Friday, 15 June 2007

Woven Architecture

In a recent lecture by prof. Adriaan Beukers (Delft University, Faculty of Aerospace) he touched upon the subject of the empty weight versus the payload. For a number of transport vehicles he calculated the so called ‘system efficiency’ that is the empty weight divided by the payload:

Buses 2.5
Cars 3-8
Subsonic Aircraft 4
Supersonic Aircraft 12
Intercity trains 10
Global orbit 66
Lunar orbit 500

How do buildings fit into this ? The average Dutch house has a weight of around 50.000 kg’s. The average house has 3 occupants (let’s say 220 kg) and the weight of all the combined furniture is around 2000 kg. This gives a “system efficiency” of 22.5. Disappointing you might say!

Let’s go back to aerospace and gliders in particular. The Discus 2b, see picture below, has an empty weight of 245 kg. The glider can carry one person (90 kg) and 190 liter water (190 kg). The water by the way is used to improve the performance when gliding between the thermals. This give a total payload of 380 kg and a system efficiency of 0.64. Not bad compared to other forms of transportation and certainly not bad compared to the Dutch house.

But is everything is not lost for architecture: during our holidays some of us use a building that has a much better system efficiency: the tent. An average tent for 4 persons has an weight of around 12 kg. Four people with their luggage have a weight of 350 kg. This give a system efficiency of around 0.04. Even better than the glider.

And the glider and the tent do have something in common: woven fabric. The glider is largely made of glass, carbon and kevlar fibers and the tent of plastic fibers. Maybe this can lead us to a future development in housing: buildings that are woven of fibers:

1 comment:

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