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Research in Architectural Engineering Series
Volume 7
ISSN 1873-6033
Previously published in this series:
Volume 6. M. Veltkamp
Free Form Structural Design – Schemes, Systems & Prototypes of Structures for Irregular Shaped Buildings
Volume 5. L. Bragança, C. Wetzel, V. Buhagiar and L.G.W. Verhoef (Eds.)
COST C16 Improving the Quality of Existing Urban Building Envelopes – Facades and Roof
Volume 4. R. di Giulio, Z. Bozinovski and L.G.W. Verhoef (Eds.)
COST C16 Improving the Quality of Existing Urban Building Envelopes – Structures
Volume 3. E. Melgaard, G. Hadjimichael, M. Almeida and L.G.W. Verhoef (Eds.)
COST C16 Improving the Quality of Existing Urban Building Envelopes – Needs
Volume 2. M.T. Andeweg, S. Brunoro and L.G.W. Verhoef (Eds.)
COST C16 Improving the Quality of Existing Urban Building Envelopes – State of the Art
Volume 1. M. Crisinel, M. Eekhout, M. Haldimann and R. Visser (Eds.)
EU COST C13 Glass and Interactive Building Envelopes – Final Report
edited by Mick Eekhout, Fons Verheijen, Ronald Visser
IOS Press
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Mick Eekhout, Fons Verheijen, Ronald Visser
Layout & Bookcover Design
Ronald Visser
Cardboard in Architecture. M. Eekhout et al. (Eds.). IOS Press, 2008.
© 2008 The authors and IOS Press. All rights reserved.
The paper and cardboard industry, just like the building
industry, is a long-established business sector with considerable
knowledge and experience. Apart from the honeycomb door
and paper-based round column formwork, there are few
contacts between the two industries. But architects have
made many attempts, further back in the past and also more
recently, to use cardboard as a building material.
~ 1930 – paper house, USA
~ 1970 – temporary accommodation, TU Delft
~ 1980 – two temporary theatres, Apeldoorn
~ 1990 – temporary accommodation Japan, Shigeru Ban
~ 2000 – Japanese pavilion, Hanover, Shigeru Ban
What is characteristic of these attempts is that experience
and knowledge acquired during the work threatens to become
lost because there is no framework for systematic collection,
processing and development of relevant information.
Despite the poor image of cardboard, projects by such
architects as Ban, Eekhout and recently the interior of
Scherpontwerp in Eindhoven show that cardboard is an
architecturally attractive material that also has good structural
and acoustic properties. Cardboard, with all the accompanying
knowledge already present in the mature cardboard industry,
has the potential to become a valuable element of the
architectural repertoire. Each (building) material has its own
characteristics which generate specihc applications in the
building industry.
Cardboard consists of ~ 90% endlessly recycled material and,
following use, can be recycled again to a degree of ~ 90%.
Moreover it is cheap. These two properties allow the material
to be viewed in a different light, in contrast to the traditional
approach in the building industry of applying materials
economically and efhciently. The option of throwing the
material away once it has reached the end of its life – without
harming the environment – creates another perspective on
The Department of Building Technology at the Faculty of
Architecture at TU Delft plans to study and develop cardboard
as a potential building material on a broad, systematic and
where possible comprehensive basis. The guiding research
question here is:
“How can cardboard be used in both architectural and
structural terms as a fully hedged building material,
making use of the material-specihc properties?"
An exploratory phase from 2003 to 2005 – including an outdoor
pilot structure (multished), a pilot pavilion accommodating an
exhibition, workshops on resistance to hre and to damp, a
hrst patent (KCPK), the design of an interior wall (Besin), two
MSc students and the publication of the exploratory booklet
Cardboard Architecture – was concluded by an international
symposium attended by both the paper industry and the
building industry. This publication comprises the report on
that symposium.
In making this publication possible, special thanks goes out to
Prof. Richard Horden (Technische Universität München), Prof.
Chris McMahon (University of Bath), Prof.dr. Joop Paul (NL)
Delft University of Technology, who reviewed the capters and
gave constructive and usefull comments in order to improve
the overall quality.
Prof. Fons Verheijen
Cardboard Technical Research and Developments
at Delft University of Technology 1
Mick Eekhout
Cardboard in Architecture; an Overview 21
Elise van Dooren, Fons Verheijen
Paper Leaves 49
Peter Gentenaar
The Design and Building Process of a Cardboard Pavilion 59
Kees van Kranenburg, Elise van Dooren and Fred veer
A House of Cardboard 69
Elise van Dooren & Taco van Iersel
Structural Engineering and Design in Paper and Cardboard 95
Helen Gribbon, Florian Foerster
Application of Cardboard in Partitioning 119
Taco van Iersel, Elise van Dooren
Mechanical Behaviour of Cardboard in Construction 131
Julia Schönwälder, Jan Rots
The Cardboard Dome as an Example of an Engineers Approach 147
Mick Eekhout
Epilogue 165
Author Details 167
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Cardboard in Architecture. M. Eekhout et al. (Eds.). IOS Press, 2008.
© 2008 The authors and IOS Press. All rights reserved.
Cardboard research at the TU Delft is performed by 4 researchers,
who divide their interest between, fundamental research,
technology development and application designs. However these
domains have strong relationships and need one another in
order to become effective. The research in cardboard has 8 or 9
different aspects to cover all relevant aspects in architecture. The
approach at the TU Delft is methodical; one of these methods
is based on the development of new products and could give
a proper lead to efhcient product development, even in new
territories. At the end a number of 12 different questions are
posed on aspects that matter in fundamental research; 14 on
development questions and another 14 on design questions. With
these +2 questions research could be efhcient and permanent
for the coming 5 years. The industry should respond to these
questions by selection and support. If not, the TU Delft has its
own preferences.
1. Cardboard research on the TU Delft
This congress on Cardboard has the character of a spontaneous
eruption, releasing many interests both form the academia
as well as from the industry. In the last year a number of
discussions took place at the university that introduced a
global ambition and vision to precede the cardboard industry
with new knowledge and insight on cardboard for use in
architecture. Naturally, this industrial market has completely
other characteristics. Yet the interest from the industry is
very positive, the university is geared up and presents its
possibilities. Research in the held of `Cardboard in Architecture'
has been set op in the department of Building Technology at
the faculty of Architecture by the professors dr. Jan Rots
(Chair of Structural mechanics), Fons Verheijen (Chair of
Architectural Engineering) and dr. Mick Eekhout (Chair of
Product Development) since 2003 and has gradually grown
to the current level. The research subprogram `Cardboard' is
part of the `Zappi' research program, which contains research,
Cardboard Technical Research and Developments
at Delft University of Technology
Mick Eekhout
development and design of new materials, new techniques
and their applications in architecture. The current cardboard
research group is composed of:
• PhD student Julia Schönwälder
(`Nechanical Properties of Cardboard'),
• PhD student Maria den Boom
(`Cardboard Partitioning Walls')
• PhD student Taco van Iersel
(`Application Designs: Cardboard Cable Duct')
• Staff member Elise van Dooren for co-ordination
and integration;
• In 2006 a research fellow from Washington State
university, architect Robert Barnstone, has been
invited to spend his sabbatical in the cardboard
research group.
2. Research, Development & Design
In the world of technical sciences, Research & Development
and Design & Development are both very related, yet
sometimes on extreme polarities. The family relationship
between research and design has been illustrated in the Fig.
1. which, as a principle, reveals the six different categories as
scientihc arena's:
• Fundamental Research
• Fundamental Technical Research
• Building Technology Development
• General Systems Development
• Commercial Systems Design
• Architectural Application Design
Fig. 1. The relationship between
Research and Design
The two fundamental research domains (on the left) have
been attended by Julia Schönwälder. Elise van Dooren and the
crew of the Chair of Architectural Engineering are engaged
with the right hand domains of Architectural Application
Design. Maria den Boom and Taco van Iersel develop General
Systems and Commercial Systems.
The distinction between the fundamental research and
application design becomes apparent when illustrated in the
case-study of the IJburg/Utrecht cardboard dome (2003). The
project was undertaken in 3 domains simultaneously:
x fundamental technical research on the behavior
of cardboard tubes,
x the cardboard technology of production of
elements, connection to components and the
assembly to a structure and
x the design of a suitable structural system and
application of this system in as the project dome.
The development of the basic structural technology to enable
us to produce a 30m span cardboard dome, initially took us
4 months of Research & Development were spent on the
statical analysis and material composition research of spirally
wounded cardboard tubes as load bearing elements, including
the glue spiraling method of cardboard tubes up to their
connections. After these four months the gained technology
of cardboard tubes was fertilized with the well-known space
frame technology of engineering single layered domes
including their nodal designs. It was also linked with the
project design wishes of the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban,
who had proposed at the invitation of the client a 10-frequency
Buckminster Fuller iconosahedronal type dome. From these
requirements plus the available funding a general system was
designed and developed, and worked out as a compromise
Fig. 2. The scheme of Fig. 1.,
showing the relationship
between the Chairs at
Builting Technology
at Delft University of
between the proposals of Ban and Eekhout. The engineering
took 2 weeks and the production and assembly took a further
some 4 weeks. For future possibilities the developed project
system ought to be developed to become a commercial
(marketable) system with more general applications.
3. Research embedded in the department of
Building Technology
The department of Building Technology has 6 major researcj
programs (Fig. 3):
x Blobs
x Zappi
x Industrial Building
x Informatics
x Retrohtting
x Climate Design
The Cardboard research is one of the subprograms of Zappi
Research, that is directed towards Material Design: Designing
with Materials. Originally targeted to obtain unbreakable glass
strong and stiff enough for structural purposes, the name
`Zappi', introduced by the author in 1992, was widened to
embrace also other material research approaches.
In the section of building technology design, consisting of
the three Chairs of Architectural Engineering (prof. Fons
verheijen), Design of Constructions (prof.dr. Ulrich Knaack)
and Product Development (prof.dr. Mick Eekhout), one of the 3
sections of the department of Building Technology, a survey of
the research topics is illustrated in Fig. 4 (the research of the
Chair of Statics has not been enclosed as this Chair belongs
to another section, but is strongly related, as is the (vacant)
Chair of Material Science and the Chair of Building Physics).
Also the Chair of Sustainability of prof. Cees Duivesteijn has
to be involved. The most important clusters of research in this
overview of BTD are:
x Zappi/Cardboard,
x Blobs
x Industrial Buildings/Concept House
It is imperative that the relationship between these subprograms
will be intensihed after this inaugural congress and once the
cardboard research group is growing towards maturity.
From Research Overview of Building Technology dated November
2005 (internal publication) the following pages of the
subprogram “Cardboard Structures and Constructions“ have
been selected. They have been worked out by the researchers
involved and display the aim [quote]: “to establish cardboard
as a real building material". !n the subprogram the helds and
possibilities are investigated on how and where cardboard
can be integrated in the building sector.
Cardboard, traditionally used for packaging, has potential for
application in many structural helds, because it is recyclable,
Fig. 3. Overview of research
programs in Building
biodegradable and made from renewable resources. It is an
inexpensive material which is remarkably strong considering its
low weight.
Several examples and case studies (e.g. by Shigeru Ban)
demonstrate that cardboard is an efhcient building material
for temporary structures“ [end of quote]. The opportunities of
cardboard for the building industry are strongly inhuenced by
its low unit price, and inferior quality yet numerous technical
potential improvements. The main question is how to upgrade
quality-wise an inferior material for serious building purposes.
Marketing studies and technological opportunity studies
should go hand in hand.
The central scheme of Wim Poelman's dissertation
shows that
for a trustworthy and long lasting match between demand
and supply side both the opportunities from the design side
(demand) and the functionalities from the production and
Fig. 4. Relationships of research
clusters of Building
Technical Design Section
OZ School
Ring of PhD students
Satelite Orbit
Research Arenas
Research overview BTO
vd Lugt
dr nd A
k ijc R
supply side have to be developed simultaneously.
