How Gothic Architecture is Revolutionizing Buildings Today
As a strong, cost effective material, concrete is traditionally the material of choice for tall buildings. There is a flaw to the material, however, and that is the heft of it. Due to this, concrete requires significant mass and steel reinforcement which not only takes up space but also consumes excess materials.
After researching historic Gothic building structures, the department of architecture at ETH Zurich - a science and technology focused university in Switzerland- discovered the Roman building technique that uses a subtle arch to span spaces and flying buttresses as reinforcement on the exterior walls of Gothic cathedrals. The image above is of a Gothic cathedral where the team got their inspiration.
The floor system is made up of large, moulded concrete modules that piece together in a similar fashion of a jig-saw puzzle. The individual pieces are designed in a lattice-like web of ribs that distributes weight across the floor.
The technique used in the Gothic era is very different than the current techniques that are used today. Current reinforced-concrete floors are made by pouring concrete over a rebar grid. When settled it the concrete makes a solid, flat slab. While this method is highly popular across the construction industry today, ETH proposes a flooring similar to one used in the Gothic era that resembles a honeycomb pattern of solid and void which unlike current methods does not require reinforcements.
When using the new honeycomb method, it is 70% lighter than conventional construction. In addition to being lighter, the company aims to make the new method space saving and cheaper which will in turn make the design more environmentally friendly.
While the design is currently still in the experimental stage, it looks promising for use in the future. According to Co.Design, the ETH Zurich's stress tests revealed that the floor structure could support more than 2.5 times the weight that Swiss building codes require. According to a release from the University, the researchers are planning to use the system to build a two-story guest house in order to understand the viability of the design.
Since the concrete manufacturing industry has significant environmental impacts, including huge amounts of carbon emissions, the success of this design will prove to be a large leap towards a more environmentally friendly future.