Dustin Albright, Clemson University – Sim[PLY] System

A new way of building could be more environmentally friendly.

Dustin Albright, assistant professor of architecture at Clemson University, examines this new system.

Dustin Albright’s research and teaching revolve around building tectonics, structural design, and advanced wood and timber building systems. He is particularly interested in leveraging digital production technologies to explore prefabricated solutions of varying scales. This work has been applied to numerous built projects and service-learning opportunities. He has received funding from the USDA and the U.S. DOE, among other supporters. His collaborative work on the Sim[PLY] light framing system earned a patent in 2018, and he has been honored with both the CAAH Creativity Professorship and the W. Reaves McCall Professorship while at Clemson. Dustin is a licensed architect and works professionally on a range of project types with Hanbury, a multi-disciplinary design firm based in Norfolk, Virginia.

Sim[PLY] System

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It’s no secret that building construction has lagged behind other industries when it comes to evolving. Various forms of prefabrication are addressing this gap and can offer compelling advantages for quality control, improved schedules, reduced waste, and lower costs.

Our faculty and students have been developing the Sim[PLY] building framing system since 2014 to provide a unique and nimble approach to prefab construction.

The system, which was patented in 2018, utilizes prefabricated building components cut from plywood sheets by CNC routers or water jet cutters. The resulting walls, roofs and floors are designed for easy, “ready-at-hand” assembly with unskilled labor and without power tools, and offer great insulating qualities for energy efficiency, plus coordination with mechanical and electrical systems. They have also been tested and approved for strong coastal winds and seismic zones, all while retaining the low carbon footprint of sustainably harvested wood.

The system relies on plywood joinery and steel zip ties, replacing nails found in traditional construction. Contributing to safer, quieter building sites. It also means a Sim[PLY] structure can be disassembled quickly and non-destructively, allowing the parts to be reused.

Initially developed in conjunction with the 2015 Solar Decathlon Competition, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Sim[PLY] system has been utilized for two houses, community arts installations, and a pop-up acoustical shell in Genoa, Italy. A demonstration structure was also recently completed in Victoria, British Columbia with the Anomura Housing Society.

Our work with Sim[PLY] is far from over. Our architecture students will visit Victoria in the fall as part of a design study on affordable housing typologies, and we continue to work alongside industry to offer Sim[PLY] as a solution for housing and disaster relief.

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