Civil engineers are often faced with the difficult task of providing sufficient light and ventilation in buildings, while maintaining the aesthetics of the design and structural integrity. When you add the resistance of the structure to the mixture, it becomes quite a barrier to passage. Engineers in Japan hope to solve this mystery with simple but creative work design of checkered blocks.
After demonstrating their creativity in recycling of precious metals during the recently concluded Olympic Games, engineers in Japan added another pen to their cap with their new patent for an earthquake-resistant block wall. Designers Kengo Kuma and Associates were tasked with designing a kindergarten building for children. They have teamed up with Kozo Keikaku Engineering Inc.’s Structural Planning Laboratory, which advocates “building for a wise future.”
The team turned to Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT), which is layered like plywood, but with much thicker components. Unlike conventional concrete-based construction, which contributes significantly to carbon emissions, CLT is considered a renewable resource and does not cause carbon emissions during production. In 2019, engineers in Norway even built 280 feet tall (85.4 m) high using this material.
But instead of block panels, the designers wanted the children to connect with light and breeze while spending time in this wooden architecture. So they made an innovation with “ichimatsu”, a Japanese chess design, where the “warmth of the wood” can be felt, but the ventilation and lighting inside the structure are not compromised.
To strengthen the structure and make it resistant to earthquakes, the team used steel plates and drawbars, the press release said. The engineering team further inspected the structure by performing extensive mechanical tests on the wall.
The construction of the kindergarten was completed in March 2021, and a patent application was filed for its design. The company hopes its design will inspire more construction engineers structures that are sustainable.