It should be understood that, while the Dutch cardboard
industry is focused on packaging, the interest of the research
group Cardboard is only directed towards building products,
whether as parts of permanent buildings, temporary buildings,
or interior parts. It is good to recognize a sliding scale for the
sake of avoiding confusion in our research in 8 different helds
of interest:
x Cardboard for Structural Purposes, that is load
bearing structures, which generally speaking could
lead to a progressive collapse of the entire structure
after failure of one single structural element or
component; (Example: the 30m dome of Ijburg/
x Fundamental Research on Structural
Behaviour of Cardboard, to support the new
structural applications of cardboard, including the
major inhuences of humidity on the remaining
strength of structural elements and components
Fig. 5. Poelman's match of supply
and demand
x Cardboard for Constructional purposes, where
the element or component has a stand alone
function of minor structural nature (wind loading
as a outside wall) and major cladding nature of
separating spaces
x Cardboard for Temporary Buildings, where
cardboard has both a structural and a constructional
use (example the Apeldoorn theatre designed by
architect Hans Ruijssenaars)
x Cardboard for Emergency Housing Purposes
in combinations of structural and constructional use,
with assistance of other materials like plastic foil;
(Many examples in the work of Shigeru Ban)
x Cardboard for Interior Purposes, to be applied
in cupboards, kitchens furniture (examples Ikea
x Cardboard for Furniture Purposes, to be
worked out on the Faculty of Industrial Design
Engineering of TU Delft, rather than Architecture
x Cardboard for Installation Purposes, where the
packaging practically could be deformed to become
ducts (examples Taco van !ersel and The XX ofhce
by Jouke Post)
x Cardboard for secondary purposes in
structures like honeycomb sandwich cores, tubular
cores of reinforced concrete hoor and cardboard
castings for concrete columns
next pages:
Fig. 6. Project 4.6. Cardboard
Structures and
Fig. 7. Project 4.6.1. The
Mechanical Properties of
Fig. 8. Project 4.6.2. Product
Cardboard Wall for
Ofhces and Housing
Fig. 9. Project 4.6.3. Product
Cardboard Cableduct for
Unit Building Industry
4. Working methods of engineers & architects
The general approach in research in engineering is to state
a certain research challenge, to analyze the problem in
sub-problems, brainstorm on these sub-problems, come to
synthesis of the different sub-problems and combine them
in overall product solutions which are examined in overall
technical and (later) economic feasibility. (This approach
is described in books on the methodology of product
development and
). In general in the development of new
building products 5 main phases are distinguished:
x Concept Design Phase
x Preliminary Marketing Phase
x Prototype Phase
x Dehnitive Narketing Phase
x Production phase
!n Fig. 10 the layout of the hrst phase `Concept Design' is
given as an illustration of the above given description. In
my opinion it is unavoidable in order to attain ambitious
targets to work systematically as an engineer. This route
unavoidably leads to a planned and time consuming
enterprise. This approach is called a deductive approach.
Reference is made to the dissertation of Mieke Oostra
„Componentontwerpen, de rol van de architect in
. I would rather call this approach the
engineers approach.
In the world of architects and designers another approach is
often followed: to make a design and to see whether there
is a market for it and how to optimize the design. This could
lead to a short route with surprising results. This is more
or less the approach which was followed by professor Fons
Verheijen and has lead to the pavilion in the Blokkenhal
on Bouwkunde, currently on exposition. This approach is
characterized as an inductive approach. I would even call it
for the sake of the debate the architect’s approach.
The cardboard pavilion that was on exposition at the Faculty
was the result of a spontaneous eruption of activities by the
group of researchers around the super-enthousiastic prof.
Fons Verheijen, supported by the fundamental researchers
of prof. Jan Rots and dr. Fred Veer in order to try to tie
together architectural design and fundamental research.
His typical architects approach and the short time schedule
involved show an absence of cautious product development.
The pavilion is also the result of the massive support by the
cardboard industry to sponsor the cardboard necessary for
the building of the pavilion.
Fig. 10. Concept Phase of Mick
Eekhout's Organogram
of Product Development
5. Transition of knowledge and technology in
During the development of the cardboard dome in Amsterdam
in 2002/2003 no practical material data was available from
the side of the architect Shigeru Ban. No data was obtained
form the city of Hannover concerning the Japanese pavilion.
Hence the research had to start all over. One year later a
beautiful book was published in which many data were
. I heard structural designer Jörgen Schlaich once
say on a conference in Stuttgart, 1988: “Es ist nichts Neues
dass Wissen vergeht", or ¨Nothing new that knowledge faints".
But does it have to go that fast? Are we as designers in this
information age honest or selhsh to one another? Why don't
we share more knowledge? !n this case Octatube had to
regain the knowledge that has been already available on other
places, by other designers and engineers. Octatube is willing
to share a major part of its knowledge via the Delft University
of Technology to the Dutch industry and to other cardboard
researchers at other universities in order to increase the body
of knowledge. It is the task of the universities to generate and
distribute knowledge and insight. Therefore the cardboard
research group sees it as one of its immediate tasks to make
an extensive overview on all cardboard research in Europe
directed towards architecture and structural use, most likely in
the form of a book. Hopefully this avoids that new researchers
have to start from the bottom upwards.
6. Ambitions on the short run in cardboard
The best cardboard research on the TU Delft has an
equilibrium between:
1. Fundamental technical research (to
develop the packaging material to a structural/
constructional material),
2. Technology development (mixing
appropriate cardboard elements with suitable
structural and constructional systems) and
3. Design of commercial systems and project
applications (for a match between society
needs and the supplied cardboard technology in
the building industry).
It is imperative that the industry, waiting for the TU Delft to
develop a new cardboard market in the building industry for
them, will be involved in all three major phases, of the earlier
mentioned 6 main stages of Fig. 1. The industry shall not
expect to consume easily prefabricated cardboard knowledge:
it takes much effort to develop a new held of expertise, and
the support and time of many. The university cannot develop
new technology without the practical remarks of the current
industry, but never in absence of creative future-directed
I would like to give you a number of around 40 interesting
topics for research, development & design with which the
research group at TU Delft has to occupy itself, coming from a
one-person brainstorm while writing this lecture/article.
A further strategic brainstorm and analysis seems inevitable,
as well as a logical chain of related activities through research,
development and design in preference and feasibility as well as
in view of positive market opportunities. The production may
be done by the Dutch cardboard industry, but the application
market is worldwide.
6.1. Research topics
1. Research on improved glue for better strength,
humidity indifference
2. Improved strength of the basic cardboard
3. Appropriate statical systems for cardboard in
separate bending, compression and tension
4. Appropriate element connection methods for
structural and constructional loadings
5. Improved winding methods with larger overlaps
increasing strength of CHS tubes
6. !nhuence of humidity and moisture on
cardboard in constructions and structures
7. Creep behavior and structural safety, especially
for cardboard structures
8. !mproved hre resistance of cardboard elements
and components
9. Extrusion possibilities of (improved) solid
cardboard material with complex cross sections
for multiple connections
10. Casting of nodular connection elements based
on (improved) cardboard material
11. Research in load carrying walls for housing with
improved creep and hre protection
12. Research in load carrying reinforced hoor
components for smaller spans (houses)
6.2. Development topics
13. Make marketing studies of opportunities for
cardboard in the building industry seen its
current and potentially improved properties
14. Development of glued connections between
15. Development of (de)mountable connections
between components
16. Development of protection of cardboard against
humidity, moisture and rai
17. Development of a vocabulary of structural forms
most suited for the use of cardboard
18. Development of suitable production methods
for improved cardboard for use in building
structures and constructions
19. Develop a kit of tools for do-it-yourself use
of cardboard sandwich panels for non-load
carrying partitioning walls
20. Develop self supporting book storing shelf
systems of cardboard
21. Develop 2,5 D paneling system (curved in 1
direction) for outside cladding carriers
22. Develop e production methodology for cast
improved cardboard nodes
23. Use temperature and moisture as deformation
techniques in production of elements
2+. develop opportunities of `nano'-strengthening of
skins for cardboard sandwiches
25. Develop improved skins of cardboard sandwich
constructions with improved resistance against
moisture, hre and structural loading in both
stressed skins
26. Develop demountable printing techniques for
the sandwich surfaces
27. Develop wall and reinforced hoor components
for semi-permanent housing
6.3. Design topics
28. Design folding systems with constructional
sandwich cardboard for large spaces
29. Design large scale pre-fabricated emergency
housing with minimal transport volume
30. Design structural skeleton systems with tubular
elements and cast cardboard nodes
31. Design interior partitioning systems with
cardboard for do-it-yourself use
32. Design one-off structural systems with
honeycomb core for 3D blob surfaces
33. Design cardboard chalets for use in private
34. Design self-build partitioning walls for
spontaneous accommodation of home guests
35. Design cardboard outdoor storage spaces, to be
suspended from balconies of hats
36. Design summer house units for temporary use;
37. Design easily demountable ofhce partitioning
with printing surfaces and acoustic absorbing
38. Design structurally independent indoor
partitioning system for museum purposes
39. Design Student housing for fast expanding
+0. Design roof top extension of hat roofs using
cardboard constructions and structures
41. Design Concept Houses with load carrying walls
and hoors
7. Conclusion for Cardboard Research
Research with potential possibilities for cardboard in the
building industry is impossible without a serious and strategic
approach and research set-up. This approach has to be
consciously designed and developed both analytically as
well as with creativity and originality. It should be looking
over the borders of the current Dutch cardboard industry,
translating possibilities from the current building industry as
well as transmitting knowledge from other disciplines. This
approach has yet to involve both marketing, sustainability
and other research programs like `Zappi', `Blobs' and `Concept
House' around the central core of Cardboard research in
fundamentals, development in technology and design of
architectural applications. For a long term and successful
research, development & design program appealing to the
Dutch industry a strong, structurally interwoven cardboard
research set-up has to be made. Funding from both sides
(university and industry) has to be pursued at a later
stage when the cardboard research program has become
convincing and appealing.
The proposal given in this article is the result of short notice
considerations, htting in existing research programs and
needs continuous response from my colleague researchers
and from the industry. At the moment the researchers are
paid by the university or on temporary hold, waiting for
more enthusiasm and hnancial support. The TU Delft will
provide hnancial support from its internal research promotion
tendering system. The industry is also asked to read this
article carefully as a proposal and consider participation,
physically andfor hnancially. !n other research projects we
have successfully introduced a consortium-form of sponsoring
around individual researchers. This is a method suited for the
smaller and medium industries (`NKB' in Dutch), where the
amounts per industry are modest and the consortium effort
leads to larger research impulses.
1 Wim Poelman, Technology diffusion in product design: towards
an integration of technology diffusion in the design process, S.l:
S.n, Delft, 2005, ISBN 9051550235
2 Mick Eekhout, POPO, Delft University Press, Delft 1996, ISBN
3 Mieke Oostra “Componentontwerpen, de rol van de architect in
productinnovatie", Editor Eburon, Delft 2001, !SBN 90S1668619
4 Matilda McQuaid, Shigeru Ban, Phaidon, London, 2003, ISBN
5 Mick Eekhout, Ontwerpmethodologie 28 en 29 mei 1998, TU
Delft Faculteit der Bouwkunde, Delft, 1998, ISBN 9052692556
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Cardboard in Architecture. M. Eekhout et al. (Eds.). IOS Press, 2008.
© 2008 The authors and IOS Press. All rights reserved.
Cardboard in Architecture; an Overview
Elise van Dooren, Fons Verheijen
The image of cardboard still remains that of a packaging material,
but in the last few years, at home and abroad, different projects
have been built using cardboard. This article gives a broad
spectrum of projects and products using cardboard.
