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Wood Chip Barn

The structure provides long-term storage for wood chip to fuel the Biomass Boiler House. With a storage capacity of 400cu.m, the barn will enable the Hooke Park estate to process and use it’s own timber for renewable heat production. The first building to be erected outside of the educational campus, the barn occupies part of a site which had been used for sawmill operations and is envisioned to facilitate an increase in timber processing activity.

The barn’s arching structure is formed from forked beech-tree components directly sourced from the surrounding woodland. The inherent form and structural capacity of the natural tree is transferred and exploited within the truss structure using 3d-scanning techniques and robotic milling to form the connections.

Having surveyed Hooke Park’s beech compartments, a database of potential forked components was established, and from it, the structural concept was developed. Based on the criteria of this structure, 25 forks were harvested from the forest, brought back to the campus and scanned in 3D. An organization script was used to generate a final arrangement of forks in collaboration with engineers from Arup. This digital model was then translated into fabrication information with which Hooke Park’s new robotic arm transformed each fork into a finished component. After being pre-assembled in Hooke Park’s Big Shed, the building’s pieces were assembled on site.

Technical Details

Working primarily with timber from the Hooke Park estate, students of the Architectural Association’s Design & Make programme engage with design through the prototyping and construction of experimental buildings. This year, students completed a robotically fabricated Wood Chip Barn which employs twenty beech forks within an arching Vierendeel style truss. The building provides 400cu.m of storage for biofuel and will enable the estate to use it’s own timber for renewable heat production.

Deriving non-standard components from wood’s natural forms, the truss makes full use of the capabilities of new technologies. 3D-scanning and evolutionary optimisation of the placement of each component within a structurally determined arch, along with customized robotic fabrication lead to an alternative conception of material in which inherent irregular geometries are actively exploited by non-standard technologies. The rationale for this approach is that the diverse characteristics of near-site material can be economically exploited without remote industrial processing.

While timber has seen a resurgence as an advanced architectural material the complex and organic forms pursued are generally not attributable to the geometric and anisotropic structural properties of wood. Instead, fabrication processes generate complex components from standardised wood products to ensure consistency. An ambition for the project was to exploit the moment resisting capacity of tree forks. In a standing tree the naturally occurring forks exhibit remarkable strength and material efficiency, and before processing, already present what digital tools are commonly employed in pursuit of: a non-standard series.

Having surveyed Hooke Park’s woodland, a database of 204 potential forks was established, and from it, the structural concept developed. Based on the criteria of this structure, 25 forks were harvested, brought back to the campus and scanned in 3D. An organization script was used to arrange the forks in collaboration with Arup. This digital model was then translated into fabrication information with which a six axis robotic arm transformed each fork into a finished component. Elements of the truss were pre-assembled in Hooke Park’s Big Shed before being erected on site. Spanning 25m from front to back and 10m side to side, the arching truss rises to 8.5m at its zenith.

Project Credits

Students: Mohaimeen Islam, Zachary Mollica, Sahil Shah, Swetha Vegesana, Yung-Chen Yang
Tutors: Toby Burgess, Charley Brentnall, Martin Self, Emmanuel Vercruysse

Workshop manager: Charlie Corry Wright
Robotics developer: Pradeep Devadass
Project coordination / Site management: Jack Draper
Forester: Christopher Sadd
Estate Manager: Jez Ralph
Workshop technician: Edward Coe
Erection team: Timothy Hallbery, James Vooght, Aurimas Bukauskas, Summerbuild Volunteers

Collaborators
Robotics support: Farid Dailami (UWE / Bristol Robotics Lab), Johannes Brauman (Robots in Architecture)
Structural engineers: Arup (Francis Archer, Naotaka Minami, Coco van Egeraat)