Delivering Success Through Innovation Networking
“That’s the way we’ve always done things,” is not a statement often uttered within the walls of Entuitive. The reason: our people, our clients, and our communities benefit the most when we ask what’s possible.
Our commitment to innovation has resulted in ideas coming to life both from within and without our firm. Part of our commitment involves broadening our network in the industry and academia to ensure we’re supporting the field of engineering as much as we can.
Keep reading to learn how our external partnerships have delivered industry-advancing results and how we can work together to push the bounds of engineering.
Entuitive has partnered with MITACS, the national, not-for-profit organization that designs and delivers research and training programs in Canada, for the past three years. By connecting industry to academia, MITACS provides funding for both applied and industrial research across disciplines. The program also requires the private sector partner to match the funding.
In 2019, our partnership connected us to a student at the University of Calgary to conduct research around an app that would take a traditional building and its massing and convert the preliminary design to a modular structure. Our research question looked into the possibility of comparing a traditional structure and a volumetric modular structure early in the design process to understand the impacts on the project of picking a volumetric modular scheme.
Through this research, we learned more about the challenges in working to fit volumetric modular into an existing typology. If not done with the best partnership, the efficiency of the value that modular proposes starts to erode when taking that approach. To maximize the value of modular, teams ideally will start their design with that scheme, otherwise they’re compromising too much.
Last year, we partnered with a research student at the University of Waterloo, Sheida Shahi, funding her research into the possibility of adapting aging infrastructure using computational design and modular construction.
Ontario’s residential infrastructure is aging while we’re seeing an increase in demand for attainable housing. Adapting existing buildings means increasing their lifespan and making them more energy efficient and affordable for tenants. The challenge is in adapting and re-using buildings in a manner that creates a truly circular built environment. One barrier, Sheida realized, is that building adaptation projects can be painfully slow and can often produce a significant amount of construction waste. She saw an opportunity for the first part of these projects, the feasibility study, to become much more efficient.
Learn more about this research here.
And this year saw us partner with Sheida again through MITACS, this time looking at new buildings and how to make them more energy efficient using computational design. The work centered around the validation of Entuitive’s CARBEN tool, which uses a series of algorithms to rapidly generate schematic framing schemes for estimating and comparing embodied carbon impact early on in project planning. The tool facilitates rapid comparisons between concrete, steel, and timber structural schemes, as well as various building envelope systems. By validating the data and algorithms behind CARBEN, we enable our clients to make informed decisions about the design and carbon footprint of their projects.
Our external partnerships extend to academia, where our team has taken a new approach to supporting engineering capstone projects at several universities. For example, last year at Queen’s University our team supported two fourth-year projects involving computational design. This type of support builds on our commitment to innovation through networking, allowing us to support the engineers of the future while simultaneously advancing the field.
Teaching the Engineers of the Future
Similarly, our team has partnered with several universities to give guest lectures and hold workshops on coding, computational design, and parametric modelling. We want to ensure the engineers of the future are equipped with the most advanced skills upon graduation. Though computational design is not yet taught as part of the standard engineering curriculum, we know that there is tremendous value in this approach. By providing these valuable skills to students today, we strengthen that innovative network tomorrow.
Innovation Specialists Output
We’ve also partnered with private companies, such as Output, that focus on specialized service delivery to support innovation. Output is also the firm behind our internal Ideas site, where staff can submit their ideas to our various Ideas challenges as well as throughout the year to the always-open Idea Hopper. Output also coaches our shortlist members on value proposition design during our yearly Big Ideas Challenges. This partnership has developed another avenue to infuse our firm with innovative design thinking methodologies that have challenged the status quo and transformed the way we do things.
Materials Research with the University of Western Ontario & WEAV3D
Entuitive is collaborating with Western University to evaluate the performance of a newly developed composite material, developed by startup WEAV3D, as an alternative to rebar. WEAV3D’s composite lattices can be used in a wide range of applications and Entuitive has invested in WEAV3D to support the commercialization of their technology for the construction industry.
What is our initial objective?
The objective is to receive approval from the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) to use WEAV3D’s composite lattice as a substitute reinforcing material to rebar and conventional fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) bars. A combination of experimental research and analytical work currently being performed by Western University will support the approval process.
What is our goal?
