What if there were a way to reduce the amount of concrete used in construction while also reusing trash destined for the landfill? That’s the environmental win-win that Skidmore, Owings & Merrill pursued with its prototype Sustainable Form-Inclusion System (SFIS).
SFIS targets areas of framed floors that are subject to bending rather than shear forces, and where concrete provides little structural benefit. Bundled plastic bottles, baled plastic bags, or other compressed waste materials are placed inside the formwork of yet-to-be-poured concrete slabs, thereby reducing not only the concrete required for those slabs, but also the building’s overall structural weight (which means less reinforcing is needed). The SFIS system can reduce the amount of concrete, rebar, and post-tensioning used within a building’s superstructure and foundations by up to 35 percent. It also finds a new use for some of the billions of plastic bottles and shopping bags that consumers discard every year.
The jury was attracted to the practicality of the system, and what Craig Hodgetts called its “noncorporate approach.” “It’s a seat-of-the-pants, garage culture sort of thing,” he observed. Embedding trash in buildings might even have an edge on conventional recycling, Hodgetts pointed out, because “you avoid two whole steps: shipping and manufacturing.” John Ronan noted that the system could be especially useful in developing countries, “where you don’t have as many resources.”
The Sustainable Form-Inclusion System is fully copyrighted and patent pending by SOM in its entirety.
Sustainable Form-Inclusion System
Architect Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, San Francisco—Craig Hartman (design partner); Mark Sarkisian (structural engineering director); Eric Long (senior structural engineer)