The European construction industry is described as traditional and low-technology, and in need of modernisation. New techniques and design technologies offer a much-needed standardised system, yielding great freedom and capability. Aiming to develop such a system was the EU-funded project 'Development of an adaptable structure for architecture applications' (HYPERMEMBRANE) . The six-member consortium ran over two years to August 2013. The goal was to provide European industry with a standard system for designing and building free-form architectural structures. The goal was to deliver a technology that is also high quality, adaptable, re-usable and customisable. The project achieved its goal, resulting in an innovative two-part design and construction system. The physical part is a self-supporting flexible structure able to assume almost any programmed shape. That part of the system combines elastic composite materials with mechanical actuators. The digital part is a mathematically sophisticated tool for design and structural validation of the physical system. Considerable software development work went into achieving the system components. This included new 3D shape-control code, along with a friendly graphical interface. The final code also included structural verification modules. Once developed, the software was tested and shown to effectively control the membrane. The project compared various composite materials, and both designed and tested a suitable manufacturing process. Prototype versions of the membrane were constructed and put through similar tests, yielding a final design. A follow-on project was submitted and approved by the EU. HYPERMEMBRANE-DEMO began in 2014, and will both advance the technologies developed under HYPERMEMBRANE and refine them for future commercialisation. The project's achievements mean a convenient, standardised system for European design and construction, able to be used by a small force of medium-skilled workers. In addition, the system shows export potential, having follow-on benefits in a variety of areas, including composite materials and production processes.
Construction, design technologies, architectural structure, membrane, composite material