This work develops algorithms to synthesize kit-of-part structures whose components can be reused in diverse shapes

Load-bearing structures cause significant environmental impacts due to large material mass requirements as well as energy-intensive manufacturing and construction. In addition, load-bearing structures are typically designed for a single location and use. At the end of their service, structures are usually demolished and at best material is recycled. One strategy to reduce resource use, process energy, and waste is the reuse of structural components. A promising strategy for component reuse consists in designing a bespoke kit of parts whose elements are ready to be assembled in multiple structural arrangements, fulfilling different purposes. The term ‘kit of parts’ denotes “a collection of discrete building components that are pre-engineered and designed to be assembled in a variety of ways to define a finished building”. Being able to reuse kit-of-parts elements allows to manufacture only a subset of elements compared to one-off constructions thus reducing material requirements.
Designing a kit of parts entails that dimensioning and detailing of all parts as well as designing the structure layouts are governed by reuse requirements. All parts have to fit the geometry of different structure layouts and all connections must allow multiple assemblies. In parallel, assembly and disassembly as well as handling and shipping of all parts should be considered. Example applications of this strategy have been carried out to design temporary structures including deployable structures and modular space-frame systems. However, one drawback of modular systems is their restriction to certain repetitive arrangements.
This work presents a computational workflow to design a kit of parts comprising linear bars and spherical joints that can be used to build a set of diverse reticular structures, e.g. trusses, gridshells, and space frames, whose geometries are not restricted to repetitive modular arrangements. The method has been applied to the design of a kit of parts to build the three space frame structures. Kit-of-parts bars are linear elements that are connected by spherical joints through bolts. Initial geometry and topology of the structures are given as input. The method comprises two steps. In the first step, the structure geometries and the kit-of-parts bars (length and cross-section) are optimized to enable the reuse of identical bars among structures. In the second step, the hole pattern of the spherical joints to connect the bars is optimized to reuse each joint in multiple structures.

This research has been developed at the Structural Xploration Lab, EPFL under supervision of Prof. Corentin Fivet and co-supervision of Dr. Gennaro Senatore.

Learn more about the project…


Journal Paper

Design and fabrication of a reusable kit of parts for diverse structures
Jan Brütting, Gennaro Senatore, Corentin Fivet
Automation in Construction, vol. 125, article 103614, 2021

DOI: 10.1016/j.autcon.2021.103614
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Journal Paper – IASS Hangai Prize 2019 – outstanding paper

Form follows availability – Designing structures through reuse
Jan Brütting, Gennaro Senatore, Corentin Fivet
Journal of the International Association of Shell and Spatial Structures, vol. 60(4), 2019

DOI: 10.20898/j.iass.2019.202.033
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Conference Paper

Jan Brütting, Corentin Fivet, Gennaro Senatore
Exploration of spatial structures made from reused elements and the design of optimal kits-of-parts
Structures and Architecture: Bridging the Gap and Crossing Borders, p. 229-236, CRC Press, 2019
DOI: 10.1201/9781315229126-27
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Works featured in “Werk, Bauen+Wohnen”

Works featured in “Werk, Bauen+Wohnen”

May 27, 2021

Werk, Bauen + Wohnen 5/2021 Recent research results produced at the Structural Xploration Lab, EPFL are discussed in the latest issue of the Werk, Bauen + Wohnen magazine (issue 5-2021 “Marterialkreislauf”). Werk, Bauen + Wohnen is the most widely read architecture magazine in Switzerland and is…

Advances in Architectural Geometry 2020

Advances in Architectural Geometry 2020

Apr 28, 2021

Jan Brütting and colleagues from the Structural Xploration Lab (SXL) present their research on kit-of-parts structures at the Advances in Architectural Geometry (AAG) conference. AAG is a conference where both theoretical and practical work linked to new geometrical developments is presented. Its…

New journal paper in Automation in Construction

New journal paper in Automation in Construction

Mar 4, 2021

Design and fabrication of a reusable kit of parts for diverse structures A promising strategy to enable structural component reuse consists in designing a bespoke kit of parts whose elements are ready to be assembled in multiple structural arrangements, fulfilling different purposes.…

FAI Interface 31

The quest for the ‘good’ structural form

Jun 25, 2020

FAI Geneva – Interface 31 – June 2020 “Pour la bonne forme, ingénierie structurale et usage raisonné des ressources”.The latest issue of Interface explores recent research developments in Switzerland related to the quest for the ‘good’ structural form. The issue exposes works by the Structural…


Talk at ITA – ETH Zürich

Mar 3, 2020

The Chair for Structural Design – Prof. Joseph Schwartz invites Jan Brütting to present his research to ETHZ’s Institute of Technology in Architecture (ITA). The lunch talk will take place on March 5th from 12:00 to 13:00h at the Open Space of the ITA Building,…

1-to-3: Three pavilions sharing the same stock

1-to-3: Three pavilions sharing the same stock

Oct 8, 2019

SXL’s entry at the IASS 2019 Pavilions Expo, October 7-10, 2019. With “1to3”, the Structural Xploration Lab shows the design of one bespoke kit of parts to build three structures of different typology. The system is part of an international exhibition organized at the…


Jan Brütting awarded the IASS Hangai Prize

Oct 6, 2019

Delivered every year by the International Association for Shell ans Spatial Structures, the Hangai prize recognizes talented young researchers, designers, and engineers working in the field of shell and spatial structures. The award is given for his paper “Form Follows Availability – Designing Structures through…


Structures & Architecture 2019

Jul 24, 2019

International Conference on Structures and Architecture – ICSA 2019, July 24-26, 2019 – Lisbon Jan Brütting is participating in this year’s International Conference on Structures and Architecture – ICSA 2019, held in Lisbon from July 24th to 26th, 2019. He will be presenting his…


VUB – Parametric design of transformable structures

Oct 25, 2018

Student Lecture Jan Brütting is invited to present the ongoing research initiatives of the Structural Xploration Lab in the Master course “Parametric design of transformable structures” taught by Prof. Niels de Temmerman at the Architectural Engineering department of the Vrije Universiteit Brussels. The presentation ranges…