Cardboard tubes are being used by Shigeru Ban as a means
of construction in a show of light and open space. Ad van Kil
applies the specihc texture of honeycell board. The lightness
and the ability to recycle are properties htting a short lifespan
and temporary applications. As a result of these properties, two
temporary theatres and one party tent have been built.
Cardboard is a lightweight, cheap and environmentally positive
material. The packaging industry has a lot of knowledge on
cardboard as a packaging material, in the building industry it is
still a largely unknown material. To acquire a signihcant role in
architecture, the mechanical and physical properties will have to
be researched and determined. !n principal, the hre and damp
resistance problems could be overcome. Research also will have
to be done into the possible areas of appliance, considering its
characteristic properties. The lightness of the material and the
possibility to fold and slide it, already led to a number of designs
for temporary housing in disaster and war stricken areas.
1. Introduction
Materials – we want to know everything about them.
Where they come from, how you work with them,
how far you can push them, what else you can make
from them.
Paper and cardboard have earnt their success in history
mainly as writing paper and packaging. Especially with the
exchange of stone and hides by the relatively light and more
easily writable paper and the development of book printing,
two quantum leaps were made in the world of communication
and science.
The wooden box (a few thin plates reinforced at the corners
and connected using small laths) has been replaced by
a cardboard box; foldable, lighter, easy to discard of and
recyclable after use.
Especially Japan has a rich paper tradition
. Well known types
of paper are Washi (hand scooped paper, which stands out
because of its strength, shine, natural colour, life span and
low weight) and Nagashizuki (extremely thin paper, multi
layered, crossed, with a strong hbre build up). Known from
architecture are the semi-transparent sliding doors (Shoji and
Fusuma). The measurements vary from 33,3 x 24,2 cm up
to (in extreme custom cases) 620 x 210 cm The material is
also being used in interiors and furniture. A very well known
and traditional application of paper in the building industry
is wall paper. Paper is, regarding the enormous success of
typography, probably the best material for printing.
The Wiggle chair
by architect Frank Gehry is probably the
best known piece of cardboard furniture. Tables, cupboards
and even beds have been designed using cardboard. With the
furniture of Stange Design
in Germany there is a cheap way of
decorating your house. Moreover, the lifespan of this furniture
coincides with the average time we own our furniture.
!n 200S Ad Kil en Ro Koster designed a complete ofhce interior
using cardboard
. The explicit demand was an interior which
would give a soul to the somewhat boring space. By gluing
cardboard in several layers on top of each other, walls with
an exceptional texture were created, which moreover had a
positive affect on the sound inside the room.
The walls of honeycell board serve a double function; as
separation as well as being spacious because of the many
Fig. 1. !nterior of the ofhce of
Scherpontwerp, a graphic
design company in
recesses, wherein niches, workplaces, shelves, a canteen, a
library and presentation area have been placed. Honeycell
plates of 1.2 by 3.0 metres (thickness varying from 1.2, 2, 3
and 8 centimetres) were cut to pieces and glued together. A
computer drew in the design layer by layer.
The worktops have been covered with a transparent acrylic
plate in order to keep out moist and protect the vulnerable
edges of the tables. The hre department and insurance
companies issued the demand that each building element
had to be impregnated with a hre-retardant. The sealing
boards were also made from honeycell cardboard. The neon
tube lighting above the desks was placed inside semi-circle
cardboard tubes
Historically Japan has a rich tradition in the use of paper,
even to the present day the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban
is the best known architect when it comes to cardboard as a
building material. Paper and wood for him form a direct line,
one evolves from the other
. Therefore he sometimes uses the
term `evolved wood' for cardboard. Shigeru Ban is constantly
searching for materials htting the assignment or situation.
Environmental considerations, simplicity and efhciency are
key words to him. Cardboard tubes, originally used for the
transportation of tapestry, are being used as constructive and
architectonic elements.
For a theatre production of a dance/ mime company in the
Netherlands, Shigeru Ban was asked to design a temporary
space using cardboard. In cooperation with building architect
and construction engineer Mick Eekhout, a dome from
cardboard tubes was built in 2004.
Covering the cardboard
Fig. 2. Close-up of the Paper
Dome.after application of
the membrane
construction a coated polyester fabric was used. The
cardboard tubes were interconnected by use of steel nodes.
These nodes also guaranteed an efhcient (de) assembly. The
dome has already been taken down and rebuilt on another
site functioning as an expo-centre as well as skating-ring. The
latter turned out to be not such a good idea, because of the
humid condititions.
The projects of Shigeru Ban are beautiful examples of using
cardboard in architecture. Still the image of cardboard remains
that of a packaging material or that of a homeless persons'
sleeping place. That invokes a few questions. Why use
cardboard as a building material? What are the advantages
and what the disadvantages? !s it a passing, one-time event?
The last couple of decades, here as well as abroad, different
projects from cardboard or using cardboard have been
designed and built. This article gives an overview of most of
the projects `building with cardboard', thematically ordered.
2. Projects
2.1. Shigeru Ban
Shigeru Ban placed cardboard tubes in circular shapes behind
a (semi) transparent façade in his Paper House and Paper
Church (1995), thus creating beautiful spaces, each with their
own character, in a show of light. His designs intertwine two
traditions: Japanese simplicity and the open huid space of
modern architecture. These and other projects, were he used
cardboard tubes in construction, like Library of a poet (1991)
and the Japan Pavillion at the Expo in Hannover (2000) are
very well documented in the book `Shigeru Ban'.
Shigeru Ban also used cardboard tubes for temporary housing
shaped like tents and small houses for the shelter of victims
after natural disasters and refugees from war stricken areas,
for it is a cheap material, abundant, recyclable and easy
build with. Moreover, cardboard tubes can be produced on-
site and will not be sold on for some quick money as has
happened with aluminium. It also does not require any extra
tree-logging. After research using prototypes and testing, Ban
placed cardboard tent frames in Rwanda (1995) spanned
by a Tehon tent. Preceded by a short instruction, the local
inhabitants were soon able to build them themselves.
In Japan (1995) and later in Turkey and India (2000/2001)
small houses have been built, small square spaces with a few
windows and a door. The tubes were standing next to each
other thus forming the walls; the roof was a tent canvas.
Depending on the site where the dwellings will have to be
built, a solution for the foundation will be devised. This has to
be as simple as possible using local materials. In Japan sand
hlled beer-crates were used; in !ndia debris from the disaster.
2.2. Emergency housing
Between 1970 and 1980, Paul Rohlfs
designed emergency
housing from cardboard during his graduation project for
buldingproducttechnology and thereafter as researcher for the
University of Technology in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. The
structure has been built from load bearing wall panels with
rubber strips for glazing. He developed a few prototypes. The
wall panels in prototype 1 consist of a core of honeycell board
with two outer layers of ¨Tri-wall"; a triple layered corrugated
cardboard with an extra thick top layer (liner). It proved to
be very strong and stabile, but laborious prototype. For the
development of types 2 and 3, a different building method was
chosen: Honeycell cardboard with an exterior breather foil and
an interior vapour retardant layer. The evermore simplihed
form provided for easy detailing, less manual production, less
waste and quicker assembly in prototype 4. This prototype
was actually inhabited for a while and survived a harsh winter,
while the entire site in the province of Groningen was cut off
by a thick layer of snow from the rest of the Netherlands.
2.3. Temporary housing prototype
In the Netherlands, Rene Snel
developed a temporary
housing prototype. Using a machine, he developed himself,
he winds elements: hoor, wall and roof form one continuous
Fig. 3. Temporary emergency
housing in Kobe, Japan
after the earthquake that
hit the area in 1995.
element. Connecting several elements comprises a small
dwelling. When covered in a protective layer they can be
erected on site en a relatively short amount of time.
!n Sydney 200S, the exhibition `Houses of the Future'
was being held. Prefabrication and durability are the central
themes in these buildings which were projected at the future.
Six houses were built, each from a different material: concrete,
wood, steel, glass, masonry and cardboard.
The cardboard house could be delivered to the building site
as a relatively lightweight package with cardboard frames
and panels. It takes only two people to assemble one house
in approximately 6 hours. The construction consists of a
few roof frames, stabilized by cardboard lateral baulks. The
construction-elements can be slid together like the partitions
of a wine-box. The construction is covered by a synthetic
cloth; this helps keeping the building hrm to the ground and
also permits light to pass inside.
2.4. Temporary theaters
On the occasion of the 1200-year anniversary of the city
of Apeldoorn (1993) both Rudy Uytenhaak
and Hans
were asked to design a temporary theatre.
The choice for cardboard as the building material was made
because of Apeldoorns' situation next to the veluwe, having a
long tradition of paper and cardboard manufacturers. Visitors
could buy a foldable cardboard stool as their entrance fee;
they could take them home after the show.
Hans Ruijsenaars in cooperation with ABT building technology
consultants, designed a theatre with a total span of 12 metres
and a length of 20,5 metres. The entire building weighed
less than a large car! It could seat 100 – 150 visitors. The
cylindrical theatre was built using a construction of rods. each
1200 mm in length and 250 mm in height. Each rod consists of
7 layers of corrugated cardboard glued together. At the node,
where 6 rods connect, wooden plates have been glued into
the rods. With a block of two plates and a steel connection the
nodes were kept together. The thus created triangles in the
structure were covered with plasticized corrugated cardboard
covers. The seams were sealed with tape. The necessary
tools were a hammer and screwdriver. Finally the theatre was
covered with an exterior tent canvas, allowing ventilation and
the entrance of daylight at the nodes. The entire theatre was
Fig. 4. Theater in Apeldoorn.
Designed by Hans
placed on prefabricated concrete slabs.
Rudy Uytenhaak designed a hoating theatre on two pontoons
in the Apeldoorn canal. The load bearing structure was to be
made from steel, with beams and cables. The roof and some
of the side-wings were to be made from cardboard elements.
The elements in the roof were coated with polyethylene
to ensure water-resistance. Inside the side-wings they are
2.5. Barn
In the nineteen seventies and eighties research was being
done into the development of cheap cattle barns. The aim
is to make the barns' technical lifespan equal to the short
economical writing off term. Different materials were tested
amongst which corrugated cardboard. With triangular
cardboard beams large spans are achieved and the demanded
insulation values are met. The cattle barn remained standing
for a couple of years.
2.6. Cardboardschool
Cottrell and Vermeulen in cooperation with bureau Happold
designed an after school child care connected to a school
in England
(Westborough primary School, UK, 1992-
2002). The central idea for the design of the extension was
the folding of paper. Furthermore the aim was to use as
much recyclable and recycled material as possible. At the
end of its 20 year lifespan all the materials used (cardboard,
wood, natural rubber tiles) are to be recycled. Before actually
building the extension, a scale model of 6 x 2.4 metres was
built. The knowledge acquired from this model simplihed the
design. One of the major changes was the application of
wooden edges on the entirely cardboard panels. To protect
the cardboard from water during the actual build, a temporary
scaffolding structure covered in plastic was erected.
The cardboard was made water resistant in of couple of
ways. At hrst, a substance was added to the pulp, making the
material itself more vapour-retardant, but without interfering
with the process of recycling the product. The second step
was the addition of an interior coating to stop vapour and
water resistant building paper on the outside. The third and
hnal step was making the panels more damage resistant; a
1 mm cardboard layer on the inside and a product on the
outside which can be seen as close to cardboard: wood-
hbre cement panels. The cardboard and air between these
materials provides enough insulation and acoustically the
material meets the standards. The façades were covered in
prints with patterns drawn by the children themselves. Next
to the panels, cardboard tubes were used, supporting the
wooden beams. The BBC program `Tomorrows World' has
tested the extension intensively, by letting the hre department
try to make the façade leak and doing hre tests as well as a
test with the weight of a car.
