Innovation Award of Excellence: Stereoform Slab

Benton Johnson
Director of Structural Engineering
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, Chicago

Making Concrete Improvements Through Digital Fabrication and Construction

Stereoform Slab is a concrete pavilion constructed in Chicago’s West Loop, presented in partnership with the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial. The pavilion is a to-scale prototype of a future building system, made using advanced robotic fabrication techniques. It is an activation and an exhibition of a design method that reduces the carbon footprint of concrete construction in the built environment, replicating a single-story concrete bay found in high-rise construction to create a simple architectural expression. It exemplifies how digital fabrication and robotics can be leveraged in the building industry to more environmentally efficient ends, realizing smarter structural forms from advanced computational optimization. Research reveals that 40 to 60 percent of a building’s carbon footprint results from the development of the concrete slab itself. By utilizing sustainable fabrication techniques with advanced robotics to create concrete formwork, material usage and waste is minimized. This new approach uses 20 percent less concrete than a conventional system, resulting in a 20 percent carbon reduction. At the full-building scale, it is possible to realize further carbon reductions of approximately 25 to 30 percent, through hyper-responsive design and optimization.

The system is designed to increase spans in strategic ways that maximize tenant flexibility, allowing for greater resiliency to the changing needs of owners and markets, ultimately further reducing its life cycle carbon impact. Stereoform can extend the conventional concrete span by up to 66 percent. When deployed as a structural system throughout a building, this increased span enables greater flexibility in the planning and usage of its spaces. This has the potential to extend a building’s life cycle, further reducing its carbon footprint by reducing the need for whole building replacement.

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