Unusual Constructive Systems You Should be Considering

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Brick and mortar, timber, concrete, and steel: otherwise known as the quadrumvirate of recent architectural constructions and the undisputed main characters in the rise of contemporary cities. However, that doesn't mean everything has been said when it comes to constructive systems. With new materials and modern needs also comes advanced solutions. The same could be said of newly rediscovered constructive systems, reinvented to fit contemporary needs facing the industry today. 

These four unusual constructive systems mix ingenuity and simplicity while leaving room for experimentation and improvement, thus paving the path for new ways to build. 

Cordwood

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Unusual Constructive Systems You Should be Considering

Arcus Center by Studio Gang

Cordwood, or log masonry, is a constructive system that mixes mortar and logs to create sturdy structures. This method has been in use since as far back as ancient Greece but has recently seen revival thanks to its clever use of renewable sources. This method was recently used by Studio Gang in a major project: the Arcus Center, proving this old constructive method still has a lot to deliver.

To make cordwood structures even more environmentally friendly, the mortar used to glue its structural logs together may be mixed with corn cob ashes, paper pulp––a material known as papercrete––or sawdust. 

The thickness of cordwood gives the walls good thermal insulation properties, adding to the method’s green points.

Bamboo

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Unusual Constructive Systems You Should be Considering

Green School by PT Bamboo Pure

Bamboo’s renewable nature, fast growth, and single-piece length make it an interesting candidate for structural assemblies. 

Since bamboo is prone to splitting, it requires a special assembly method which implicates cutting and assembling without the aid of nails and bolts.

This material has proven to be versatile and pliable at the moment of creating sinuous and complex shapes. Architectural firms such as IBUKU test the material’s capabilities to the limit, creating new ways to apply and assemble it.

Bottles

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Unusual Constructive Systems You Should be Considering

Eco Ark by Far Eastern Group

This unusual constructive system repurposes old empty bottles to create emergency or permanent structures, in turn helping the environment. Glass or plastic bottles may be used for this purpose, creating thick walls in a relatively short period of time.

There are a few different methods for building with bottles, depending on the bottle’s material and needs of the end user. 

One method implicates filling empty plastic bottles with sand, straw, and soil, in turn, providing added thermal insulation properties. The bottles are then stacked in the desired height and shape and held together by cement or mud. The erected walls are then given a concrete or mud finish to stabilize the structure. Empty glass bottles are stacked similarly, skipping the sand-filling process.

If the structure needs to remain translucent, empty plastic or glass bottles can be used to achieve this effect. When using plastic bottles for translucent walls or greenhouses, the bottles are left empty and tied to each other or confined in wire cages to keep the structures from losing their shape. Glass bottles can be used decoratively, leaving the bottles’ ends exposed, skipping the finishing process to allow the light in.

The Eco Ark building, in Taiwan, uses a more sophisticated method, screwing the bottles to a rigid exterior structure using caps to stabilize the bottles into place. The resulting building possesses a high seismic resistance and can be easily disassembled and relocated if needed.

Earth Bags

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Unusual Constructive Systems You Should be Considering

Masoro Village by GA Collaborative

Earthbag buildings are relatively quick and affordable to build, not to mention eco-friendly. This method creates thick sturdy walls with excellent insulation properties by stacking rows of earth filled bags to create the structure.

The key to this method's success is compressing the earthbags as they are being stacked, preventing them from losing their shape in the future. The bags must be equally filled and roughly the same size, which also helps to keep the structure's stability. The earthbags stay in place thanks to the addition of barbed wire between the layers of sacks. The wire makes indents into the bags, stitching them together. Once the structure's shape is done, a layer of cement plaster or mud is applied to the walls, smoothening, protecting, and concealing the earthbags.

Have you tried any of these unconventional systems? Comment below.

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