Modular long-span timber structures : a systematic framework for buildable construction

Abstract: One of the identified reasons for the low amount of timber construction in Sweden is a general lack of knowledge about timber engineering and how timber can be used to its full advantage. One way for increased timber construction is the development of a cost-efficient and easy to comprehend building system. Efficiency in construction has recently been under hot debate following the success of lean production in the manufacturing industry. Therefore, the attention of construction has been directed towards the manufacturing industry in an attempt to learn successful methods. Three main principles, modularity, lean construction, and buildability, emerge as potentially useful in order to streamline construction. The aim of this research project is to create a knowledge- based framework for long-span timber construction. This framework should be able to store knowledge and experience about timber construction as well as aid in the design and production of buildable timber structures. A buildable structure is here defined as a structure constructed in competition with all other materials and sub-system choices, i.e., by this definition a constructed structure is buildable and therefore competitive. The research is based on a case study of the design and production of long- span timber structures performed at a Swedish design company. The case study includes interviews, and a survey of 60 constructed long-span timber structures. A literature review of the industrialisation principles reveals that modularity has been a key concept in the evolution of the manufacturing industry. Therefore, the long-span timber construction industry should emit a bottom-up view where product modularity guides the construction processes. A systematic framework, Experience Feedback System (EFS), is created to store buildable construction knowledge based on modularity. The EFS is based on two distinct systems; Experience Based System (EBS), and Construction Knowledge Database (CKD), connected by a feedback loop for buildable construction feedback. The EBS utilises neural network theory containing competitive knowledge and experience of long-span timber structures, providing aid in early design. The CKS is based on the Design Structure Matrix (DSM), providing management of innovative construction and aid in detailed design. Due to the adaptability of neural networks and the developed 3-D DSM hierarchy representing the structural system, the systematic framework is potentially useful for the design and development of other types of structures and materials choices in the future.