Rescaling Urbanism: Fostering Low-Tech, Digitally Fabricated, and Transient Structures Through Innovation in Local Renewable Material

Valenti, Joseph
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This dissertation presumes that innovation in design and sustainable building practices can alleviate environmental and socio-economic issues within cities. Exploration of small-scale design and intelligent systems reveals a connection between local resources and new technologies that advance yesterday’s way of building. The study focuses on the challenges of a vulnerable island community, addressing Hawaii’s major housing crisis and the effects of impending climate change. Isolation and a global market has encouraged dependency on imports and deterred the state from achieving sustainability. At the intersection of localized materials and global technologies, this project argues a simple and practical solution. Through a series of case study investigations and applied research on innovative design strategies, it establishes the framework for an alternative building model of less permanent and more process-based structures. Rescaling Urbanism reveals the potential for a system that can challenge the existing methods of Hawaii’s building industry. The project embraces the use of local material with new technologies in digital fabrication to create a streamlined approach for building sustainably in Hawaii. To compliment new statewide green initiatives, we must learn to embrace the use of vernacular materials, renewable energies, and closed-loop systems. Hawaii’s surplus of invasive tree species bears the potential for local renewable building materials. This study examines the use of lumber from the highly invasive albizia tree as a building v material through application of wood engineering. By reconceptualizing the tree from invasive to useful, a problem becomes a viable solution to Hawaii’s housing deficit and outsourced building industry. This project integrates the design and construction process by proposing a structure that is composed almost entirely of albizia and digitally fabricated from computer numerically control, or CNC routing. Engineered wood is a resource-light material that supports rapid on-site construction. CNC routing is being increasingly utilized with engineered wood to streamline the entire building process. Merging these two principles enables fabrication of sustainably sourced, high-precision, and easy to assemble building components. The outcome reveals a process that can radically lessen the threshold of scale, cost, and construction time.
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