Civil engineers often face the tough task of providing sufficient light and ventilation in buildings while also maintaining the design aesthetics and structural integrity. When you add the sustainability of the construction to the mix, it turns into a pretty big hurdle to cross. Engineers in Japan hope to solve this conundrum with a simple yet creative design of checkered blocks.
After demonstrating their creativity in recycling precious metals during the recently concluded Olympic Games, engineers in Japan have added another feather to their cap with their new patent for an earthquake-resistant block wall. Designers Kengo Kuma and Associates were tasked with a project to design a kindergarten building for children. They teamed up with the Structural Planning Laboratory at Kozo Keikaku Engineering Inc., which advocates "building for a wise future".
The team turned to Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT), which is layered like plywood but with much thicker components. Unlike conventional concrete-based construction that is a major contributor to carbon emissions, CLT is considered a renewable resource and does not lead to carbon emissions during production. In 2019, engineers in Norway even built a 280-foot-tall (85.4 m) high-rise using this material.
But instead of a block of panels, the designers wanted the children to connect with light and breeze while they spent their time in this wooden architecture. So, they innovated with 'ichimatsu', Japanese for checkerboard design where the "warmth of wood" can be felt but the ventilation and lighting inside the structure is not compromised.
To strengthen the construction and make it earthquake resistant, the team used steel plates and draft pins, a press release said. The engineering team further verified the construction by conducting extensive mechanical tests of the wall structure.
The construction of the kindergarten was completed in March 2021, and the patent application was filed for its design. The company hopes that its design will inspire more engineers to build structures that are sustainable.