Build complex structures with reclaimed wood

Build complex structures with reclaimed wood

While the construction industry almost exclusively uses 2-inch x 4-inch x 8-foot pieces of lumber, reclaimed lumber from building demolition generally does not have standard dimensions. However, thanks to digital tools that use algorithms, it is possible to effectively reuse these shorter elements in complex structures. This is exactly what the NœudAL installation, which has just been built behind the Faculty of Environmental Design at the Université de Montréal, aims to show.

NodeAL is the result of a research project initiated in the winter semester of 2022 by students of the master’s degree in architecture and the Architecture, Computer Science and Robotics Laboratory of the School of Architecture. “In this research workshop, they created algorithmic tools that allow managing the architectural complexity of a structure that could be built with reclaimed wood of different non-standard lengths,” explains Andrei Nejur, assistant professor at the School of Architecture.

Specifically, this means that these tools manage to establish, in a few seconds, what is the best way to use reclaimed wood in your project with a minimum of transformations.

“The tools allow you to see how to adapt the structure according to the possibilities of the wood”, says the professor. The power of algorithms really makes it possible to create very complex structures. And we demonstrate it with NodeAL”.

wood and aluminum

The structure thus built is made up of two materials that Quebec produces in large quantities, namely wood and aluminium. AluQuébec, the aluminum cluster, has also financially supported the project.

The wooden studs were assembled with aluminum knots bent from one-millimeter-thick sheets stiffened in places with three-millimeter-thick aluminum plates. “Since the sheets used were very thin, the knots are very light: they weigh just over 300 grams,” says Andrei Nejur.

These knots allow supporting the structure whose geometry is not standard with wood that has only been cut with a circular saw to obtain the lengths recommended by digital tools. Results? Almost 90% of the 238 wooden planks used in this structure correspond to eight lengths. “Having these measurements made it much easier to cut the wood for construction,” says the professor. And we created very few releases.”

influence the industry

In order to manufacture this structure, the master’s students first had to design the digital tools by carrying out programming that required the integration of various mathematical and geometric concepts and the development of algorithms.

“We have made these digital tools available to the industry for free because we want them to use them to encourage greater use of recovered wood in the construction of new buildings, with a circular economy perspective,” highlights Andrei Nejur, co-head of the workshop with Thomas Balaban, associate professor of practical training in the Faculty of Planning. Both are specialists in the influence of digital in the process of creation and design in architecture.

Andrei Nejur would like to see the construction of a research prototype become an annual tradition at the UdeM School of Architecture so that those interested in construction in Quebec can learn about advances in the field.

The construction of NoeudAL in figures

  • 7 meters high
  • 6 meters wide
  • 4 meters high
  • 238 wooden planks
  • 148 aluminum knots
  • 953 aluminum sheets 1 millimeter thick
  • 6173 bolts and nuts
  • 6144 screws

Master students who participated in the project

  • Marc-Antoine Boule
  • Cristian Camilo Molina Gonzalez
  • charles rubbern
  • Anais Duclos
  • Gregory Gaudreault
  • Kevin Larouche-Wilson
  • Juliette Mezey
  • sarah murray
  • Lucas Ouellet
  • mohamed seddiki


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