High Performance Concrete: Collaboration with Cement&BetonCentrum and bureaubakker

UNStudio’s Materials Platform has been investigating the potential of high performance concrete to develop facade elements for a project in the Caucasus. The research is a continuation of UNStudio's participation in the Experimenteel Beton Prefab Casestudies, organised with Cement&BetonCentrum and bureaubakker. For this event UNStudio teamed with microbeton, NOE-Betonvormgeving, and Triple Solar. This challenge led to a design solution based on an integrated element combining multiple functions into one.

In order to investigate the potential of high performance concrete for a facade element which would enhance building performance, a 'V' shaped fin element was developed. This element was designed to protrude a sufficient distance from the building skin in order to provide shading for the building’s peak heat load. The fin was designed as a variable element with the capacity for production in different sizes and for installation at different angles. This intention initiated an investigation into the techniques required to produce such lightweight facade elements in ultrahigh performance concrete. This in turn resulted in the development of a flexible mould, hinged at the center and capable of meeting all angles required by the designer. The key integrated functions include: a facade element, sun shading, thermal gain, high insulation, titanium dioxide concrete and an urban acoustic damper.

Concurrently, taking into consideration the specific geometry of the 'V' fin, the idea emerged to make the same shading element a solar energy collector. To achieve this goal, various prototypes were designed and tested which integrated a heat collector to maximise collection from all possible angles of solar exposure and which could be used for heating water in an embedded aluminum system. This system directly integrates with the building’s system.

The project has so far produced three forms of output. The design prototype developed for the Experimenteel Beton Prefab Casestudies (organised with Cement&BetonCentrum and bureaubakker) was displayed at the GEVEL 2014 fair in Rotterdam; a digital book Experimenteel Beton 2.0 (in Dutch) was developed and edited by Siebe Bakker of bureaubakker; and the research has been continued and expanded by UNStudio for a current project in the Caucasus.

Further research could involve utilising the lower side of the fin as an urban acoustic panel, to reduce noise pollution around the building. This study might involve a perforation or embossment of the surface, realised via a flexible rubber sheet added as a layer to the fin.

UNStudio Team: Filippo Lodi, Arjan Dingste, Marc Hoppermann