Hassell challenged EmTech students to keep the carbon footprint of the project as low as possible and therefore only use reclaimed timber. Xavier De Kestelier, Head of Design at Hassell, noted that “The students really took on the challenge with both hands and decided early on to build the pavilion out of timber from reclaimed wooden pallets.”
Construction Waste is Useful
Wood is inherently the best biofabricated and biodegradable material; it is renewable, resilient and lasts for a long time. When a timber building is demolished after several decades, it does not produce useless waste but instead generates reclaimed wood that can be reused and repurposed in other applications after disassembly, becoming part of the circular economy.
Re-Emerge was created with Grade A reclaimed wood pallets, one of the most abundant reused timber elements in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry yet one which generally ends up in landfill or burnt as fuel. Instead, in Re-Emerge, their structural and morphological capacities are explored and exploited. The reclaimed pallets used in the pavilion have been collected from various timber recycling facilities in and outside London.
“For the last couple of decades, architects have often focused on the performance of buildings and minimising operational carbon within them. But with the need to tackle climate change more urgently we also need to look at embodied carbon. Re-Emerge was a great way for the students to start embedding this approach in their design.”
Xavier De Kestelier.
Complexity Arises from Simplicity
The structural system for Re-Emerge comprises diamond-shaped volumetric timber modulesthat are created by scoring and kerfing wood pallets. These diamond modules are organised into structural ribs which are then assembled with lap joints, thereby diminishing the need for secondary materials in the joinery system. The system can sustain loads in vertical and horizontal arrangements.
“In this project we aimed to explore how complexity can arise from simplicity. This was adopted by the variable aggregation of similar modules that are formed by scoring and steam-bending. A further ambition of the project was to diminish the need for secondary materials in the joinery system, and this decision has led us to work with lap joinery throughout the structure.”
Elif Erdine, Programme Head of the EmTech programme.
Conscious Fabrication and Installation
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of the reclaimed timber planks employed within Re-Emerge provided useful information which informed the pavilion’s preliminary design phase. Analysis of most plywood types used for external construction versus solid timber planks demonstrated that CO2 emissions from plywood are significantly higher than solid planks during the preparation stage.
“The employment of life cycle assessment (LCA) in our computational workflows as a design driver has enabled us to take into consideration CO2 emissions associated with not only the material itself, but also its origins and transportation to site.”
Milad Showkatbakhsh, studio master at EmTech.
“There is also a dedicated Re-Emerge app for the visitors of the pavilion. The augmented reality (AR) app allows users to read more about the Life Cycle Assessment of Re-Emerge and find information on its design and fabrication processes, as well as various visualisation options, including a scaled AR projection of the pavilion. The app also tells the story of the reclaimed timber that is used for construction, where it came from, and what its first life cycle was.”
Eleana Polychronaki, studio tutor at EmTech.
At the end of its second life-cycle, Re-Emerge will be disassembled. Part of the pavilion will be erected in the Hassell offices in London and part of it will be sent back to the timber recycling facilities where its materials were sourced. The ambition of Re-Emerge is to create a strong dialogue between the local timber industry and its by-products, and to demonstrate to the world that innovative timber architecture can be created with construction waste while maintaining a mindful approach towards our environment.