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Constructing a prototype cardboard building

Buro Happold

Job No: 4928

Design Guide

September 2001

Buro Happold

This report has been prepared for the sole benefit, use and information of the DTI and the liability of Buro Happold Limited, its Partners and Employees in respect of the information contained in the report will not extend to any third party.

The team for this Partners in Innovation project was: Westborough school, Westcliff-on-Sea Cottrell & Vermeulen Architecture Paper Marc Ltd Essex Tube Windings Ltd Quinton and Kaines. CG Franklin Ltd Cory Environmental Trust in Southend-on-Sea Buro Happold

Author Signed Date

Andrew Cripps

Approved Helen Gribbon Signed

September 2001

Date

September 2001

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Contents 1 2 Introduction ......................................................................................................................1 Manufacturing ..................................................................................................................1


2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Making paper and board.........................................................................................1 Making tubes ...........................................................................................................2 Making panels ..........................................................................................................5 Other paper and card products ..............................................................................5

3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Buildability.........................................................................................................................6 Structure ............................................................................................................................6 Durability / Repair / Maintenance / Adaptability.....................................................8 Fire.......................................................................................................................................9 Water ..................................................................................................................................9 Insects / rot etc............................................................................................................. 11 Environmental impact ................................................................................................. 11 Visual appearance........................................................................................................ 11 Thermal ........................................................................................................................... 12 Acoustics........................................................................................................................ 12 Security / Insurance..................................................................................................... 13 Cost ................................................................................................................................. 13

Westborough School Design Guide

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Introduction
This report brings together the information and knowledge gathered during the project to design and build the 'After-School club' at Westborough School, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, England. The intention is that others considering using the material in the future will find the data they need to get started, and be encouraged to take the ideas we have developed further. This can help to reduce the environmental impact of construction in the future. In this report we concentrate on the materials that we have used. Other potential or existing applications of cardboard, for example as papercrete (mixed paper and cement) are discussed in the literature review / case study report that has been prepared separately. Furthermore discussion of how the project ran has been included in the closing report of the project. It is sufficient to say that the project worked because of the inputs of the different team members, and their involvement and input were essential to its success. The project team consisted of: Westborough Primary School Buro Happold Consulting Engineers, Cottrell & Vermeulen Architecture, Paper Marc Ltd, Essex Tube Windings Ltd, Quinton and Kaines Ltd, CG Franklin Ltd (client) (project manager and all engineering design) (architectural design) (manufacturers of paper and board) (manufacturers of tubes) (manufacturers of panel products) (building contractors)

The project was part funded by the Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions through their Partners in Innovation scheme, and by the Cory Environmental Trust in Southend, and their support is gratefully acknowledged.

Manufacturing
At Westborough school we have used a combination of board, tubes and panels, all made from the same basic board material. The process for making each of these is discussed briefly below, along with the scope for manufacture of components. A brief mention is made of materials we did not use.

2.1

Making paper and board


In general terms, paper is a felt of highly compressed cellulose fibres. In a continuous process, a pulp of fibres with a water content of around 90%, is poured onto a conveyor belt and successively compressed and drained to its final thickness and water content (around 6-8%). As a result of this process, a majority (about 70%) of the fibres are aligned to the machine direction. The remainder lie across this direction (20%) and through the thickness (10%). This results in an anisotropic material whereby properties are different in the three orthogonal directions, with the bonding of fibres primarily dependent on hydrogen bonds. The source of the fibres is recycled paper and cardboard, collected by local councils, parts of the paper making and using industry and other routes. There is a limitation on the thickness of paper, which can be manufactured in this way (around 5mm is a maximum) but 1 mm is normal to ease the drying process. However, gluing together successive layers of paper, normally using starch based or PVA type glues can increase thickness. In this way, a material is produced more akin to timber than say MDF or fibreboard.

