Though we've seen bioplastics in consumer products and packaging, a new pavilion designed and built by German students and professors from Stuttgart University's ITKE (Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design) demonstrates the structural possibilities of an innovative bioplastic created specifically for use in construction.
[A] special type of bioplastic granules was employed, which can be extruded into sheets and further processed as required: the sheets can be drilled, printed, laminated, laser cut, CNC-milled, or thermoformed to achieve different surface qualities and structures and eventually produce various moulded components. The semi-finished products serve as cladding for flat or free-formed interior and exterior walls. The material can be recycled and meets the high durability and flammability standards for building materials.
The tetrahedral pieces of the ArboSkin pavilion were created by extruding these bioplastic granules into sheets, then thermoformed to make three-dimensional shapes, which are linked and braced with rings and joists to form a complex, double-curved surface. Best of all, any material that is trimmed can be re-granulated and used again in the construction process, or finally composted.
The work done is part of the university's Bioplastic Façade Research Project, which looks into alternatives for the design and cladding of buildings with complex geometries. Bioplastics could play a significant part in a new wave of materials for cutting edge design, as the ITKE project team explains:
Thermoformable sheets of bioplastics will represent a resource-efficient alternative [to oil-based plastics, glass, or metal] in the future, as they combine the high malleability and recyclability of plastics with the environmental benefits of materials consisting primarily of renewable resources.
See more images over at ITKE's website.
CORRECTION: The ITKE research team would like to clarify that ArboBlend is compostable at the end of its life cycle only under certain conditions, when bacteria, heat, oxygen and other factors are applied. Recycling is the favoured and proven method of disposal; it can also be used as an energy resource through controlled burning.