2.7. Multished
On the occasion of the opening of a paper recycling company
in Duiven (2002), a temporary extension was designed and
built: a cardboard party tent, the ¨Nultished", erected from
cardboard tubes, honeycell and solid cardboard.
The hre
resistance proved to be sufhcient in case of a temporary
structure, because the solid cardboard plates meet the
demands of fire-class 4 (non-housing structures). The
extension is built up from a skeleton of cardboard tubes with
honeycell plates laminated with solid cardboard between the
tubes. With a minimal addition of cellophane and a small
amount of PE foil, water resistance of the tubes and the plates
was achieved. In order to also waterproof the end grain, black
tape was used in all connections.
3. Products
3.1. Ventilation duct
The XX-architects ofhce in Delft by Jouke Post
, was based on
the thought, that when the economical lifespan of a building
does not coincide with the technical lifespan, the latter should
adapt itself to the hrst. This lifespan was set on 20 years. The
materials were chosen in such a way, that they could be re-
used or returned to nature. Part of this concept is the use of
cardboard tubes as ventilation ducts.
3.2. Floor-heating system
Cardboard was also used in a hoor-heating system which could
be de-assembled
. Aluminium heat conducting plates were
placed on pre-shaped corrugated cardboard plates, sandwiching
a 16 mm PE tube. The hoor hnishing boards were subsequently
laid on a load dividing layer of gypsum-hbre. The corrugated
cardboard has an insulating function between the hoor and
the ground itself. The materials used have little to no negative
environmental effects and are easy to move or recycle.
3.3. Cable-duct
The cardboard cable-duct by Taco van Iersel
is an example
of a pre-formed hat plate which can be folded at the work-site
and placed into brackets. The predecessor of this cable-duct
in the design process was the semi-round tube. However, the
foldable plate is much more efhcient, because it requires less
space during transport.
3.4. Cardboard duct in a sound barrier
Alongside the A2 highway, Fons verheijen designed `The
(2005) which at the same time functions as a sound
barrier for the residential area behind it. The building is being
built in different phases; hrst a solitary façade as a noise
controlling screen, then the rest of the building. Directly
behind the screen will be a delivery street for the shops inside
the building. The façade will have to be closed for the hrst 1,S
years in order to block the noise of the highway, where after
Fig. 5. Multished
Fig. 6. Close-up of the Multished
Fig. 7. The cardboard cable-
duct. Designed by Taco
van Iersel.
the façade will have to be partly open to ventilate the exhaust
fumes of the cars on the delivery street. The lower part of the
façade is built from concrete slats of which the grooves will
be hlled with cardboard tubes as long as the façade fulhls the
function of sound barrier. This is a simple and cheap solution
which sufhces as a sound barrier. The advantage here is that
the 5 km of tube can be recycled after having been through
the shredder.
3.5. Cellulose insulation
In principle, paper is suitable to be used as an insulation
material. Using cellulose, different kinds of insulation plates
have been made, ecologically speaking htting in the category
`best material'. The plates are continuously being developed,
making them just as usable as their less ecological competition.
For example, Homatherm
has developed a plate with an
insulation (calculation) value of 0,0+ mKfW which is bendable
and can be processed, dust free, using standard equipment.
Moreover, the plate breaths, thereby temporarily buffering
moist and has a higher warmth accumulating value than
comparable isolation materials. Isovloc
are loose cellulose
hakes, which can be sprayed, blown or manually dispersed in
sealed constructions like walls, hoors and ceilings, insulating
3.6. Dividing wall
Out of the building community the idea was born to develop
a dividing wall from cardboard. The evermore strict building
legislation (maximum weight to be lifted by man: 25 kg) and
the demand for increasingly shorter building trajectories, led
to new solutions. Because of companies moving, merging and
going bankrupt, many dividing walls in ofhce buildings have
a very short lifespan. The building industry is therefore the
industry with the greatest amount of waste. Cardboard has as
one of its main advantages its re-usability; when the wall has
worn out or has become obsolete, it can easily be dumped as
used paper.
Fig. 8. Detail of ¨The Wall",
alongside the A2
highway near Utrecht.
Fig. 9. ¨The Wall", alongside the
A2 highway near Utrecht.
The cardboard interior wall uses the lightweight and high
strength properties of honeycell board. The panels consist
of honeycell plates with a solid cardboard liner. Both sides of
the panel contain grooves, wherein a connecting element can
be placed. This way, different panels can be assembled into
a smooth wall. Inside the wall, hollow channels have been
incorporated, offering space for electricity cables. The walls
will be built from panels 90 x 280 cm each, but still lighter than
25 kg. By using these large panels the building speed can be
guaranteed and because of its ability to be covered in any kind
of hnish (from wallpaper to tiles) the difference with traditional
interior walls is invisible.
The wall has been submitted to many tests (hre, compression,
tension) and experiments (Sandbag swinging test). On
some points the wall reached a surprisingly high score, but
sometimes improvement of the wall is necessary. Some of the
growing pains can be deduced from the way of production.
The panels were assembled by hand. This has great inhuence
on the total quality of the wall. For many applications the wall
in its current shape is satisfying, but optimisation will improve
the chances for cardboard as a partition.
3.7. Paper composite
In Australia Adriano Pupilli
and others developed a prototype
shelter for those forced to live in marginal, insecure or
inappropriate housing. !mportant part of `The Paper House'
is the Armacel composite technology. Recycled and renewable
materials, like paper, cardboard, straw and rice, are cocooned
in a impermeable membrane of recycled Polyethylene
Terephthalate (PET). So the often delicate and porous material
is protected and strengthened by a process of vacuum forging
a thin layer of part recycled, part virgin polymer.
4. Study projects
It is clear that cardboard is a relatively new material in
the building industry and not a lot of data is known yet.
We need research on a broad basis, as well as in depth
research, meaning: research in a designing, synthesizing
way and research in a specialized way (e.g. research into the
mechanical properties and moisture-resistance of cardboard)
The broad-range research combines many different aspects.
Especially this kind of research results in associations and
leaps of thought as well as relations which are less obvious
in specialized research. Broad-range research asks questions
and makes mutual and unexpected ties. At the Faculty of
Architecture of Delft University of Technology an increasing
amount of research is being done into cardboard, broad-range
as well as specialized. Part of it is done by researchers, part of
it as student (graduation) projects.
4.1. Graduation project Chiel van der Stelt, Hans
Mesman and Wim Kahmann
!n 1976 Chiel van der Stelt, Hans Nesman and Wim Kahmann
designed temporary housing for their graduation project
When folded, one house could be transported inside a
container. The transport packages are about 3.00 x 1.80 x 0.30
metre and weigh about 200 kg. The aluminium foundation,
protecting the houses from drawn up moisture functions
also as impact protection of the package. The elements are
connectable at both sides.
Cardboard panels gain in strength by folding them into piers.
The roof needs to be converted, folded out and covered with
aluminium as well. Between the piers closed, semi-open and
rotating parts are placed. Normally these are cardboard, but
local materials could be used as well. The outside is covered
in a white coating, the inside in a transparent one. The
connections are made from glue and synthetic materials. The
uplift by wind is counteracted by a rope from the edge of the
roof to the foundation.
Fig. 11. Temporary housing as
a graduation project by
Chiel van Stelt, Hans
Mesman and Wim
4.2. Graduation project Taco van Iersel
During his graduation project (2002), Taco van Iersel
developed a wall built from cardboard boxes
. With this
system he designed a dwelling for temporary use on wasteland
(building locations). The principle idea is based on converting
a packaging box to a `cardboard brick'. The boxes are being
stacked in a stretching bond. The boxes also slide together
using haps and thereafter get glued together. On the thus
created wall of boxes a liner of cardboard gets glued, assisting
in the force transmission in the wall like in a sandwich panel.
This construction could be used for walls, hoors and beams.
In order to stack the boxes, there are two different sizes: a
small box (150 x 300 x 300 mm) and a large box (150 x 300 x
600 mm). In the fall of 2005 student Arne Arends developed
a corner-box, which will improve the stability of the walls.
Specihc techniques used in the paper and cardboard industry
are: folding, creasing, scribing, bruise and blanking out. The
boxes used were made with a computer operated blanking
knife. A blanking knife is a wooden pate with knives, steel
strips, and rubbers mounted on it. The plate is placed in a
blanking machine, which gets fed a cardboard plate where the
knife gets pushed into. The result is a plate shaped like a hat
TAKO-box. This subsequently needs to be folded and glued.
The type of cardboard determines largely the accuracy of
the wall. When cardboard made from a lot of virgin hbre is
used, the result will be a dimensionally stable box. When
cardboard with a lot of re-used hbres is being used, the box
will be weaker and less dimensionally stable. Also the accuracy
during the folding and gluing of the boxes is of importance.
Fig. 12. Wall made of stacked
boxes by Taco van
Fig. 13. Corner box in order to
improve stability by
Arne Arends.
Fig. 14. Dwelling for temporary
use on wastelend.
4.3. Paper building, Monique Verhoef
During her Building-technology graduation project (2002),
Monique Verhoef designed and researched a cardboard
. The objective of the project was “to research
the ways in which cardboard can be applied in the
building industry responsibly, whereby it clearly retains
an image of its own". The research was concentrated on
the different shaping-possibilities of cardboard. Eventually
the development of a specihc building-system, a folding
structure, was chosen. Cardboard has a relatively low
stiffness in comparison with other materials (i.e. steel).
With a folding construction relatively large spans can be
made because of the form stiffness achieved by the shape
of the structure. Also the type of connection used – a glued
connection – is positive: cardboard has problems handling
concentrated loads. And this construction expressively uses
one of the characteristics of the material: cardboard can be
folded easily.
The structure simultaneously performs a structural and a
parting function. Laminated layers of corrugated cardboard
form the inside of the structure. Corrugated cardboard is
relatively lightweight with a great stiffness and it isolates. The
inside and outside of the cardboard is hnished with a layer of
solid cardboard. The solid cardboard can well be protected
from moisture and forms a good water end damp resistant
layer. Furthermore, it handles impact loads better, thereby
protecting the corrugated cardboard from damages.
The folding structure was built from similar triangles. Using
the ability to easily fold the material, the building elements
can be made from several triangles, thereby reducing the
number of connections and the associated risk of moisture
getting through. The outer layer of solid cardboard is one
strip covering many triangles. The laminated corrugated
cardboard and the inner layer of solid cardboard are divided
in triangular elements glued to the outer layer of solid
Fig. 15. Strength test of
triangular folded
packaging material
Fig. 16. Section of a cardboard
construction using
triangular folds by
Monique Verhoef
Fig. 17. Elevation of a cardboard
buidling using triangular
folds by Monique
4.4. Blobboard
Blobboard was entered in a design competition for the
new Stylos bookshop (2003) by Pim Marsman and Jop
van Buchem
. The design originated from a cooperation
between the laboratories ¨Blob-architecture" and ¨Building
with cardboard" at the faculty of Architecture of the Delft
University of Technology. Blobboard consists of double curved
surfaces. In the design a new way of building with cardboard
instead of using the traditional building techniques has been
researched. The motive and inspiration for the design were
found in honeycell cardboard and egg-boxes; it turned out to
be very easy to make double curved surfaces from egg-boxes
by making them moist and letting them dry in the desired
shape. The load bearing structure consists of honeycell strips,
connected by glue or bolts. This structure is then covered in a
skin, formed into the desired shape while wet.
Fig. 18-20. Blobboard Pavilion
4.5. Umbrella shaped roof, Henk van Dijke
The graduation project of Henk van Dijke at the Design
Academy, Eindhoven
(2003) was inspired by examples
from the world of hora (nerve-structures of leaves and branch
formations on trees) and by the work of Antoni Gaudi and
Frei Otto. He designed an umbrella shaped roof construction,
meant as a temporary space with a specihc atmosphere, found
underneath the vaults of classical buildings.