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Waste paper being added to the pulping process

Sheets of paper being formed

Paper collected on a roll (pictures courtesy of Paper Marc Ltd)

Although there is no theoretical limit to board size, there is a practical one in that the machines producing it are of a certain size. At Paper Marc the largest laminated board size produced is 2.2m x 2.7m; the basic paper is made 2.2 m wide and comes on a roll many km long, but the laminating machine cuts this at a maximum of 2.7m lengths. As an indication of cost, basic 1mm thick board costs 30p per m , while 5 mm laminated board 2 costs around 170p per m .
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2.2

Making tubes
Paper / card tubes are made from multiple layers of spirally wound paper plies, glued together with a starch or PVA glue. Up to 22 plies can be combined, giving thicknesses up to 16 mm. Our partners Essex Tubes can make tubes with sizes in the range from 50 mm to 656 mm diameter, or 2 inches to 2 feet for those who prefer it that way! Whilst their original purpose was for cores to rolls of newspaper print, the tubes have been used architecturally for a number of small, single storey buildings. They are also used in

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construction as pile sleeves, void formers and as temporary formwork for concrete, as well as in the film and exhibition world for temporary structures.

Coil unwind to glue system

Rolls loaded on winder rack

Tube formers

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13 ply gluing process showing glue removal

Glue application and scrapers

Formation of plies from underneath

Outer wrap being applied to finished tube All photos courtesy of Essex Tube WIndings Formation of plies from above
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Because of the way in which the layers are wound together, the top or bottom layer of paper can be made of a different paper to the rest, allowing a treated, stronger or coloured paper to make the surface, but without the cost of using these throughout the tube. As an indication of cost, for orders in the 100s of tubes, tubes of 20cm diameter with 5mm thick walls cost around 2 per linear metre.

2.3

Making panels
There are applications where solid board is all that is needed. However the multi-purpose role of the card in the Westborough building meant that a mutli-layer panel was needed. Quinton and Kaines manufacture panels from a wide variety of paper and board materials, and we designed a panel together to suit the project needs. Panels are put together from a number of components selected from: Solid board (which can be card, wood, MDF etc) Honeycomb card Timber framing Plastic coated or aluminium foil layers for water resistance Fire treated board layers In the usual process a timber frame is made up, honeycomb fitted inside it and board glued to either side using a press to ensure a good join between all layers. In our panels, three thinner panels were made up and joined together, to make the thick composite panel used. The timber frame brings benefits in terms of jointing of the panels to each other or to other materials, and for extra strength. It is not always needed; it depends on what the panel is for whether it can be left out. At Quinton and Kaines there are presses that can work with board up to 1.5m x 3.0m. The board we were supplied with was limited in length to 2.7m giving us an overall maximum panel size (avoiding joins in the card) of 1.5m x 2.7m. Panels are clearly most easily made in simple shapes, and a rectangle with square edges will be the cheapest and quickest to make. It is a question of carpentry to make other more complex shapes with non-square edges. Within limits of angle cutting any shape can be made, but there is a cost implication to be considered. As a cost indication, a panel 2.5m by 1m, and 160mm thick would cost of the order of 150 2 per panel for an order of around 1000, or about 60 per m .

2.4

Other paper and card products


The other main processing method for card / paper is in the form of packaging (e.g. egg boxes), which are formed directly from the paper pulp. There are limitations to the thickness of board than can be made in this way, because of the time to dry out, and we did not think it would be appropriate for our project. It is possible to make a form of concrete with paper as the "aggregate", mixed with normal cement. This is known as papercrete, and has been used successfully in the USA, admittedly more often in dry climates. We considered using this for external works, but leave it to others to try out.

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Buildability
Prototype construction A prototype bay was erected (6mx2.4m) to test the ease of manufacture and erection of the panels. This prototype erection proved important to the development of the scheme. In particular the sharp angles desired for the roof panels at their edges were tricky to manufacture as limitations of the sawing equipment meant that each frame of the three layer sandwich had to be cut individually and then glued together. This required accurate cutting and the construction of a complicated jig form. The whole process was deemed too time consuming and simplification of the shape of the panels was made. All of the roof panels now have square edges. The disadvantage of this was that the junctions were less simple to construct on site (screwing panel to panel was not possible with the square edged panels at the ridge and valley positions). The roof panels now required connectors to connect the panels together rather than just screwing the panels together. The large triangular panels were now fixed back to joists. With the panel based system that we adopted for Westborough, the basic process of building is similar to that for any timber panel based system. The size of the panels used in the walls was acceptable from the building point of view, and these were installed quickly. Some of the roof panels however were large and hence heavier, making their installation more difficult. Because card exposed to moisture will suffer, we decided it was necessary to build under a temporary scaffold roof. This was important to this project as there were several weeks from starting on the walls to having the structure water-tight. A simpler building with a short programme might not need this.

