The Stuttgart-based engineering company str.ucture pioneers digital simulation in construction
If you already know everything there is to know, you won’t find any new answers. That is the credo of Stuttgart-based engineering company’s str.ucture. The company specialises in using integral and interdisciplinary thinking to develop lightweight solutions. The company aims to align materials and structures in such a way that multiple functions can be integrated. The resulting outcomes are both efficient and light. str.ucture performs pioneering work for the construction sector, including in field of simulation.
The Development Agency for Lightweighting Baden-Württemberg presents this innovation in the September 2015 edition of its ThinKing. Leichtbau BW GmbH uses this label to showcase excellent lightweight technology innovations from Baden-Württemberg.
“A maximum of structural and functional integration is achieved when interdisciplinarity and interactivity are at the basis of the design processes”, says Managing Director and co-founder of str.ucture, Julian Lienhard. Communication is the essence of lightweight technology and everyone involved initially gets together around a table. “Lots of problems can be avoided in advance if everyone is tied into the planning.”
The practical benefits of the lightweight approach are evident. Cost advantages go hand in hand with short construction times. “In other words: design and efficiency are siblings”, stresses doctor of engineering Lienhard.
Good lightweight design sets off a whole cascade of advantages, as he puts it. “The most important one perhaps is that lightweight technology allows complex tasks to be solved elegantly.” Design elegance comes about by minimising input to achieve maximum output.
The potential of lightweight technology also lies in the integration of structural and functional requirements. Two aspects are decisive: the development of new materials which meet a multiplicity of demands and modern simulation methods. These enable physical interactions to be described as realistically as possible and conservative assumptions concerning weight, materials and costs to be minimised.
"We are doing really pioneering work on simulation methods for the construction sector as well as in the development of flexible structures and lightweight materials”, says Lienhard. "One benefit of integrated digital simulation is that it enables structures to be described in the round, with all their material geometrical and external load parameters. Adjustments can then be made until all the parameters are optimally aligned with each other.” This makes it possible to map structures closer to their physical reality and thereby to reduce conservative safety requirements. Ultimately everything is then lighter.
The Stuttgart-based company provides across-the-board expertise, from consulting and planning through to project management. The engineers have special expertise in the design of highly-efficient building structures as well as in the development and application of innovative materials for membrane structures. str.ucture’s IT infrastructure is designed to run complex CAD and calculation applications. "We program project-specific software enhancements and modifications ourselves,” says Lienhard.
One of str.ucture’s flagship projects is the convertible membrane roof that can be automatically spanned over a 30-metre long pedestrian precinct in the centre of Buch. The membrane is made of pure PTFE to meet the highest structural and visual standards. Architects from arch22 worked with engineers from str.ucture in an interdisciplinary planning team to implement the unique tradition of Stuttgart lightweight technology. They are consistently developing the technology of moveable membrane structures in pursuit of a structurally optimised and functional design which enables resources to be used highly efficiently and which elegantly minimises input to achieve maximum output.
Another vivid project designed with lightweight engineers SL-Rasch is for convertible umbrella structures. The numerical wind simulation developed by str.ucture in cooperation with SL-Rasch was validated for the first time worldwide using a 29 m umbrella in natural wind flow.
True to its lightweight technology philosophy, str.ucture GmbH participates actively in other research projects in addition to wind simulation and is involved, for example, in research on functionally graded concrete or bending-active structures. The aim in all cases to influence material properties in such a way that they are optimally adapted to various structural and functional requirements. The outcome: more efficient use of material, lower consumption of resources and energy and a significantly lower carbon footprint.
str.ucture works in the tradition of lightweight engineering pioneers, such as Frei Otto and Jörg Schleich, who made Stuttgart the cradle of lightweighting in architecture. The team acquired the tools of their trade in the prestigious lightweight engineering office of SL-Rasch, Werner Sobek Engineers and Knippers Helbig Engineers. Through their work with SL-Rasch personal contact was also maintained right up to the end of Frei Otto's life. The Stuttgart-based engineers now work on projects worldwide.
str.ucture was founded by Michael Herrmann, Julian Lienhard, Alexander Michalski and Stefan Schöne in 2012 and emerged from the Studio LD office which already had an established reputation in lightweight technology. The company was renamed to str.ucture GmbH to emphasise a portfolio which covers the entire range of specialist fields in which lightweight principles can be applied in structural engineering. The company operates internationally from its base in Stuttgart.