Fascinated by the abundance of cardboard as well as by the
recyclable properties, Henk van Dijke searched for shapes on
the boundaries of the possibilities of the material. This project
uses `forming cardboard' or 3 dimensional cardboard; the
paper hbres are being mixed with a lot of water creating a
pulp which subsequently gets sucked through a porous mould.
The water passes through the pores and the hbres form a layer
on the surface of the mould. The umbrella shaped construction
has been fabricated in such a way that the entire structure
can be placed on columns or hung. During the graduation
process, experiments have been conducted and a model was
built. Through the interest taken into the production process,
all kinds of problems have been discovered, solved and used
as a positive contribution to the hnal design.
4.6. Paper parasite, Jop van Buchem
The image of cardboard is seen as: weak, a hre-hazard, not
capable of handling humid conditions, material for packaging
and the homeless. In his graduation project
(2004), Jop van
Buchem assumes that it is possible to improve the image of
cardboard by designing a temporary house following current
trends and developments; he wants to design a trendy house
which belongs to the consumptive society. His concept is that
cardboard is a suitable material to design a house according to
the wishes of the users, where after the structure, once out of
grace, can be discarded of without shame. The house is seen
as a fashion article, an expression of individuality.
The designer was inspired by the car-industry, with its
marketing and anticipation of trends. He assumes that new
developments such as wireless networks will hnd their place
in the housing market, decreasing the amount of cables in
buildings. The dwelling is meant for two well earning partners,
who wish to live in the city temporarily and covers about 80
- 100 m2. The dwelling will be used for a maximum of hve
years. It has been designed as an autonomous object in the
Fig. 21. An umbrella shaped roof
construction made of
cardboard. Designed by
Henk van Dijke.
city and can be built on locations which are temporarily out
of use (e.g. during planning) or on rooftops; locations that
otherwise would remain unused.
The design consists of a cocoon-like shape with double curved
surfaces. This shape combines two wishes: a clear identity and
a stable form. The mechanical properties of this shape are very
favourable and, moreover, with the choice of a fabric as the
outer layer a certain degree of expansion by moist and creep
by loads is possible.
The characteristic of the house is mainly determined by
the choice of material: cardboard, with its plastic and
architectonical aspects en building technological possibilities.
The entrances consist of a out-folding hoor, comparable to the
integration of the steps in the door of small aeroplanes. The
dwelling is prefabricated at the factory and can be assembled
on site in a relatively short time. The interior blocks can be
placed prefabricated, the exterior is foldable.
The boundaries consist of the load bearing structure and an
outer skin. From outside to inside the skin is built up from
a transparent membrane (cloth) against the rain, a foil with
chosen print and isolating air cushions. The choice for a fabric
came from the degree of form freedom of this material and
the transparency. The variation in colouring and print and the
amount of transparency ensures different views, chosen by
the owner. The fabric forms a tight outer skin, because as the
air cushions get inhated, the tension on the skin increases.
Through a strip the skin gets connected to the structural frame
and tightened.
The structural frame consists of three shells, each with parallel
placed trusses with beams in between them. The trusses are
made from solid cardboard, glued together with a lighter
corrugated cardboard core. Trusses and beams are connected
in the factory; the beams are folded in and folded out on site.
The shells are kept together by `backbones' (ribs), forming the
spinal chord from the design. They are kept under tension
with bracing wires, just like the beams. The wires connect at
the ends at caps. The wires lie in plastic ducts, forming a hrst
waterproof barrier for the cardboard of the backbones and
the beams. Because of the wiring, point shaped connections,
in order to keep the structure together, such as bolts, are
avoided. Cardboard is vulnerable for concentrated loads,
because of its hbre structure.
!n the cocoon shaped form, a honeycell hoor has been
placed covered with solid cardboard in order to distribute
any concentrated loads. Beneath the hoor is the possibility
of storage. The kitchen, bathing room and toilet are inside
the interior blocks. These blocks are supplied with water
and electricity through hexible pipes from an installation-box
beneath the hoor.
The interior blocks consist of layers of corrugated cardboard,
putting the monolith character of the block in perspective
through the slenderness of the corrugated cardboard. Inside
the blocks the space for the bathing room, kitchen, toilet and
pipes has been cut out in voluptuous shapes and covered in a
synthetic waterproof foil.
Fig. 22. Model of the paper
parasite by Jop van
Fig. 23. Model of the main
structural element
4.7. Pavilion Delft University of Technology (2006)
During the second half of 2005, researchers and students
designed and built a temporary cardboard pavilion in the
hall of the Faculty of Architecture. Around the pavilion an
exhibition and a conference about cardboard was organized.
With the idea of showing the different aspects and stages
of the cycle: `tree - paper - cardboard - building projects -
recycling'. The pavilion was built from a few parallel walls with
a hoor between them.
The walls were built from a few layers of honeycell glued
together, creating a beautiful texture. The wall actually consists
of two slabs, with a honeycell stair between them. This wall
also provides a large part of the stability. The Block wall is
a follow-up from the graduation project of Taco van Iersel.
Cardboard boxes are stacked and glued, like the bricks in a
masonry wall are being stacked and connected with glue or
mortar. The cardboard boxes are somewhat special compared
to standard cardboard boxes; they have been provided with
haps which slide into the other boxes. Because of this, and also
because of a layer of solid cardboard glued on the “cardboard
masonry", the walls gain their strength. To show part of the
Fig. 24-26. Cardboard Pavilion
paper recycling process, a few paper bales were shown. The
idea of using these bales to create a wall failed because of the
large weight of the bales (500 – 600 kg each). Finally, one wall
was built from panels which are meant as an interior wall. This
wall has been developed as a result of cooperation between
Delft University of Technology, the Knowledge Centre Paper
and Cardboard (KCPK), the cardboard industry and a builder
of units. The purpose of the wall is using the low weight of
cardboard, light relatively large elements, making them easy
to place and not too heavy for the participants.
Researching the mechanical properties of cardboard, the
TU Delft uses cardboard beams. Building the pavilion,
these beams turned out to be inadequate and because of
the shortage of time the switch was made to a `solid' plate
of honeycell. Further research will have to prove this, but it
seems that rectangular beams are not the ideal solution when
using cardboard hooring. A hoor, using folded and sliding
solid cardboard plates appears to be more promising. History
often shows that when searching for the possibilities of a new
material, the solutions coming from the materials properties,
are only discovered after (hrst) trying and exploring existing
and well-known directions. For example, the caves in Petra
(Jordan) were created as square spaces, which, from a
carving point of view, is an illogical way. Also, at hrst, steel
plates were not connected using welding; these solutions
surfaced later on.
During the building of the pavilion a few preliminary
conclusions were drawn regarding the mechanical and physical
properties. The type of cardboard, the type of glue and the
Fig. 27-28. Structural tests on
way the cardboard elements are made, have great inhuence
on the end result. The handling, often manual because of
test situations, produces a number of problems which could
be solved when factory conditions are simulated. Cardboard
is also a very vulnerable material to work with, for example:
the edges fold easily. The hre resistance is acceptable; solid
cardboard has sufhcient hre resistance, the honeycell wall,
when impregnated, as well. Creep is a problem; cardboard
bends far too easy under the inhuence of lasting loads. This
seems to point in the direction of small spans, instead of large
Fig. 29. Model of a cardboard
5. Conclusion
5.1. Fascination
There is a lot of enthusiasm. Architects, researchers and
students feel challenged by an unknown material (in their
area of expertise).
People will always be fascinated by the texture or the structure
of a material. And experiments follow. Tom Dixon
, who we
quoted before, has become fascinated by the possibilities of
recycled glass. Without drawings he creates objects in an
evermore evolving series.
The core of honeycell cardboard provides a beautiful texture
and inspires designers Ad Kil and Ro Koster
to create an ofhce
interior with a soul. The cardboard tubes lying around on a
building site which were used to transport carpet, inspired
Shigeru Ban
into designing a few beautiful dwellings with a
cardboard structure.
The choice of cardboard for the theatres in Apeldoorn by Rudy
and Hans Ruijsenaars
followed from the wish
to show the rich paper related past of the Veluwe during a
centennial party.
The temporary housing projects in cardboard are based
on the relatively low price of the material, the possibility of
local production sites and the relatively low weight during
For the dwelling in Sydney
the possibility to recycle the
material played an important role. The cardboard ventilation
tubes in the building of Jouke Post
htted in the search for
a new environmental concept, whereby the lifespan of the
chosen materials is being adapted to the user life of the
5.2. Temporality/Lifespan
Looking at all the realised projects up till now, the amount
of temporary projects stand out. This must be inherent to
the material. Packages have a relatively short lifespan. After
having been used for a few times, boxes will have been torn or
become wet and should be discarded. Formulated differently:
cardboard is a hrm material, but especially considering short
periods of time. When used for longer periods it becomes a
vulnerable material.
Some consideration is needed, because especially the
temporary projects which are most suitable for experiments
with new (and relatively cheap) materials. For the Multished
the required hre resistance was met, because the demand for
temporary spaces is relatively low.
5.3. Recycling
Environmentally, cardboard seems to get high scores. Further
research will have to acknowledge this. One of the aspects in
such research are the additives which can be added during the
production process. During this process this additive could be
many natural materials, such as clay, chalk and starch. After
the production process many different kinds of paint, coating
and foil make cardboard water resistant and hre retardant.
Also the types of glue used to glue the different layers of
paper together, could play an important role. In a number of
cases the quality of the cardboard improves, like the moisture
resistance, but at the same time the ability to recycle the
material decreases.
5.4. Economy
Cardboard is a relatively cheap material. This means that there
is a reasonable margin for experimenting and working the
material, so that products and applications can be marketed
reasonably positively considering its price.
The material also seems to be suitable for temporary housing
after natural disasters.
5.5. Humidity
Next to some clearly positive properties, there are also a
few properties, which are without a doubt, a nuisance when
cardboard is being used as building material. The behaviour
when in contact with moist is a perfect example.
A successful application of cardboard is mainly achieved
inside a building (structural tubing by Shigeru Ban
, texture
honeycell in an ofhce interior by Ad Kil and Ro Koster
and a
structural rib-structure in the cardboard House of the Future
in Sydney
As soon as cardboard comes into direct contact with water,
measures must be taken. The easiest one is cladding it with
PE foil (Multished
) The cardboard school
might have
a cardboard outer layer, but one can wonder whether this
material still has any relation with the original cardboard
material. The paper and cardboard industry experiments with
increasing the water resistance of paper and cardboard, yet
the question remains whether the current developments can
be of immediate use for building with cardboard.
5.6. Knowledge
Up till now different projects have been designed or built
using cardboard and cardboard has been applied inside
buildings. However, most of the knowledge is bound to the
specihc project and not a lot of exchange takes place. Nore
general information is only accessible through the book by
Mathilda McQuaid about Shigeru Ban
and on the website of
the cardboard school.
With a rich variation of production techniques and raw materials
like fresh and re-used hbres, a broad spectrum of types of
paper and cardboard are created. The paper and cardboard
industry has a lot of knowledge about these products, but in
an entirely different held of application and on a completely
different scale than in the building industry, where materials
are described with mechanical and physical characteristics and
accepted design rules (like tensile strength, bending strength
and classihcation of quality). Long term guarantees are
demanded from the quality of building materials. Cardboard
is an unknown material in the building industry. In further
research, the demanded mechanical and building physical
characteristics, standards, design rules and guarantees will
have to be determined. Each industry has its own `language',
with specihc dehnitions and values. Cardboard, as it is
currently produced, is meant for packaging etc. The machines
and mindset are aimed at just that. The use of cardboard in
the building industry demands the development of `building
cardboard', with its own machines and mindset.
5.7. Development
Cardboard has been used as a building material a few times,
and some cardboard products have been designed and
produced. Most of the time, it is not really clear why a product
did not make it on to the market. It seems that most of the
committed parties abandon the project when the product is
being developed technically and the process of certihcation
has to start. !t might be worthwhile trying to hnd out why the
process stagnated. Does it happen because the viability of the
product is limited or because there is a lack of perseverance
and the right type of people.