Part of structure under temporary roof

The mock up structure used for testing the concept

Structure
The proposal was to construct a building at Westborough School out of cardboard or similar paper products. The intention has been to use it as extensively as possible. This reflects the fact that cardboard is made from post-consumer waste paper, a material that is available in large quantities at little or no cost. Furthermore, as long as the treatments used to improve the water and fire properties are chosen with care, the cardboard can also be recycled at the end of its life. Recent developments in recycling technology have allowed more cardboard products to be recycled, including the 'Tetrapak' system used for most fruit juice cartons.

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During early scheme design and workshops, consideration was given to various forms of application of cardboard from cast bricks to long roof tiles made from tubes, solid corrugated card, corrugated walls made from half tubes. Through the early design and working with the initial concept of folding walls and roof, it was clear that the flat areas of the walls and roof (spanning approximately 1200 between folds) required more rigidity, also there was a requirement for insulation that needed to be addressed. It also appeared tricky to form the tightly curved folds of the panel without a significant radius. All of this led us to consider a honeycomb panel structure. The geometry of the folds seemed to suit this simply and it was the introduction of Quinton and Kaines to the team that really set us on our way. They had an established system of making panels, and could make them to the thickness required with the chamfered edges the panels required at the junctions. We now had a scheme that gave us a building created from a number of panels, simply screwed together on site using the panel edge timbers. Material discussion Effect of creep Like timber, the paper tubes have been found to be susceptible to visco-elastic behaviour or creep i.e. an increasing deflection over time during the application of a fixed amount of load. The small number of creep tests carried out on tubes suggests that it is negligible when loads are limited to 10% of the compressive strength i.e. creep = 10.0. It was felt that a portion of creep results from the manufacture of the tubes such that under axial load the spirals tend to unwind. Consequently, it was felt that the creep partial safety factor ( creep ) may reduce if further tests indicate a reduction of creep can be obtained by modifying the manufacturing process. This was unfortunately not the case and the creep partial safety factor remains as 10.0. For short-term loads, the factor may again reduce, as it was for the bridge constructed for the Tommorrows World programme. In buildings wind loads can be considered as short term, however the nature of the building gravity loads suggests are long term so that no reduction factor can be considered. Effect of moisture content Published graphs relate the atmospheric relative humidity (RH) to the moisture content of the tubes, and also the moisture content to the strength. The RH will vary significantly during the day, and during the year, and therefore the strength of unprotected cardboard will vary accordingly. For this reason, a further safety factor is introduced, mc, to allow for fluctuations with moisture content. This can be optimised by taking account of how RH, moisture content and loadings vary during the day, and it is unlikely that it will exceed 1.2. This situation can be improved by treating the paper or using coatings, which will reduce the rate of moisture content change. The moisture content will also cause an effective modification to the Youngs Modulus, E. The result will be a building which effectively breathes, like masonry structures but more so. The two main consequences of this are that deflections of the structure will vary from day to day, and that in the long term, the material may break down as the hydrogen bonds holding the paper together suffer fatigue failure. No long-term tests are available to define this further; it is felt that the treatment measures will help to significantly reduce this effect. Therefore the aim is to limit the access of moisture to the load bearing elements by coatings or treatments of outer layers. Effect of temperature Tests carried out to date find that both stiffness and strength reduce at elevated temperatures. which is likely to be attributable to a break down of the glues and binding agents. It is therefore

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evident that any paper used structurally will need to be protected from significant temperature change, as well as fire, by insulating. Stiffness and strength data As with any construction material, the two main properties which influence the quantity of material used for structural elements are strength and stiffness. A number of tests have been carried out on tubes of similar construction to those intended for use on this project, and Buro Happold are privy to the results. The tests were designed to give an indication of strength and stiffness of the paper tubes, and also to provide information regarding creep characteristics and consistency of results. Combining these results with other data and information assimilated from desktop research, an outline of material behaviour has been determined. The results for cardboard can be summarised as follows: Compressive strength 8.1 N/mm
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(in the absence of any further data, the bending and tension strength are assumed to be equal to this figure). A materials partial safety factor ( material = 1.3) is also recommended which would effectively reduce this figure. Youngs Modulus (stiffness E) varies but typically in the range 1,000 1,500 N/mm for tubes where length > (3 x diameter). Glue contact stress 0.3N/mm (as determined from tension tests. All tests failed at the fixings and this suggests the use of several large diameter fixings in order to mobilise the full tensile capacity the tube and avoid local bearing failure leading to de-lamination of plies around fixings). Recommended Design Values Limit compressive, tensile and bending stresses to 0.8 N/mm (from 8.1 times creep ) 2 Limit bearing stresses at fixings to 1.4 N/mm 2 Limit glue shear stress to 0.3 N/mm 2 Adopt a Youngs Modulus value of between 1,000 and 1,500 N/mm Monitor material properties throughout life Limit moisture content variation by use of water-resistant paper and protective pvc or aluminium foil
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Durability / Repair / Maintenance / Adaptability


