The LafargeHolcim Awards for Sustainable Construction gives many projects the boost to achieve realization and is part of countless success stories being written by aspiring and established professionals. A prize in the competition opens new doors for many of the winners, like the Spanish architect Carlos Piles: thanks to two prizes from the LafargeHolcim Foundation, he has made an exciting step in his career – to LafargeHolcim!
In 2011, Carlos Piles was a member of a team of architects that won a Next Generation prize for their project CASTonCAST, and a year later the Global Innovation Award. “Back then we were four crazy students,” he recounts, “we knew that you have to think beyond your own back yard if you want to achieve something truly innovative. We wanted to break the boundaries and play outside the box, and that made us push for innovation.”
As well as Carlos Piles, the team of “crazy students” included Lluis Enrique, Povilas Cepaitis and Diego Ordoñez – who were awarded for their project not once but twice, confirming that they were on the correct path. “Then we knew that our hope was indeed reality: Innovation does receive acknowledgement!” says Carlos Piles. The LafargeHolcim Awards prize money enabled the young architects to apply for a patent for CASTonCAST and thus to keep the project in their own hands during the next phase of development (see separate article in sidebar).
A career catalyst
The two prizes gave the project and its creators significant publicity and attention – and opened numerous doors as well. “After completing my Master’s studies at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, I had the chance to work with internationally-renowned Zaha Hadid Architects and then Skidmore, Owings and Merrill in London, among others,” tells the Spaniard. “At both interviews, the first project I mentioned was CASTonCAST and the fact that it had been awarded a prize in the international competition of the LafargeHolcim Foundation; and everyone was duly impressed by the recognition the project had received.”
The prizes also helped him successfully make contacts in the industry sector. “I had the chance to present the prize-winning project to people such as Carlos Espina, who was intrigued by our project.” Espina, today CEO of LafargeHolcim Argentina, was at that time head of the Group’s Research & Development Center in Lyon.
Innovation on another level
Carlos Piles is still at the beginning of his professional career in the industry. What persuaded him, an architect, to switch to industry and management and join LafargeHolcim? “This company places great value on innovation, and that’s also one of my key interests,” explains the 34 year-old architect. “After we won the prizes, I had the chance to get to know quite a few people at LafargeHolcim. They explained to me the vision the company is pursuing.” And it’s precisely this innovation drive that has made the company the leader in its industry, explains Piles. The ambition to remain ahead is obvious: “Just take a look at what’s going on in the Research Centre in Lyon!”
Always one step ahead
Carlos Piles has been Head of Ductal Europe, an entity of LafargeHolcim based in Paris, since February 2017. Ductal is an ultra-high strength concrete that excels by virtue of its durability and performance, among other attributes. “Historically, the focus of Ductal in Europe has been mainly on France,” tells Piles, “and now we also have interesting projects in the United Kingdom, Hungary, Russia and Switzerland.”
But can he quench his thirst for innovation in his new role, which mainly involves management and corporate strategy? “Innovation has to do not only with materials and products but also with how businesses are managed, asserts Carlos Piles. “For example, we must constantly find new ways to communicate with customers as we develop new markets, and it’s very important that we integrate innovation into our products, technologies and services in order to provide new benefits for customers. This is something we are working on every day.” He sees his greatest challenge in keeping Ductal one step ahead and remaining poised to respond to new customer needs at all times.
Carlos Piles considers his position at Ductal the logical consequence of a development that began with CASTonCAST and the prizes by the LafargeHolcim Foundation. “Those two prizes definitely influenced my career,” he recaps. “As an architect they were a confirmation of my objectives and abilities, and regarding my career shift into industry they helped me find my way here.” Two different worlds for Carlos Piles, but he has the same motivation in both – pursuing his passion for innovation.See more
L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui (‘A’A’) asked Lluis Enrique more about his research and the impact of winning a LafargeHolcim Awards prize on his work. A research project conducted by Povilas Cepaitis, Lluis Enrique, Diego Ordoñez and Carlos Piles, a team of students from the AA School of Architecture in London received a regional and global LafargeHolcim Awards prize in 2011/12.
Their project, CASTonCAST: Efficient fabrication system for geometrically complex building elements, aimed to create a smart but simple methodology to design and prefabricate building elements with complex geometries that is both resource-efficient and considerably reduces construction waste.
‘A’A’: Could you describe the project you submitted in the LafargeHolcim Awards for Sustainable Construction for which you won a Next Generation prize? What is the current status of this project?
Lluis Enrique: The CASTonCAST system consists in producing architectural freeform shapes from precast stackable components. The system is composed of two complementary parts: a novel manufacturing technique of precast building components which relies on producing a series of components in stacks and a new geometric method for the design of freeform shapes by means of stackable solid tiles.
The system presents advantages in all the realization phases. First, since the components are produced in stacks, each component is used as a mould for the next component. This, therefore, eliminates the need of costly complex moulds. Secondly, the method allows transporting the components to the construction site in stacks. This avoids the need to manufacture supporting structures for each component. Finally, the labour at the construction site consists in placing the components on a reusable scaffolding and assembling them. This increases the speed of erection and reduces the construction costs.
