A wooden dome made only from waste

A research group from ETH Zurich used digital fabrication methods to make a wooden geodesic dome entirely from demolition waste.

The waste was sourced at an old car depot in Geneva that was scheduled for demolition. The ETH researchers were given permission to salvage any materials they wanted before the bulldozers came in. They dismantled an entire floor of the building, yielding OSB panels, wooden beams, steel girders and some plastic piping.

Using digital fabrication, the optimum geometry and dimensions of the dome were calculated based on the available timber. It was programmed to avoid cutting the biggest beams into small pieces and to use up as much of the wood as possible.

The wooden beams were cut into rectangular struts of varying lengths. The research group engraved each piece of wood with a clearly visible QR code that links directly to its material passport. They screwed the ends of the wooden struts onto ring-shaped connectors, made from a salvaged plastic sewage pipe. Unfortunately, the wooden struts put so much strain on the plastic hubs that they began to warp, illustrating how challenging it can be to design something with reused material with little to no information about it available.

However, using a CNC milling machine, the group cut salvaged chipboard into discs that fit into the rings, improving the dome’s stability and adding to the aesthetics.

In all, it took three days to construct the dome.

Images: ETH ZUrich / Daniel Winkler