Modular buildings for interim use: First prototypes created

14.07.2023 The "àDisposition" project aims to simplify the sustainable temporary usage of old buildings through the implementation of modular structures. Researchers from BFH, in collaboration with their project partners, have developed four prototypes at the DISPO in Nidau.

The whir of a screwdriver rings through the DISPO in Nidau. In the old factory hall, which offers space for creative, cultural and business people, four prototypes of modular units are being built on this day, thanks to which it should be possible in the future to implement temporary usage of vacant buildings in a simple and sustainable way. The aim is to add ecological, economic and social value to unused spaces. Researchers from the Institute of Timber Construction, Structures and Architecture IHTA at the Bern University of Applied Sciences BFH are pursuing this goal together with partners from industry within the Innosuisse research project "àDisposition".

Various modular solutions tested

In the project, the researchers are developing a modular construction kit for creating room modules and interior fittings. A central component of this research is a configurator that allows for easy testing, visual representation and efficient implementation of project ideas, saving time and resources. This process is being effectively utilized with the prototypes in Nidau. The BFH researchers, in collaboration with the project partners, use these prototypes to explore and refine various modular solutions. The project team tests different systems, connection elements, and segment shapes, which leads them to identify the most promising strategies for developing a lightweight, reusable, and easily reconfigurable modular system. 

Time for assembly varies depending on the degree of fabrication

The requirements for modular structures are high: they should be easy enough for non-professionals to assemble and disassemble and the individual elements need to be light enough so that the assembly is possible for two people. In addition, the components should be flexible and easy to reconfigure, transport and store. During the construction of the prototypes, the importance of selecting the optimum level of prefabrication is becoming apparent. If the frames of the modules are delivered already pre-assembled, the units can be installed quickly, but transport and storage are a challenge. In contrast, if the components are delivered separately and thus compactly, the assembly process is significantly longer.

Importance of digital continuity

Another aspect that the researchers are testing with the production and assembly of the prototypes is the "design to production" workflow. The modules are being designed with the help of the configurator, and the data for production is then automatically exported to CadWork. These files form the basis for material orders and production. Here, the importance of digital continuity for a fast and simple production process is becoming apparent.

In a next step, the researchers plan to concentrate on the equipping of the modules. For example, the walls are another design element, and additional (insulating) layers must meet the requirements for sound and heat insulation. These requirements differ greatly depending on the use.

«àDisposition – Spaceship Planet Earth. Sustainable and temporary use of buildings and vacant sites through simple and modular structural measures» is an Innosuoisse-funded project running until June 2025. Project partners are C2 Beat Cattaruzza GmbH, Beer Holzbau AG, Pius Schuler AG, Prona AG and Bauart Architekten und Planer AG.

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