The project presented in 2011 for the LafargeHolcim Awards was the result of a master thesis at the Architectural Association School of Architecture and it was at a conceptual phase.
Since then, I have continued the project in a PhD thesis at the Chair of Structural Design led by Prof. Dr. Joseph Schwartz at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich). This investigation studies the integration of structural concerns in the research project for the design of freeform shell structures from precast stackable components. For this, first the assembly of the components has been studied, and then, a method for integrating structural constraints directly in the geometric modelling process has been developed, which ensures that the modelled freeform shells fulfil both fabrication and structural requirements. Some of these results have recently been presented in Advances in Architectural Geometry (AAG) 2016 in Zurich.
‘A’A’: What was the impact of these Awards on your professional activity as an architect?
Lluis Enrique: The prizes received from LafargeHolcim Awards were surely one important factor that pushed me to continue the research project in a doctoral thesis at the ETH Zurich. Additionally, the competition made our project public, which helped us to present it in several cutting-edge schools such in The Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC).
‘A’A’: What are your main current projects? Are you still in touch with the LafargeHolcim Foundation’s network and/or other LafargeHolcim Awards prize-winners? If so, in what context?
Lluis Enrique: I am currently researching in diverse projects that combine architectural geometry, structure and realization such as intuitive methods for the design of shell and spatial structures and the realization of shell structures in an efficient manner. The research motivation is always to find ways to make complex things simple.
I am in touch with Carlos Espina, Senior Vice President of Research & Development of LafargeHolcim. Furthermore, working at the Institute of Technology in Architecture (ITA) of the ETH Zurich, I had the opportunity to meet Philippe Block, Professor of Architecture & Structure and member of the Academic Committee (AC) of the LafargeHolcim Foundation, and also the Awards winners Gramazio & Kohler and some of the researchers in their group such as architect Ammar Mirjan. In addition, I am in contact with Marta Malé-Alemany, Head Lecturer Digital Production at Hogeschool in Amsterdam.
Read the original interview at:See more
Research to develop the Next Generation and Innovation Award prize-winning CASTonCAST system has continued at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich). Project author Lluis Enrique is completing a PhD that examines structural concerns in the fabrication system for the design of shell structures built from precast stackable components. His multidisciplinary research in the area of building technology brings together the fields of architectural geometry and manufacturing, with the aim of producing architectural freeform shapes in an economically efficient and sustainable manner.
The CASTonCAST system consists of two complementary parts. The first part is a novel manufacturing technique that relies on producing a series of building components in stacks by using the previous component as a mold for the next one. The second part is a new geometric method for the design of freeform shapes by the connection of stackable solid tiles. The system presents the following advantages: first, it eliminates the need for costly complex molds. This reduces significantly the use of building materials and reduces the material waste. Second, the method allows transporting the components to the construction site in stacks. This avoids the need to manufacture customized supporting structures for each component. Finally, the labor at the construction site is reduced to the assembly of the components using a reusable scaffolding and a post-tensioning system. This increases the speed of construction and reduces significantly the costs.
The research is currently being further developed by Lluis Enrique in a PhD at the Chair of Structural Design led by Joseph Schwartz at the ETH Zurich. The thesis focuses on integrating structural concerns in the system for the design and production of shell structures from precast concrete stackable components. The first step in this direction studies the way the components are assembled providing stiffness to the shell. The second step consists of developing a method that finds those shapes that fulfill both the characteristic manufacturing constraints of the system as well as structural constraints.
For conducting the research both physical prototypes and algorithmic design methods are being developed. Some of these results have been presented at the conference “Advances in Architectural Geometry 2016” (AAG16) held in Zurich in September 2016.See more
This project received the special interest of the jury for a variety of reasons. Students of the Architectural Association (AA) in London presented an approach to a fundamental problem of contemporary architecture: while designing complex geometric shapes has become increasingly easier, it is their construction that is the tricky bit. With its plasticity and flexible molding, concrete is actually a material that lends itself well to a sculptural language.
However, as the production of the necessary formwork is typically made by hand, the cost of building often exceeds regular budgets. It was the consensus of the jury that this project opens new productive opportunities to overcome this dilemma. The project’s essential proposal is to produce modular elements of concrete and use one element, once cast, as formwork for the next element to be cast.
Even if the project does not indicate how the upper surface of the element would be cast and also ignoring the fact that to cast the very first element, there has to be some kind of formwork, the project holds the vision of concrete fabrication without conventional molds. A prospect which would doubtlessly make a big difference in terms of the material processing of building, given that so much formwork is disposed after use. In addition, the elements cast through this process would be easily transportable; their self-similar form allowing for space-saving stacking. Despite some unsolved problems, the project does present a fresh new perspective on the production of concrete that has the capacity to accommodate some of the formal interests of contemporary architecture – an achievement for which the jury considered this project of the “Next Generation” category deserves commendation.See more
A research project, from students at the Architectural Association (AA) School of Architecture, to fabricate complex concrete elements without conventional molds was presented with an inaugural 2012 Global Holcim Innovation prize at an event held at Kent House Knightsbridge in London. The prize-winning project considers simultaneously the design of free and ambitious shapes, as well as the material efficiency and economic performance of the construction process.