5.8. Future
Experiments with cardboard as a building-material are being
conducted worldwide. The many practical examples seem to
support the search for a broader application of the material.
Cardboard is not expected to replace current building materials.
When there is a place for paper and cardboard in architecture
and as a building material, then it will be for its own content,
in relation to the specihc properties of the material.
The future will have to determine what will be the role of
cardboard in architecture and the building industry. Thereby,
the properties of cardboard and its context are of importance.
An example of external developments is the change in
legislation. The environmental demands in the national
building decree are hardly extensive. It can be imagined that
in the near future building elements or products will come with
a removal fee. The moment something costs money, cheaper
re-usable alternatives like cardboard are likely to be accepted
easier. The properties determine the uniqueness of a material.
The characteristic structure of honeycell cardboard gives it a
special texture. An unexpected advantage appeared to be
the damping quality of honeycell: the typical sound nuisance
inside an open plan ofhce can be reduced.
Scientihc curiosity and the newness of a material stimulate
researchers, students and architects to think further than
traditional materials and solutions. The different appearances
(tubes, honeycell, solid and 3D) and the characteristic
properties of cardboard, like folding, sliding together, printing,
lightness and temporality are an inspiration and starting point
in the research into the possibilities.
1 Brower, Mallory, Ohlman, Experimental eco design, architecture/
fashion/product. Rotovision, 2005, ISBN 2-88046-817-5
2 Therese Weber, die Sprache des Papiers, eine 2000-jahrige
Geschichte, Verlag Haupt, ISBN 3-258-06793-7
5 BN/DeStem van 9 juli 2005 op:
6 Mathilda Mc Quaid, Shigeru Ban, Phaidon, 2003, ISBN 0-7148-
7 Eekhout, Het ontwikkelen van de kartonnen
IJburgkoepel, in: kartonnage, Rumoer 30, sept 2003, jaargang
9, Periodiek voor de bouwtechnoloog, uitgave van Bout,
praktijkvereniging Bouwtechnologie faculteit Bouwkunde, TU
Delft. ISSN 1567-7699
8 Taco van Iersel, report interview Paul Rohlfs
11 T.Verstegen, Rudy Uytenhaak, 010 Publishers, 1996, ISBN 90-
12 A. Kooistra, Doosje, doos, grote doos, feesttheater, Bouwwereld
nr. 13 (25 juni 1993)
13 Taco van Iersel, Feesten in kartondoos, detail in architectuur,
maart 2003
14 Andrew Cripps, Cardboard as a construction material: a case
study, Building Research & Information (may-june 2004)
15 Buro Happold en Cotrell & Vermeulen, Constructing a prototype
cardboard building, on
16 Klomp en Post, levensduur+gebruiksduur, XX, een gebouw
als prototype van een nieuw mileiuconcept, Stuurgroep
Experimenten Volkshuisvesting, Rotterdam, 1999, ISBN 90 5239
153 X
17 Christoph Naria Ravesloot, !ndustrieel, hexibel en demontabel
vloerverwarmen, Gezond Bouwen & wonen, 2001-2
18 Henk Wind, Leidinggoot eerste bouwproduct van karton,
Bouwwereld nr.9, 10 mei 2004
19 Fons Verheijen, The wall, highway architecture, Fons Verheijen,
2005, ISBN 10 9081015710
21 Adriano Pupilli, The paperhouse report, op:
22 Hans Mesman en Chiel van der Stelt, Nooddorp ontwerp van een
noodwoning voor rampgebieden, 2004, ISBN 90-6450-001-0
23 Graduation project Taco van Iersel
24 Graduation report Monique Verhoef
25 Jop van Buchem en Pim Marsman, Blobboard, in: kartonnage,
Rumoer 30, sept 2003, jaargang 9, Periodiek voor de
bouwtechnoloog, uitgave van Bout, praktijkvereniging
Bouwtechnologie faculteit Bouwkunde, TU Delft. ISSN 1567-
26 Henk van Dijke, Form-hnding met karton, in: kartonnage,
Rumoer 30, sept 2003, jaargang 9, Periodiek voor de
bouwtechnoloog, uitgave van Bout, praktijkvereniging
Bouwtechnologie faculteit Bouwkunde, TU Delft. ISSN 1567-
27 Graduation report Jop van Buchem
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Cardboard in Architecture. M. Eekhout et al. (Eds.). IOS Press, 2008.
© 2008 The authors and IOS Press. All rights reserved.
A paper sheet is thin, strong and hat, that is what we are used
to. !t is forced to be hat and the paper industry uses lots of
energy drying its papers hat.
However, if you would make a sheet of paper, scooping pulp
on a mould and onto a felt and leave it there to dry, you would
see that the paper dries up like a deep fried potato chip.
Paper can be compared to a leaf on a tree or plant. If we
reinforced the sheet of paper with very thin ribs of bamboo
that look like the ribs of a leaf, the analogy between the sheet
of paper and the leaf form is emphasized even more.
A triangle made with bamboo ribs and bleached hax pulp was
a completely hat shape when it was laying wet on my screen.
After drying you see that a triangle keeps its shape, because
as architects know, triangles are stiff and are great to build
railroad bridges with.
A square made in the same way, on the other hand completely
changes shape and, looking for the smallest and shortest way,
the shrinking pulp turns it into something like a leaf fallen off
a tree in the autumn. The evaporation of the water shrinks the
leaf and also the sheet of paper. In the process of drying the
cellulose molecules fall back on their internal form memory
and that is the spiral. A leaf in autumn curls up just like a
sheet of paper that is not been pressed after it is formed. This
discovery became the most important reason for me to stay
in papermaking
To make a sheet of paper is like making a wild weaving with
pant hbers. The hbers are cleaned, beaten in a Hollander to a
pulp and than poured onto a screen where this wild weaving
of hbers remain while the water drains out.
This is a rough sketch of papermaking. It was developed over
the last 2000 years in different places of the world in more or
Paper Leaves
Peter Gentenaar
less the same way but with different plant hbers.
The industry has taken these techniques and urged by the
paper consumers, speeded up the production in an amazing
way. Eventually all the research in paper factories is mainly
directed to higher and cheaper production. In this way very
good paper is being made but there is little time to play
!'m an artist someone who plays around professionally, with
a background in sculpture, painting and printmaking, etchings
and lithography. I recently spent a year at the California
College for Arts & Crafts in Oakland where I was getting my
Master of Fine Arts (MFA). I made engravings on thick sheets
of Plexiglass (polymethyl methacrylate). The plexiglass had
air bubbles in them and the factory had dumped them on the
In order to use the 2 cm thickness of the plexiglass, I took a
drill and made deep grooves, in which the paper was too be
pressed. This worked if I did not make the grooves too deep,
2 to 3 mm maximum. The deeper grooves were not hlled by
the printing paper, which was made by Arches.
Back in the Netherlands I started my own studio where I
worked on metal sculptures, color lithography and etchings.
Somehow sculpture and printmaking came together and the
old idea of the high relief print made on the thick plexiglass
was taken up again. I hoped to obtain a higher relief by making
my own paper. Experiments with old newspaper pulp beaten
up in even older washing machines were not very satisfying. I
decided to go to the source and learn about papermaking.
A letter to the Royal Dutch Paperfactory in Maastricht resulted
in an invitation and I ended up staying 3 days playing in the
hbre lab with the head of the lab, Jo Persoon.
My introduction to paper was a very industrial and mechanical,
one of sheet formers that suck water out of pulp with vacuum,
pulp which is made in Hollanders and a dazzling white
laboratory with scales and glasses. The factory itself was like a
visit to outer space. I had never seen machinery like that and
I was convinced that I needed at least a small paper factory
in my own studio.
Fig. 1. Blauwe Wolken
Blue Clouds
I built mixers, sheet formers and presses and with those I
made huge relief prints.
Paper was still a serving material for me then. You used it
either to write or draw on or you could hll a mould with it and
press it into a 3-dimensional print.
This changed when I could buy a laboratorium Hollander
from the KNP-paper factory in Naastricht and my paper mush
became real paper pulp.
What I mean is, until that time I had been using industrial
cellulose halfstuff which I mixed with water in a 200l mixer.
!t separated the hbers from each other, but nothing more.
Great amounts of wood glue were added to give the paper
some coherence. The paper I made was felty and thick. I put
big coloured sheets of this paper on top of each other and
built great coloured layered multi sheets, which took ages to
press dry. Once it was dry I sawed the sheets into shapes with
a band saw. !n the end it was only a glorihed sort of papier-
mâché, nothing more.
The Hollander from the KNP lab, was an Umpherston type
built by Voight in Germany 1954. Working with it I found
out about hbre length, hbrillation, over beating and all the
different paper types that come from these pulps. In short I
learned what all papermakers know, that paper is really made
in the Hollander. The machine was impressive, high speed
water cooled and a motor of 7 brake horsepower, and all I
did was beat cotton linters. After some years I became more
daring with the beater and bought myself a few bales of hax
waste in Zeeland. ! beat this very tough and woody hbre so
much that it turned gold. At hrst ! was amazed later ! realized
that it was the bronze of the knives and bedplate wearing of
on the hbres. The paper became crispy, jumpy and impossible
to dry hat. The wood that ! laid on top of it to keep it hat, stuck
to it sometimes and on other places the paper pulled away
from under it and in those places the paper curled up wildly.
Those were the hrst times ! noticed a way to play with drying
paper. At the time the paper product I was making probably
was a failure because of this curling. Make something of your
failures was the motto and it still is. Putting sticks in paper
pulp and letting them dry up together became a great way to
work. The paper in itself became my tool of expression, it was
not only a carrier for other media but it became the subject
of the story. Playing with long beaten hbres next to very short
beaten ones and seeing how both dried up and effected
each other. Building the thin frames, hnding the right kind of
bamboo. Finding the relation between beating times, beater
adjustments and the shrinkage of the pulp gives you a control
over part of your matter, While in other later stages of your
work, during the drying, nature really takes its own course and
leaves you standing in the side line.
The tension between the two materials transforms them into
forms reminiscent of a slowly curling autumn leaf. All the
forms in my work are caused by pulp drying and shrinking
in unison. All my sculptures start as totally 2-dimensional,
coloured sheets of pulp.
The simplicity of this material, which is carrier, colour, texture
and form, all together, make working with it wonderful and
direct. Control over the shapes almost completely lays in the
preparation of the bamboo frame work. Because there is no
turning back on things when you have put the wet paper on
the frames and the drying shapes the sculpture. The only way
to make a change is in repeating the whole exercise. I see it
as my form of sport, I have to do it every day in order to get
to grips with forms which slowly evolve, one shape triggers
the next.
During the drying processes of a paper sculpture the paper
will shrink considerably, up to 30%, and the forces associated
with that, put the non shrinking bamboo framework under
stress. This process goes on through the whole sculpture at
the same time. ! use forced air and dehumidihers to speed up
the drying process, because the faster something dries the
more dramatic the movement of the paper will be.
But all this comes at great risk, if the paper is too wet it will fall
of the bamboo frames. You want to take this risk because the
shrinking will be all the more baroque and unexpected when
you dare to take the paper of the screen as wet as possible.
The more water there is to evaporate the more movement
the shrinking will make. The process gives every form its own
tension. To enlarge the forms to three or four meters raises
the drama caused by the drying process.
Last year I was asked to make two 4 meters high sculptures,
Fig. 3. Witte wolk
White Cloud
120 x 60 x 110 cm
Fig. 2. Trapezium
coated with epoxy
180 x Ø 120 cm
to be placed outside on both sides of a bridge in Capelle aan
den IJssel.