Following CSA approval, WEAV3D’s composite lattice can be used in the construction of reinforced concrete slabs, replacing conventional steel rebar. This will result in a solution that is less expensive to install in concrete forms and immune to corrosion, while providing uncompromising slab performance under the effects of external loading.
Entuitive, in association with NSERC, has funded a Ph.D. level research program at the university led by Professor Maged Youssef. We are also supporting the program as an industry partner advising on construction technologies and preferences. The first phase of experimental research to characterize the composite lattice and optimize its performance as a rebar replacement is currently underway. It consists of evaluating the effects of different fiber materials and reinforcing lattice configurations. Starting at the level of individual fiber-reinforced plastic tapes, the testing plan has been scaled up over the past year to evaluate the composite lattices performance as it relates to bond development, including the effects of cross-tapes.
Bond tests were performed on fiber-reinforced plastic tapes to identify the type of plastic that exhibits the best bond strength with concrete. Once that was completed with a selection of four tape materials, the project team evaluated other performance considerations, such as tensile strength, cost, and melt temperature, to narrow the options to two materials as shown below (PETG and ECOPAXX knows as PA 410).
WEAV3D then manufactured composite lattices made from the selected materials and Western proceeded to cast concrete blocks to evaluate the effect of cover and cross tape anchoring on the bond. The next step of the research plan is to construct a full-scale one-way concrete slab and test the slab under bending. A conventional rebar-reinforced concrete slab will be directly compared with a WEAV3D lattice-reinforced slab.
After the slab testing, a decision will be made to further evaluate reinforced concrete beams and this project will culminate with a fire performance test to assess the performance of the WEAV3D composite lattice at elevated temperatures.
Shaping the Future of the Built Environment with Autodesk
In 2020, members of our team were accepted to the Autodesk Outsight Network – a global community of resident teams from industry, academic, and entrepreneurial sectors who are passionate about accelerating and researching design and make processes. The network offers open access to resources that enable teams to discover and test advanced techniques for design and make.
Since then, we have partnered with other Technology Centers Outsight Network residents, including teams representing academia, urban space operators, architectural firms, and fabricators. Our aim is to explore and demonstrate that adaptive, nature inspired, data-driven, digitally fabricated architecture can improve the quality of urban spaces through mitigating sub-optimal environmental conditions with a focus on thermal comfort, wind, and noise levels.
We are currently collaborating with our partners to create an adaptive artifact that acts as an interactive weather station. The kinetic artifact is a sculpture-like structure that transforms with changing environmental conditions without motors. Once on display, the public will be able to interact with the kinetic sculpture through manual rearrangement of its parts and access information via a smartphone app. The data collected will be used in real-time to create predictive models to assist in improving the shape of the artifact over time, and an open-source database will allow other designers to use the information. Ultimately, the research behind the project is aimed at creating a network of artifacts to continue exploring the potential of building environments.
Future of Prefabrication Symposium
In February and March of 2021, Entuitive sponsored a four-day Symposium on the Future of Prefabrication hosted by the University of British Columbia Faculty of Forestry, UBC Centre of Advanced Wood Processing, British Columbia Institute of Technology, UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC), and the University of Waterloo. Thanks to our involvement, more than 100 students were able to participate in the event free of charge. Prefabrication in mass timber buildings is fast becoming a reality, and, through digital design and manufacturing processes, it is having a disruptive effect on the building industry.
We recognize the importance of prefabrication as an emerging technology in the building industry, both for residential as well as institutional projects.
The symposium brought together architects, engineers and fabricators who are interested in the future of prefabrication in wood. The future of design in prefabricated buildings necessitates the integration of disciplines. The conference was focused around three key themes: Architectural Innovation, Structural Engineering Considerations, and Integrated Manufacturing Processes and Technologies.
Our ongoing work and research in those areas helps us deliver uncompromising performance and leverage emerging technologies.
View a video summarizing the symposium accompanied by the robotic workshop, Robot Made: Teaching the future of robotics in wood construction.
To learn more reach out to Patryk Wozniczka.
Advancing the Industry Through Innovative Networking
Our commitment to innovation means broadening our network through great partnerships that push our industry forward. We believe in working with industry and academia for the benefit of all, from teaching the engineers of the future to engaging in adaptive artifacts research. A rising tide lifts all boats.