Up to 4 months after the building was erected, a few deformations in the cardboard structure were noted Movement of the tube wall The tube walls supporting the truss were fixed at one position (under the truss). Lateral movement was noted at the top of the wall which was attributed to further drying out of the tubes. Once the internal partitions were installed this enabled the wall to be realigned and no further movement has occurred. Deflection of the cardboard tubes.

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The tubes by the rear of the building were noted to have deflected by 10-15mm. Again this is attributed to drying out while damp. Packing was placed above the tubes to bring the level of the spreader beam back to its original position. It should be noted that the cardboard tubes used in constructing the building were still 'green' when delivered to site. A period of drying out is recommended before use as a structural element.

Fire
Like all timber based products we know that paper burns, unless treated. But, in common with timber, card has the tendency to char rather than play an active part in a fire, with the charring protecting the surface. During the BBC Livelab broadcast we tested some card panels to see how they behaved with a flame thrower on them. One panel was thin card, untreated. The second was a fire treated board. As the testing showed, the fire treated board gives a very good fire performance. In fact testing solid board is not fairly represented by this test. A recent test on untreated 5mm board narrowly failed the class 1 flame spread test. The challenge with fire treatments is not to ruin the good environmental performance that card offers, by using chemicals that are un-pleasant to say the least. However for some situations their use may be essential, and this should be weighed up when choosing the material. In the Westborough building we have opted for an over-cladding solution, with the only exposed card being on the ceilings. This card was also fire treated to restrict flame spread, although we could have made a fire engineering argument not to do this. The fire treatment was a proprietary system from a company called Fabric Flare. They aim to minimise the environmental impact of their process, but the details are not public.

Water
As cardboard becomes a pulp when wetted, it is imperative that all necessary steps are taken to prevent water ingress into the cardboard elements. Untreated card is also hygroscopic, meaning that it will absorb moisture from the air, and in moist air this can lead to the collapse of the material. In the Westborough project we have adopted a three step approach to water protection for the card panels. Step 1: treated card The first level of protection is in the use of water-resistant cardboard. In the manufacture of the cardboard from pulp, Paper Marc can introduce additives to the pulp mix, which renders the board water-resistant. This means that the cardboard inherently has a reduced susceptibility to the effects of moisture and these additives can be removed on re-pulping. There are a range of treatments available, but the most effective treatments from a water resistance perspective are likely to be changing the material to such an extent that it is not really cardboard and will no longer be recyclable. Step 2 A further level of protection is to protect the various elements by applying an external coating. There are a variety of ways to achieve this: A polymeric coating on the card, applied after manufacture of the element An aluminium foil, applied during the manufacturing process. A building paper applied on site
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In the Westborough building we have opted for a poly-coated layer on the inside, and a building paper on the outside. This reflects normal practice for timber framed buildings where the main source of moisture is the warm moist air on the inside generated by the occupants and their activities. There is a vapour barrier on the inside, but a breathable water barrier on the outside face. This minimises the flow of water vapour into the card, but allows it to escape if any does collect in the card. Step 3: Over-cladding Although a coating layer will be waterproof when it is first installed, it will be vulnerable to moisture if it becomes damaged. Therefore we decided for a medium lifetime building we had to protect the water proof barrier layer from contact from both sides. On the inside there is an extra 1 mm layer of board after the vapour barrier to physically protect it from scratching. On the walls there will also be a pin board material protecting the board from impact damage especially from drawing pins! On the outside we have opted for over-cladding in a material as close to cardboard as we could manage. This is a wood fibre and cement panel product which provides water and fire protection for the card panels underneath, and is partly recyclable.

