‘Groundscraper’ a revolutionary approach to urban sprawl

A Swedish housing project Zembla will use computer technology and a ‘file-to-factory’ process to maximise efficiency throughout the building process, increase performance and add interesting architectural accents throughout the design phase. 

Architects and engineers from Luleå University of Technology in Sweden say the futuristic structure is designed in a way that will allow it to stretch over large distances – like a mini-suburb in itself.

They add that one of the main reasons for creating a timber building of such a huge size is environmental, arguing that using timber to construct oversized carbon dioxide storage structures is highly sustainable.

Moreover, the easy machinability of wood “makes it an ideal material for digitally controlled processing portals” which has led to timber “taking on the status of a high-tech material”.

The structure is a combination of a CLT/glulam lattice supported at points by large-scale L-beams. The frame is covered with a prefabricated wooden grid-shell, into which pod-like living units are inserted, so they effectively hang from the gridded framework. These units act as cross-bracing, further strengthening the structure. 

It is expected that Zembla will be created using a highly flexible process where computer-aided manufacturing and computer numerically controlled technologies are linked to the design software and possibly even live-feed contextual data from the building site. This would form a file-to-factory operation that would make it possible to manufacture individualised building components in a highly economical manner. It would be a very agile building process, with parts printed on demand, and new parts pushed to a different place within the work schedule if for some reason the construction program changes. 

Those working on the Zembla proposal say that while its expression, program, manufacturing process and design approach are all atypical, it is still a building that can be made by everyday builders from perfectly normal engineered wood.

Kaiser, A., Larsson, M. & Girhammar, U.A. (2019). From file to factory: Innovative design solutions for multi-storey timber buildings applied to project Zembla in Kalmar, Sweden. Frontiers of Architectural Research, 8(1): 1-16.