After completing the sculptures, ! had to hnd a bronze
caster who would take on the job of casting these two paper
sculptures. This was not too hard. Since paper burns very
well, you can cast it with the lost wax technique.
Following the casters instructions, I covered the inside of
the sculpture with a thin layer of wax, about 4 mm thick. At
the bronze caster the sculpture was going to be covered in
a hreproof plaster mixture, on the in and the outside. The
plaster mould with the sculpture inside it was than placed in
a furnace for 3 days. All the wax, paper and bamboo were
burned away, leaving a negative form of the sculpture in the
plaster mould. This is the principle, in reality the sculptures
were cut in 3 pieces, to ht into the furnace and to ensure no
ash would stay behind in the mould.
After casting the plaster is taken off the bronze and the three
pieces are welded back together to one big sculpture. I spend
a month bringing up the patina and polishing the bronze
so that a result of gold skin with blue ribs through it was
On January 14 I could place the sculptures at the head of the
bridge. It was a weird experience to see the sculptures which
I had carried in by hand had to leave the foundry with the help
of cranes and trucks.
Fig. 4. Tabakswolken
Tobacco Clouds
1230 x 120 x 45 cm
This was an exceptional case, usually my work is commissioned
by people like Joop van den Ende . Great halls or ofhce atriums
asking for a organic forms in a natural material. Because
of the lightness of the material it can be hung anywhere
without having to make difhcult hanging preparations. The
paper sculptures are hre proofed with a hame retarder, which
I tested out. For the occasion of the 100st birthday of Frits
Philips, last year I made electric paper sculptures, lit up by a
series of LED's and paper, shaped by the play of electric cords.
I have covered paper sculptures with epoxy which turns the
paper more translucent and makes it look like porcelain. This
whole paper road I have taken has given me opportunities
to satisfy my curiosity and to make new forms using forces
stronger and older than my own.
When I went to the Royal Dutch Paper factory in 1974 I was
the only papermaking artist I knew of, but it must have been
in the air because now there are hundreds of them all over
the world. Which is a good thing too, because as you know
¨the Dutch farmer will only eat what he knows", and it was
quite hard to sell my paper art works in the beginning years.
To have some income ! kept making etchings and litho's, and
taught painting and drawing classes at the academy in The
Hague. After a hght with the director there ! lost that job
and with money ! got when ! was hred ! developed my own
Hollander. The old Lab Hollander from Maastricht was not
really built to process long hbres like hemp and hax which had
become my main hber material.
The long hbres spun around the axle and once they dried
Fig. 5. Two paper sculptures
cast in bronze on
a bridge near the
Fascinatio district,
Capelle a/d IJssel, 2005
up prevented the machine from starting. It was very hard to
reach the axle and clean it, because it was an Umpherston
type machine, with a completely enclosed water/pulp canal.
So time after time I had to take the machine apart what made
me very familiar with the way it was built.
The hrst Hollander ! designed was built in a machine factory
in The Hague. In the design I had mounted the knives roll on
a moving arm so it could bounce over lumps and knots in the
long hbre, also ! gave it a counter balance with weights on
it to regulate the weight impact of the roll on the hbers and
combined it with a more traditional open arena shaped tub. In
the new machine all the parts, like bedplate and axle are easy
to reach and clean. I took the new machine home and placed
it next to the old one and found out that my new creation was
very unpractical and had a too weak electro motor. So I kept
using the old Hollander. One day a stainless steel nut from the
new Hollander fell into a bucket full of soaking hbres. When
I threw this bucket full into the old machine all the bronze
knives of the ground plate broke loose and I was forced to
continue pulp making with my own new and very unpractical
beater. I improved it, gave it a stronger electro motor but it still
did not want to beat hax or hemp. ! designed a new improved
machine and found a better machine and tool factory who
built a beautiful good working Hollander. When I could sell this
Hollander I quickly did, improved the design further and had 3
machines built which all sold within a year. This brought on a
whole new development. Clients who bought a Hollander also
wanted a paper press and a drying box, which I designed and
had made also. Over a 100 paper making machines, mostly
the Hollanders are sold to places like a university in South
Korea and the SCA factories in Sweden.
My wife Pat Torley who works as a painter uses paper pulp
too. Her paintings are not made with paint but with very
watery coloured paper pulps made of a great variety of
different plants. The images she makes are painted with the
front side down. She applies her coloured hbres directly on the
screen starting with what would be the last brush stroke in a
regular painting. So when one of her paintings is hnished she
looks at the back side of it.
The coloured pulp is the colour and the carrier or the substrate
in one. Her pulp palette gives her much more choice in colour
and texture than normal paint would. A red pigmented hemp
Fig. 7. Blauwe Sigaar
(`Blue Cigar')
Ø 90 x 320 cm
Fig. 6. Venus
Ø 110 x 200 cm
hbre which has been pigmented in the Hollander will be deep
red, through and through, comparable with dyed textiles.
The different hbres all take the pigments in a different way,
also depending on how long they have been in the Hollander.
Different plant hbres also rehect the light differently, have a
different surface and a different texture. It is the richest and
most natural material to paint with I know. A great deal off the
subject matter of Pat's paintings comes from her photographs
which she makes in our garden.
To share my excitement about all these new possibilities of
this old medium I started the Holland Paper Biennial in 1996
in the Museum of my home town Rijswijk. Together with this
2 yearly group exhibition I publish a book and catalogue with
the help of my wife, Pat Torley and our friend Loes Schepens
a book designer. In 2000 the publishing of the biennale books
was taken over by Compres Publishers in Leiden but I still
make the contents of the book and Loes still does the book
design, which won us several prices including two best book
of the year awards.
In 2002 I asked the new Museum in Apeldoorn CODA to join
the Holland Paper Biennial which they gladly did, and the
biennial got twice as big, which was a good thing because
the paper art works which are sent in, get bigger every year
and more paper artists seem to come from all over the world.
In the series of biennial books, 6 books have been published.
The formula of these books is always a combination of a story
part and a catalogue in which the 27 artists who took part in
the Biennial exhibitions in the summer of 2006. My hope is
that builders and architects are inspired by my talk and will do
some playful experiments with paper pulp yourselves.
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Cardboard in Architecture. M. Eekhout et al. (Eds.). IOS Press, 2008.
© 2008 The authors and IOS Press. All rights reserved.
The Faculty of Architecture, University of Technology Delft, has
been looking at the possibilities that cardboard offers architectural
engineers since 2000. Different disciplines are involved in this
research group.
One step in this research program was the design, building
and exhibition of a pavilion, made of cardboard. The pavilion is
designed by master students of the Architecture department and
build by master students of the Building Technology department.
All work is done in strong corporation with the Dutch cardboard
and paper industry. The pavilion has been presented at a 2-day
international symposium in January 2006. This paper focuses on
the design, engineering and building process.
1. Background
In 2000, the Faculty of Architecture started a research project
around the material cardboard. Main goal is to establish
cardboard as real building material. Cardboard is almost 90%
renewable, relatively cheap and can, just because of these
aspects, be used shameless. In the past, some temporary
constructions were built, using cardboard. Well known
examples in The Netherlands are two temporarily theatres
in Apeldoorn, built because of the celebration event of “1200
years Apeldoorn" (Uytenhaak
and Ruijssenaars
, 1992) and
more recently the Paper Dome in Utrecht
(Octatube, 2003).
One step in the ongoing cardboard research project is the
design and building of a cardboard pavilion, see hgure 1. Both
design and building process of this pavilion can be dehned as
¨an educational experimental exercise". A huge slogan on a
billboard claims the setting of the pavilion project: “Starting
point of research", see hgure 2. This paper deals with the
problems encountered during the building of the cardboard
The Design and Building Process of
a Cardboard Pavilion
Kees van Kranenburg, Elise van Dooren and Fred Veer
Fig. 1. The card board pavilion,
an overview
Fig. 2. A huge slogan on a bill
board claims the setting
of the pavilion project:
“Starting point of
Fig. 3. Top and side view of
the hnal design. For
clearness, the roof at
the top of the stairs
wall is not shown in
this scheme. Exact
dimensions of the
intended construction
could not be given and
had to be determined
during the engineering
2. Architectural design
2.1. Architectural concept
The design of the cardboard pavilion is made by students
working on their MSc in Architecture. An important goal
for the design concept, was that the pavilion could act as
an exhibition in itself: what possibilities offers cardboard as
a building material? Noreover the pavilion had to have a
spacious character from an architectural point of view.
A number of design and construction alternatives have been
examined. Evaluation of design alternatives learned that a
desired hoor on ,normal¨ height of about 2.S meter was
impracticable because of the need of a balustrade. It was
simply impossible to construct and test a safe (cardboard)
balustrade within the available time. For this reason a
compromise was made. A top height of the hoor of 70 cm was
selected which provides safety without a balustrade.
2.2. Final design
The hnal design of the cardboard pavilion can roughly be
described as S components: a hoor and four different walls,
see hgure 3. Exact dimensions of the intended construction
could not be given in this stage and had to be determined
during the engineering phase. Each component is named, and
a brief description is given below:
2.2.1. Stairs wall
The stairs wall is built up from layers of honeycomb cardboard.
Total height of the stairs wall is about 3.5 meter. The open cell
structure of the honeycomb board is visible. The stairs leads to
a small terrace of 1 square meter at a height of 2.7 meters.
2.2.2. Taco wall
The Taco wall is build up from boxes, made of corrugated
board. Dimensions of these boxes are: a height of 30 cm,
a width of 60 cm and depth 15 cm. The thickness of the
corrugated board is about 2 mm. The boxes can be used as
built-up blocks and offer the possibility to construct large walls
The boxes are glued together and a top surface layer is applied.
Because of the top layer, a rigid construction arises. Further
information can be found in ¨Cardboard Architecture"
Fig. 5. 4-point bending tests on
a reinforced card board
Fig. 4. Scheme of impact test
Fig. 6a. Fire resistance test
Fig. 6b. Impregnation of the
stairs wall
2.2.3. The Paper bale wall
The third wall is formed using paper bales. The bales have
a weight of 600 kg each. Dimensions of the paper bales are
approximately: height 1m, depth 0.6m and a width of 1m.
Only 4 bales are used to suggest a wall of paper bales; it was
not possible to build a solid paper bale wall as the hoor would
not support the weight.
2.2.4. The Bee wall
The Bee Wall is a cardboard based inner wall system. One
panel is been built up from two cardboard blades, which are
coupled by styles of honeycomb cardboard. Both blades are
hnished with 1 mm solid board. The weight of one (totally
recyclable) panel is less than 25 kilograms.
3. Building technology
3.1 Mechanical tests
In general, the mechanical behaviour and the failure behaviour
of cardboard in an architectural engineering setting were not
well understood yet. For safety reasons, mechanical properties
and failure behaviour of the different cardboard elements used,
(e.g. walls, stair and hoor) had to be determined. Cardboard
beam specimen in different compositions are made and tested
to get an indication of the reliability of structural components,
see hgure S. Results are used to determine, for example, load
carrying capacity and possible span of the hoor area.Three
more advanced series of tests were conducted to characterize
the mechanical behaviour of the (soon commercial) Bee Wall.
The hrst series, compression and bending tests are made on
small sections of the wall. In a second series impact tests
are performed, see hgure +. !n the third series, a four point
bending test is made on a whole wall element.
3.2. Flame resistance
The risk of hre had to be minimized. Different test series are
made in order to get an indication of the hame resistance of
solid board and honeycomb board as well, see hgure 6a.
A chemical flame retardant was added to specimen of
combustible open cell structure of honeycomb board, to
give them a better protection to ignition. This protection
was working very well: it was even impossible to ignite the
specimen for 5 minutes, while an untreated specimen burns
immediately. Solid board has a natural hame resistance due
to the burning process. During burning, a layer of carbon is
formed, protecting the underlying material from burning. Flame
resistance of both solid board and treated open cell structure
of honeycomb board can be marked as moderate
. For this
reason only the visible open cell structure is impregnated with
a chemical hame retardant, see hgure 6b.
