Launch Slideshow

A mock-up of the SFIS with bundled plastic bottles. Most plastic water bottles are discarded with the caps on; capped, empty bottles are airtight and can be placed within a concrete structure to create a void. Hydrostatic pressure from wet concrete will only nominally reduce the air volume inside the bottles.

Sustainable Form-Inclusion System

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill design a prototype system that uses plastic bottles, bags, and other compressed waste to lighten and fill spaces in concrete slabs.

Sustainable Form-Inclusion System

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill design a prototype system that uses plastic bottles, bags, and other compressed waste to lighten and fill spaces in concrete slabs.

  • A mock-up of the SFIS with bundled plastic bottles. Most plastic water bottles are discarded with the caps on; capped, empty bottles are airtight and can be placed within a concrete structure to create a void. Hydrostatic pressure from wet concrete will only nominally reduce the air volume inside the bottles.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp109A%2Etmp_tcm20-193283.jpg

    A mock-up of the SFIS with bundled plastic bottles. Most plastic water bottles are discarded with the caps on; capped, empty bottles are airtight and can be placed within a concrete structure to create a void. Hydrostatic pressure from wet concrete will only nominally reduce the air volume inside the bottles.

    600

    Courtesy Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

    A mock-up of the SFIS with bundled plastic bottles. Most plastic water bottles are discarded with the caps on; capped, empty bottles are airtight and can be placed within a concrete structure to create a void. Hydrostatic pressure from wet concrete will only nominally reduce the air volume inside the bottles.

  • An overall plan shows how the system would be deployed within a concrete floor slab. The areas farthest from the columns, labeled A, have the highest concentration of SFIS units; the areas marked B have a moderate concentration; and the C areas, closest to the columns, have a low concentration.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp109C%2Etmp_tcm20-193297.jpg

    An overall plan shows how the system would be deployed within a concrete floor slab. The areas farthest from the columns, labeled A, have the highest concentration of SFIS units; the areas marked B have a moderate concentration; and the C areas, closest to the columns, have a low concentration.

    600

    Courtesy Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

    An overall plan shows how the system would be deployed within a concrete floor slab. The areas farthest from the columns, labeled A, have the highest concentration of SFIS units; the areas marked B have a moderate concentration; and the C areas, closest to the columns, have a low concentration.

  • Detail showing SFIS units

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp109D%2Etmp_tcm20-193304.jpg

    Detail showing SFIS units

    600

    Courtesy Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

    Detail showing SFIS units

  • The system can utilize different types of refuse in various assemblies. Top to bottom: Discarded plastic bottles can be stacked horizontally, compressed into blocks, or grouped vertically, while plastic bags can be compressed into spheres.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp109E%2Etmp_tcm20-193311.jpg

    The system can utilize different types of refuse in various assemblies. Top to bottom: Discarded plastic bottles can be stacked horizontally, compressed into blocks, or grouped vertically, while plastic bags can be compressed into spheres.

    600

    Courtesy Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

    The system can utilize different types of refuse in various assemblies. Shown here, discarded plastic bottles are compressed into blocks.

  • System using baled plastic bags

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp109F%2Etmp_tcm20-193318.jpg

    System using baled plastic bags

    600

    Courtesy Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

    System using baled plastic bags.

  • System using plastic bottles

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp10A0%2Etmp_tcm20-193325.jpg

    System using plastic bottles

    600

    Courtesy Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

    System using plastic bottles stacked horizontally

  • System using plastic bottles

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp10A1%2Etmp_tcm20-193332.jpg

    System using plastic bottles

    600

    Courtesy Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

    System using plastic bottles grouped vertically

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.


  • Craig Hartman
    Craig Hartman
  • Eric Long
    Eric Long
  • Mark Sarkisian
    Mark Sarkisian


Sustainable Form-Inclusion System

Architect Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, San Francisco—Craig Hartman (design partner); Mark Sarkisian (structural engineering director); Eric Long (senior structural engineer)

2009 R+D Awards

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