- Using Lycra stretched into different shapes by robotic arms and then filled with a concrete-fiberglass mixture, designers Ron Culver and Joseph Sarafian said they can create "radical new architectural forms," Dezeen reported.
- The two are part of the University of California's Fabric Forms initiative, and Sarafian told Dezeen that it's possible the method could be used for everything from "building facade elements" to main structures.
- The use of fabric avoids the need to create custom concrete molds and is compatible with parametric design, which uses digital variables to determine form, according to the designers.
Sarafian told Dezeen that fabric-casting can create a curved form that would be demolished by the removal of traditional formwork. The method also uses less material and labor, appealing to sustainable building proponents, and can achieve a reduced schedule. High-profile architects Wolf D. Prix and the Bjarke Ingels Group's Kai-Uwe Bergmann have said this method is "the future of the construction industry," Dezeen reported.
Concrete is one of the most used building materials in the world, and it costs construction firms across the globe billions of dollars each year to repair. Research teams are coming up with different ways to utilize, tweak, alter and fine-tune the traditional building material. For example, a Mexican researcher has developed a cement that absorbs sun during the day and emits that light for up to 12 hours at night, which would eliminate the need for electricity to light highways.
University of Victoria researchers also announced last month that they were nearing a formula for self-healing concrete. Their news came after a team from Cardiff University in Wales reported in November that they were also working on three separate concrete healing methods. The team said it was trying to achieve an embedded system that could sense when the concrete was damaged and help with the repair process.
And earlier this year, a team of masters' students, who call themselves "Amalgamma," from the Bartlett School of Architecture developed a 3-D printing method for concrete, which enables the creation of structural elements and large furniture pieces. In a year-long project, Amalgamma combined two existing 3-D methods, extrusion and powder printing, to create supported extrusions. The team built a table and a column in an attempt to demonstrate their ability to produce large-scale concrete structures.