Close up of cladding panels

Close up of gutter and roof panels

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Whole of South side

North roof overcladding in Twinfix

Insects / rot etc


It is possible to treat with boron (as done with recycling paper insulation). We chose not to due to recycling problems. We have opted to : 1) 2) Keep the water out with good detailing, thereby discouraging certain insects and moulds Keep out the insects with an insect mesh at the ventilated rainscreen openings

Environmental impact
Cardboard is a recycled material that can itself be recycled. Hence it is a material with a very strong potential to be 'green', with low embodied energy and almost no material take. The issue that matters is not the cardboard itself, but the other materials and systems that need to be added to the cardboard to make it work as a building material, and to meet the needs of the client. These will need to be considered when measuring the environmental impact of the building. In the case of the cardboard school, most of the impact comes from the concrete in the foundations and floor slab, and not from the cardboard. This is discussed further in the final report on the project.

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Visual appearance
Card has its own visual appearance, and this is often desired as part of the concept to make it apparent that it is card that is being used. Naturally is can also be added to with any paint or paper system to give an appearance like any other internal surface. One benefit of the panel system is the opportunity it brings to produce panels of a particular design by screen printing. This was used for the external cladding, as shown in the figures of the external skin in the over-cladding section.

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Thermal
The CIBSE guide gives the U values for many materials, and in general for any combination of materials: U = 1 / (R1 + R2 + R3) where R1, R2, R3 are the Thermal resistances of different layers. R = l / , where l is the thickness (m) and is the thermal conductivity of a material (W/mK) For cardboard (CIBSE A3-32) Plain sheets: = 0.22 (W/mK) Corrugated and plain sheets bonded: = 0.047 (W/mK) This figure for corrugated card is similar to that for wool. Hence if we take the following thicknesses we get the following U values: 100 100 150 200 200 mm plain card: mm corrugated mm corrugated mm corrugated mm corrugated card: card: card: card, plus 2 layers of 10 mm card: 2.2 W/m K 2 0.47 W/m K 2 0.31 W/m K 2 0.235 W/m K 2 0.23 W/m K
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By comparison 335 mm solid brick: U = 1.7 W/m K 2 300 mm standard wall: U = 0.55 W/m K (100 mm brick, 50 mm UF foam, 50 mm void, 100 mm brick, plaster) We did not have the resources to test this experimentally. It would be valuable if this could be carried out in the future. Walls The Building Regulation requirements for the thermal performance generally for external walls 2 are to achieve a U value of 0.45W/m K. The analysis above indicates a value for the panel of 2 0.3W/m K, which is therefore adequate. Roof The U-values required for a roof are again 0.45W/m K. As the panel has the same make up as the walls the achieved value is which is therefore adequate. The cardboard tubes can also be useful thermally as they can also trap air. It is more effective if they are filled with loose paper or some other material to improve the insulation.
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Acoustics
Due to the location and nature of the building at Westborough School there were no specific requirements for the acoustic performance of the panels. However, from previous testing carried out it is known that a panel of this make up can achieve a 38Db separation. The trapped air helps to restrict sound transfer, but there is little mass to absorb sound energy.

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Security / Insurance
Given that basic card is relatively easy to cut, particularly compared to brick or stone, there is the potential for a security problem with the use of card. For Westborough however the overcladding means that this is not an issue, and the building therefore is like any other where the doors and windows are the weak points with respect to forced entry. If more security / robustness was needed there could be a range of options: The provision of a fine wire mesh within the make up of the panels to reduce the effects of knife attack. The protection of the tubes at a low level by wrapping with a rope. The provisions of a sacrificial layer both externally and internally to the walls, which can be expected to be replaced at yearly or two yearly intervals.

From an insurance perspective the insurer of the Westborough building was naturally concerned about the same issues we were - strength, fire and water. Hence the discussion given in this report cover the responses needed. The solution is similar to a timber framed building, and carries the same sorts of risks. For future buildings it would help to allow a solution where individual panels could be more easily removed than the final solution for Westborough. This would mean that the cost and effort in replacing a damaged panel would be greatly reduced.

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Cost
Clearly it is an attraction of cardboard that the raw material is relatively inexpensive - in fact the starting point is waste paper that is freely given away by all of us. However the processing costs are not insignificant, and the cost of the After-School club were relatively high, because of the prototype nature of the building, and the complex shapes needed for the folded plate aesthetics of the building. It is through mass production that the potential for a cost effective building product can be realised. This will take time and further investment.

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