Architecture : The anti-gravitational construction – Pablo Jimenez-Moreno – Medium

Potential of prefabrication over traditional construction

By nature, walls depend on a foundation: while moving the foundation requires that walls adjust, walls– and the doors and windows within them– may be transformed without adjusting the foundation. This dependence results directly from gravity.

N. J. Habraken, ‘The Structure of the Ordinary’

Masonry construction is entirely dependent to gravitational forces. It follows an order established by gravity. It is hard to modify it as it is impossible to control gravity. Traditional construction systems rely on order and sequence, with no place for simultaneous construction tasks to coexist.

There is no sense on using prefabricated elements for constructing with traditional methods (masonry, brick) as the main advantage of using prefabricated construction elements is that they can be produced and pre-assembled a priori including services and components; shorting construction times and avoiding overlapping tasks. In other words, using prefabrication results in a gain of control over time, cost, capacity and, maybe, quality.

Prefabrication brake down construction hierarchies. Construction processes don’t have to follow each other and elements can be produced simultaneously. The construction can follow assembly logics instead of gravitational ones, opening a world of possibilities in terms of construction methods and processes.

Therefore, for those who pretend to use the advantages that prefabrication can provide to construction, the concept of ‘compatibility’ is more significant than the one of ‘construction systems’.

As an example, CLT (Cross Laminated Timber) is a prefabricated construction panel with structural capacities. Constructing with it does not require to follow (or develop) a structural design as it is embedded in the material. One can use it as it pleased under its structural limitations. It is possible to cut openings on or to drill it almost at any point, which makes it suitable for attaching window/door frames and water/gas pipes. It can be painted or covered with almost any material and used as wall, slab or roofing. It is important to understand which are the possible construction components and systems that are compatible with CLT (or any selected primary material/element) to allow the ones who want/care about the form, style or scale of the building to make decisions over it.

The use of compatible elements allows flexible outcomes, which could be a key to close the gap between the desired construction control of developers– in terms of production and investment– and the search for personalisation/customisation of the end-users.

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