streamlined mass production and DfMA opportunities.
As a result, SugarSlab presents material efficient, falsework-free, reconfigurable kit-of parts system, designed for disassembly and reuse. The project integrates material programming, geometrical design and advanced fabrication within one continuous toolchain. Having developed and prototyped ‘Sugar slab’ using advanced digital modelling, robotic fabrication, and-low carbon material, the team is working to demonstrate how it can provide a sustainable alternative towards decarbonizing construction industry.
Elena Shilova is an architect at Grimshaw and UEL visiting fellow. In practice, she contributes to large-scale infrastructure, masterplans and public spaces, focusing on modular systems and complex geometry of building envelopes. In addition, Elena has been lecturing at Ecole des Ponts ParisTech, Chalmers University and The Architectural Association. Leveraging Elena's design interests, her research spans computation, advanced fabrication and developing modern languages for indigenous techniques of sustainable construction.
Elena - Instagram
Design team: Elena Shilova, Georgios Tsakiridis, Paolo Vimercati, Andy Watts (Grimshaw); Armor Gutierrez Rivas, Alan Chandler (University of East London)
Sustainability and material consultant: Bamdad Ayati (Sustainability Research Institute)
Industrial partner: John Kerr, Research & Technology (Tate and Lyle Sugars)
Engineering: Nicolo Bencini (AKT II)
Robotic fabrication: Paul Nichols (UEL FabLab)
Computational Design Specialist: Philip Singer (Grimshaw)
XR Specialist: Paris Nikitidis (Grimshaw)
UEL Master of Architecture students: Faith Omowunmi Ogundare, Busra Ciftci, Amy Gillespie, Hinal Arvindkumar Patel, Rova Taha, Dodangodagamage Kawan Roger Ranasinghe, Manoj Sai Ganji, Mohan Ukabhai Dungrani, Anca-Madalina Borda, Alina Klimenteva, Rashmi Madagamage Gunathilaka, Orseer Isreal Gbashah, Mahmoud Sayed Abdellattif.
Photographs: Chris Hopkinson