School of Civil Engineering

Mentor: Dilum Fernando & Joe Gattas

Project Team: Brendan Garvey, Pedro Sanchez, Daniel Reid, Andy Wong, Fei Zhou

Project Brief

This project aims to develop new types of modular timber structural forms that can be rapidly fabricated with non­-specialist and low-­cost manufacturing plant. A number of recent technologies have been developed at UQ that will assist students to develop highly novel forms that have never before been seen. These technologies occur across a range of areas, including digital fabrication, folded structures, and composite structures, and so students participating will be exposed to a range of structural engineering knowledge. They will additional develop creative design capabilities and experience with a range of structural materials and fabrication processes.

Top figure: Wedge-shaped modular system based on folded external skin reinforced with internal stiffening channel sections.

Bottom figure: a) Typical prefabricated building system. b) Direct building envelope substitution with folded sandwich panels. c) Envelope with folded sandwich shell. 

Project Report


Firstly, paper was used to experiment different ideas. Then it was upgraded to using cardboard and when the ideas were finalised, softwares such as Grasshopper, Rhinoceros, and AutoCAD was used to draw these final profiles and then later cut out by the water jet cutter using plywood.  From the multiple cardboard designs two modular concepts were chosen, the ‘Modular Square Plate’ and the ‘B-Arch’. These profiles are constructed with a one and two plate systems that are interconnected to complete a full structural component/member. 

Modular B-Arch Design

The B-Arch is a two plate system that interlock to form a trapezoidal section. The trapezoidal section is a simplistic yet structurally efficient allowing lightweight form ply to carry loads in both in the longitudinal and transverse direction. The trapezoidal shape was chosen as it has the benefits of a triangular profile yet allows easy plate connections. This design is easily transportable, quick to manufacture and offers fast construction on site without the loss of structural integrity.

Modular Square Plate Design

The Modular Square Plate is a interconnecting plate. The greatest attributes of the design were the simplicity, and the ability to conform to a range of building elements such as a floor, ceiling and wall. The design incorporated a “honey-comb” like arrangement, where multiple boxes with hinged joints were slotted together into groups of four. An extra two panels could be slotted into the structure to allow additional rigidity and bending stress tolerance in the design. The mechanism could be folded flat, and when arranged into a structure (with the panels), it could function as a floor or ceiling (if mounted laterally), or as a wall (if mounted vertically).

Figure: B-Arch Design

Figure: Prototypes and testing