A team of students from the AA School of Architecture in London: Povilas Cepaitis (Lithuania/UK), LLuis Enrique (Spain/Switzerland), Diego Ordoñez (Ecuador/UK) and Carlos Piles (Spain/UK), received one of three Global Holcim Innovation prizes to be awarded in 2012.
Their project, Cast-on-cast: Efficient fabrication system for geometrically complex building elements, aims to create a smart but simple methodology to design and prefabricate building elements with complex geometries that is both resource-efficient and considerably reduces construction waste. The prize winners presented their project to around 150 guests. “We looked to solve the question of how to fabricate complex geometries taking all elements of sustainability into consideration,” said LLuis Enrique.
Cast-on-cast was selected from more than 6,000 competition entries from 146 countries
Lucy Musgrave, Co-director, Publica and member of the Holcim Awards jury Europe 2008 and 2011, explained the inherent benefit of the project. “The Cast-on-cast project deserves commendation for opening up new approaches to production of complex geometric shapes to overcome the dilemma of high materials use to achieve a sculptural dialog,” she said.
Holcim Chairman Rolf Soiron congratulated the prize winners for their innovative thinking, and contributing to the exchange of knowledge and development of breakthroughs on sustainability in the built environment. “The Holcim Awards are an enormous opportunity for professionals and students to gain visibility and to compare their projects and ideas with those of their peers,” he said.
The prize hand-over was hosted by the Holcim Group company in the United Kingdom, Aggregate Industries, which has been involved in many major projects, including the new Wembley Stadium, Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport, and London Olympic Park. The event was combined with a PechaKucha style workshop, chaired by Paul King, CEO of the UK Green Building Council. Presenters included Andy Von Bradsky (Chairman, PRP Architects), Rory Bergin (Head of Sustainability, HTA), Patrick Bellew (Director, Atelier Ten), Paul Hinkin (Managing Director, Black Architects), Peter Fisher (Associate Director, Bennetts Associates Architects) and Ryan Dillon (Design Research Lab Programme Coordinator, AA School of Architecture, London).
The presentation of the first Innovation prizes is a highlight of the 3rd Holcim Awards competition. The global competition seeks innovative, future-oriented and tangible construction projects to promote sustainable responses to the technological, environmental, socioeconomic and cultural issues affecting building and construction on a local, regional and global level.
The competition takes place first across five global regions, with prize-winners progressing to a global phase. All 53 projects that were awarded a prize in the regional phase of the competition in 2011 were eligible to compete for global Holcim Innovation prizes. Further Holcim Innovation prizes went to the project High-efficiency concrete formwork technology by Fabio Gramazio and Matthias Kohler, professors of architecture and digital fabrication at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) and to Low-cost apartments incorporating smart materials by a German team led by architect, Frank Barkow, and acclaimed engineer, Mike Schlaich.
The competition, run by the Swiss-based Holcim Foundation, offers USD 2 million in prize money per three-year cycle, and is sponsored by Holcim Ltd – one of the world’s leading suppliers of cement and aggregates – and its Group companies in 70 countries. In the UK, Channel Islands and northern Europe, Holcim Group company Aggregate Industries, quarries, manufactures and supplies a wide range of materials to the construction industry.See more
A team of four students from the AA School of Architecture in London, UK, won the Holcim Innovation 3rd prize for their research project on an efficient cast concrete fabrication system for geometrically complex building elements. This approach considers simultaneously the design of free and ambitious shapes, as well as the material efficiency and economic performance of the construction process.Read full media release – Global Holcim Awards 2012 » leia mais (Portuguese) » más información (Spanish) » pour en savoir plus (French) »
The “Next Generation” category was open to student projects. The first prize was awarded to a team of four students from the AA School of Architecture, UK, for their research project on an efficient cast concrete fabrication system for geometrically complex building elements.Read full media release – Holcim Awards 2011 for Europe » per saperne di piú (Italian) »
The jury commended this project which innovatively challenges new methods of designing and fabricating geometrically complex building elements and in addition provides efficiency improvements in terms of materials, storage, and transportation. Overall, the project presents a way that considers simultaneously the design of free and ambitious shapes, as well as the material efficiency and economy of constructions.
Cast on Cast, efficient and sustainable fabrication process is focused upon the development of a smart but simple methodology to design and prefabricate building elements with complex geometries, which is resource efficient and considerably reduces construction waste. Complex geometries are utilized in contemporary architecture for the construction of concrete or mortar building envelopes, partition walls, horizontal and vertical shading elements and pavements.
Building elements that are curved through all three dimensions can only be produced under current methods by using sophisticated formwork installations and highly industrialized prefabrication technologies at high cost. The proposed Cast on Cast methodology uses a parameterization system in which mathematical algorithms subdivide three dimensional elements into smaller components that can be stacked in towers. Furthermore the previous element is used to mold the shape of the subsequent element.
This CNC controlled fabrication method relies on the consecutive process of casting elements using digital fabrication technology. These towers of elements are then transported to the site where they are detached and assembled into the desired spatial shape.Download project entry poster (PDF, 1.67 MB) »See more