“The Fabric Formwork Book: Methods for Building New Architectural and Structural Forms in Concrete” is the first comprehensive monograph on the emerging technology of flexible molds for reinforced concrete architecture.
Mark West’s 298-page book published by Routledge examines fabric-formed concrete techniques from technical, historical and theoretical aspects. The inventor of many fabric-formed concrete techniques for architecture and engineering structures, Mark West won a LafargeHolcim Awards Bronze in 2005 for his “Material Reduction: Efficient Fabric-Formed Concrete” project that enables both substantial materials and cost savings together with rich aesthetic possibilities.
Concrete is the most widely used man-made material in the world by tonnage, and is the fundamental physical medium for most of the world’s buildings and infrastructure. The character of concrete is largely the product of the rigid molds that have shaped it since its invention in antiquity. The advent of flexible molds, however, marks a radical break from conventional practice – and conventional concrete architecture.
Illustrated with 398 color images, diagrams and technical drawings, “The Fabric Formwork Book” both informs and inspires – featuring case studies from around the world. Speaking directly and plainly to professionals, students and academics, the language used is both clear and precise, and care is taken to avoid opaque technical or academic jargon. Technical terms, when used, are clearly described and a special glossary is included to make the book as widely accessible as possible.
The Centre for Architectural Structures and Technology (CAST), where the Material Reduction: Efficient Fabric-Formed Concrete project was developed is an architectural research laboratory that embraces both the poetic and technical dimensions of design. Following on from winning the Holcim Awards Bronze for North America in 2005, Mark West and his team continue to explore mold technology that uses flat fabric sheets stretched over simple rigid frames to cast beautiful, efficient, lightweight, precast concrete structural elements including trusses. Cast concrete trusses offer significant savings in materials, dead weight, and embodied energy.
An efficiently-curved truss offers significant savings in material and dead weight compared to conventional uniform section beams. Fabric molds use less materials, are less complex and simpler to use than conventional mold making technologies using steel and wood. By creating a continuous mold surface from two flat sheets of inexpensive fabric, smooth curves are created by stretching the fabric over rigid frames. The most commonly used materials for fabric form work are inexpensive woven polyolefin which does not adhere to the concrete and thereby eliminates the need for release agents. Research has been conducted using the fabric mold wall at CAST and also at universities in the United Kingdom and Latin America.
CAST, in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh and University of Bath (UK) is conducting engineering research into the structural behavior of short-span bending moment-shaped concrete beams. Results show simplified force paths in these efficiently shaped beams reduce shear stresses (diagonal tension). After reinforcing is installed, the completed truss mold is filled with self-compacting concrete.
It’s “curtains” for basic block design
CAST has also continued research into the use of hanging fabric sheets as a mold to produce thin-shell wall panels. The panels which take on an organic form of flowing fabric are created using fiber-reinforced spray concrete. The double curvature provides stiffness and strength to a tin concrete shell panel, while random fiber reinforcing (typically recycled glass) adds significant flexural strength and ductility. The complex buckled shapes created are pure natural forms, serving as both sculpture and structure.
Fabric formwork “open source technology”
Fabric formwork for reinforced concrete construction and architecture is an emerging technology with the capacity to transform concrete architecture and reinforced concrete structures. The natural tension geometries given by flexible fabric membranes provide extraordinarily light and inexpensive formworks, some using hundreds of times less material than conventional formworks, and some providing zero-waste formwork systems. The flexibility of a fabric formwork makes it possible to produce a multitude of architectural and structural designs from a single, reusable mold. The use of a permeable formwork fabric produces improved surface finishes and higher strength concrete as a result of a filtering action that allows air bubbles and excess mix water to bleed through the formwork membrane.
A flexible fabric mold awakens concrete to its original wet, plastic nature by naturally producing concrete elements with complex sensual curvatures. The sculptural and architectural freedom offered by this method of construction is matched by new possibilities for efficiently curved structures. Research at CAST has produced simple methods for forming beautiful and efficient beams, trusses, panels, vaults, slabs, and columns.
CAST is fundamentally interested in finding simple ways to reduce the amount of material consumed in construction, while at the same time, making these constructions more beautiful. The center is committed to making these methods accessible to as many people as possible and offers detailed information on methods developed as “open source” technology, and encourages further advancement of applications either independently or in partnership with CAST.See more
Following five regional competitions, 15 Award-winning projects including Material Reduction: Efficient Fabric-Formed Concrete in Winnipeg, Canada, will now compete in the first global Holcim Awards competition for sustainable construction projects. The global phase of the competition showcases the best entries from more than 1500 submissions from 118 countries, and encourages innovative, future-oriented and tangible approaches within the building and construction industry.Holcim Awards competition goes global » Pour en savoir plus (French) » Más información (Spanish) » Leia mais (Portuguese) » Lesen Sie mehr (German) » Per saperne di piú (Italian) » 更多详情 (Chinese) »
The entry contributes a high degree of innovation in material research and testing, inventively challenging the construction industry to achieve increased levels of efficiency and environmentally sensitive techniques of production. The results provide convincing evidence of the as of yet untapped potential of concrete as a material force. To be commended are the substantial material savings yielded by allowing the cross-sectional area to vary according to minimal structural requirements.
Of equal merit are the benefits resulting from the estimated cost reductions for formwork material and transport weight. The proposal to deploy geotextile fabrics that are available worldwide and are inexpensive presents a novel opportunity for the concrete industry to deliver products and services to broader range of clientele regardless of the level of industrial sophistication.
Aesthetically, the work is rich in possible applications and promises to offer a veritably unlimited palette of formal variations for architectural and engineering related work. Research combined with hands-on experience are put to the test to deliver a versatile method, one that promotes the sensual and plastic qualities of a known material to achieve unexpected results.See more
Third prize of USD 25,000 went to a project that challenges the construction industry to achieve increased levels of efficiency and environmentally sensitive techniques for production. By using flexible fabrics instead of conventional rigid molds, concrete elements are able to vary according to structural requirements, promising significant savings in embodied energy, material and transport weight.
Project owner, University of Manitoba Associate Professor Mark West (Canada), was congratulated on the degree to which his innovation is both highly transferable and context sensitive, providing an innovative technique for preformed concrete production.Prizes awarded to sustainable construction projects in North America » Pour en savoir plus (French) »
This experiment undertaken in Canada offers an approach to saving concrete in a variable-section beam that results in creating significant reductions in material and dead weight. The project is ingenious in that it applies accumulated knowledge to future-oriented thinking. On the one hand, standard engineering principles are deployed as to the location of reinforcing bars either at the top or the the bottom of the beam.Download project entry poster (PDF, 3.45 MB) »
Former winners from Canada discuss the positive impact that winning the Holcim Awards competition has created for their …
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