3.3. Technical engineering
Mechanical measurement results and observations are used
as input for the technical design of the cardboard pavilion.
Results are used, for example, to estimate the needed
dimensions for thicknesses of the stairs and terrace and
thickness and span of the hoor.
Measurements on a layered honeycomb construction, i.e.
the hoor, show the possibility of large bending before hnal
failure. Because of this large unexpected bending effect,
the hoor could not be connected properly to any walls. As a
consequence of this, every wall had to be stable by it self or
stabilized using additional elements. The hoor is not attached
(in)to the stairs wall, to allow expected movements of the
hoor. Noreover the stairs wall is provided with a small cave,
sufhcient to allow bending of the hoor, see hgure 7.
The hnal thickness of the hoor is +0 cm, with spans of +
meters. The upper part of the hoor has been hnished with
a top layer of solid board in order to protect the underlying
honeycomb from intrusion.
Fig. 7. The stairs wall is
provided with a small
cave, sufhcient to allow
bending of the hoor
Fig. 8. A soft push on the
balustrade on the terrace
on 3 meters height results
in movement of the
entire construction with
considerable amplitude
Shown are two principal
solutions to make the
construction more rigid
3.4. Building process
Different parts of the pavilion, i.e. hoor, Taco wall and Bee
wall, have been prepared individually. First, the hoor has been
build as a „massive solid“ of layered honeycomb plates. The
honeycomb plates are glued with woodworking adhesive.
The stair wall is built up to a height of 30 cm, the hoor is
placed and thereafter the stair wall was almost built up to the
designed height of 3.5 meter. Afterwards, respectively the Bee
Wall and the Taco wall have been placed.
3.5. Use
After building, the pavilion in used as part of the exhibition on
the 2-days symposium. During „service life“, no considerable
problems appeared, except some problems with the weak top
layer of the rungs. The rungs were covered with multiplex
plates in order to protect them from damage. After a short life
cycle of three weeks, the pavilion was demolished and offered
for recycling.
4. Conclusions
We have faced a number of technical, engineering problems
during the design and building process of the cardboard
pavilion. In some cases, these problems can be marked as
specihc to cardboard related. The most remarkable problems
are described below. Moreover, some possible solutions are
4.1. Bending stiffness
The density of the used honeycomb board is about 100 kg/
m3. This is low compared to traditional building materials,
for example a brick wall of >2000 kg/m3. Another difference
between cardboard wall and a brick wall is the bending
stiffness of the construction. A wall made of cardboard lacks
bending stiffness.This specihc combination, low density and
low bending stiffness, leads to a problem. A soft push on
the balustrade on the terrace on 3 meters height resulted
in movement of the entire construction with considerable
amplitude as illustrated in hgure 8a Because of this the
decision was made not to build higher than 3.40 meter.
A logical solution to tackle this problem is to reinforce the
wall using abutments or girders, see hgure 8b. By introducing
these girders, for example every 15th layer, the construction
becomes more rigid.
4.2 Deformation
A second problem is the permanent deformation introduced
during manufacture. The cardboard elements are glued
together using adhesive. The adhesive diffuses into the
paperboard, as a result of which the paperboard softens and
loses its original form. After drying, this deformation becomes
A simple solution can be found in hxing the elements until
the glue has dried. However, in some cases it is difhcult to hx,
glue and dry large elements at the same time, for example the
hnishing top layer of the Taco wall.
4.3. Moisture and temperature
Cardboard is very sensitive to environmental effects like
moisture and temperature huctuations. The pavilion was built
in an exposition hall of the Faculty of Architecture, just to
prevent the construction from large temperature huctuations
and direct contact of water vapour. However, during Christmas
time, the temperature in the empty building was lowered,
and as a result the relative humidity increased. This change
in temperature and relative humidity lead to a deformation of
the hoor and stresses appeared in the adhesive layers.
Any corner, pollution, or hollow areas in the internal area
of the material can result in stress concentration and small
cracks. Most times, the de-bonding process will begin in one
of these areas, simply because of this phenomenon. It is an
ongoing process: once a crack exists in a structure, it will tend
to grow. Evidently, accumulation of (local) damage zones can
lead to failure of the whole hoor. Highly important is that in the
manufacturing process the introduction of residual stresses is
avoided to prevent local high stress concentrations.
Fig. 9. Delamiation of the hoor
4.4. Plate edges
Plate edges seem to be a problem, not only in a mechanical
manner but also because of moisture transport and hame
4.5. Adhesive
General problem, in a mechanical sense, is the joint between
different parts of cardboard. Failure caused by delamination is
often observed, see hgure 9. Nuch research has to be done
in this held.
5. References
1 T. Verstegen, Rudy Uytenhaak, 010 Publishers, isbn 90-6450-
241-2, Amsterdam, 1996
5 E. Van Dooren and T. Van Iersel, Cardboard architecture,
drukkerij Groen, Leiden, The Netherlands, 2006
6 M. Veldhuizen, Mechanical tests on the Bee Wall, (in Dutch),
Delft, december 2005
7 F.A. veer and C. van Kranenburg, vergelijking van de
brandwerendheid van het Bee Wall binnenwandsysteem met
verschillende afwerkingen, (in Dutch), Delft, december 2005
Special thanks to the Audiovisuele dienst, Faculty of Architecture, TU
Delft for the use of copyrighted material, i.e. hgure 1, 2 and 7.
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Cardboard in Architecture. M. Eekhout et al. (Eds.). IOS Press, 2008.
© 2008 The authors and IOS Press. All rights reserved.
Paper and cardboard are being used on a small scale in the
building industry. One of the most common products is wallpaper,
less well known are honeycomb door cores and cellulose insulation
panels. Some architects use the material for an advanced agenda
and more professionally: Shigeru Ban uses cardboard tubes for
construction purposes and there are various projects in the realm
of temporary housing.
This text describes the building of a cardboard house: it describes
the current understanding of cardboard as a player in the building
industry and the knowledge still missing.
!s a house made of cardboard feasible? Why would you want to
use a cardboard house? !n order to give a - temporary - answer,
a few thoughts have been written down.
Summarized: in the foundation the only application is that of
building-aid; constructively, tubes are a proven application.
Connections in cardboard are still rather tricky, mainly because of
failure at concentrated loads.
Thanks to water we have cardboard, and despite water it will
have to remain in tact. Building components of cardboard
separating the inside from the outside – whereby the material
must be water-repellent and the many seams which exist in a
building must be sealed – at the moment seem to be far from
day-to-day use.
Cardboard is recyclable, cheap, lightweight, foldable and printable.
Which of these properties is a real addition to the existing
traditional assortment of building materials? A newcomer must
be equal to the existing materials in the existing marketplace and
to stand out in order to acquire a place in the building industry.
Ecology (recycling, short life-span, light weight) seems to be
its greatest advantage. But, considering the thoughts afore
mentioned, the application of the materials will often only be
feasible in a combined shape, as composites
A House of Cardboard
Elise van Dooren & Taco van Iersel
1. Designing a cardboard house?
When asked why he climbed Mount Everest (1959) Sir Hillary
answered: ¨Because it is there". A comedian once spoke of
a house where, because of sounds, everything was knitted:
knitted china, knitted doors, etc.
In this text we ask ourselves a few questions: is it possible to
build a cardboard house? And: for what reasons do we wish
to build a cardboard house?
!s the fold of cardboard equivalent to the hinge? !f you fold
open a cardboard door, how long will the fold last during
normal use? Or can the door simply be a removable cardboard
panel? Because cardboard is a light and temporal material and
seems therefore to be appropriate to be applied as movable
parts in a building. Is this example another way of thinking
about things we commonly accept? Or can the nature of the
material cardboard change the way we think about building
and architecture?
There is always the challenge to play and explore. In our
minds we can have the most beautiful and crazy thoughts and
we are capable of building entire alternative (utopian and/
or virtual) worlds. But what happens when we hit reality? !s
it possible to build a house from cardboard, or use as much
cardboard as we can in building a house?
Fig. 1. Cardboard box as `a
Paper and cardboard are being used in the building industry on
very small scale. Cardboard (side) products are the ventilation
ducts in the XX building by Jouke Post (1995, Delft)
and the
formwork tubes for concrete columns. Cardboard is the bearer
of ducts in a hoor heating system
. Wooden doors often have
a hlling of honeycell cardboard and insulation can be achieved
with cellulose plates
. Building paper (paper with asphalt) is
used in constructions as a protective layer for resisting water.
Before being inhuenced by Western architecture and culture,
the Japanese build in wood and paper. Or maybe better: the
Japanese built in wood. Because in fact paper is a derivative
of wood. Shigeru Ban, nowadays a well known architect,
sometimes uses the term `evolved wood' for cardboard
Japan has a particularly rich tradition in the use of paper.
Well known Japanese paper varieties are Washi (hand
scooped paper, which distinguishes itself through its strength,
gloss, natural colouring, long duration, and low weight)
and Nagashizuki (very thin paper, multi-layered, crossed,
strong hbre buid-up). Paper was used as clothing for monks
(Zen-masters of paper-clothing) and bags (treated against
Sliding doors (fusuma and shoji) are playing an important
role in creating that special Japanese sense of space. In all
varieties of transparency, the paper softens the rays of light
entering the room. At hrst with thick paper, later on with
thinner paper the Japanese discovered “the beauty of shade
and shading. And then they discovered how to use shade and
shading to create beauty."
In the tradition of the Japanese the house is not a castle built
for eternity and protection of domestic happiness, but an
article of use, which can be discarded of after its lifespan has
. There are a few motives at the basis of this mind-
set. Religion says that the `highest state of being' in society is
the disconnection of earthly goods. The Japanese culture has
a strong respect for nature; people live in and with nature. The
Western control of nature and the denial of the temporality of
live are alien to the Eastern traditions. In combination of an
ever increasing demand for building materials, this leads to
reusable materials and products.
The choice of material also coincides with the ability to build
Fig. 2. Projects by Shigeru Ban
fast, so that the fast changing demands can be met. Moreover;
a country like Japan will increasingly have to watch out for
earthquakes; this means less rigid constructions in vulnerable
places. Rice-paper walls are appropriate to this tradition.
Shigeru Ban
continued this tradition in is own way, when
using cardboard tubes for construction purposes. Partly
because of environmental considerations, he continuously
searches for materials which have properties htting the
assignment and situation (recyclability, little transport). He
searches for simplicity and efhciency.
Basing his initial ideas on cardboard tubes used for transporting
tapestry, he continued the Japanese paper tradition in modern
architecture. In a dwelling (Paper house, 1995) and a church
(Paper Church, Kobe, 199S), he placed cardboard tubes in
a circular pattern behind a (semi-)transparent façade, thus
creating beautiful areas, in a dance with light.
So, he uses, in the Western perspective, an unusual material
in an unexpected way for shaping space in a `modern
architectural' manner. His empathy with the victims of the
Kobe earthquake, motivated him to design cardboard tube
emergency housing (Paper Log Houses, Kobe, 199S).
Looking around us, we nowadays see a lot more interest in
new or existing materials. There are a number of reasons
for that. The ecological one is an important reason. There
are the aspects of rapidly changing society, which uses more
and more short-term products, materials and buildings. The
environmentally friendly aspects of paper/cardboard can
respond to this demand. Using paper and board instead of
traditional materials, could lower the ecological pressure on
global material extraction.
Another reason is the texture of materials, and therefore the
sphere they create, when used in architecture. Ad van Kil
and Ro Koster used the beautiful texture of cut honeycomb
cardboard in their interior design for an ofhce in Eindhoven
So, probably we have four main reasons for making a
cardboard house or using cardboard in buildings in general.
First, paper and cardboard are an interesting alternate
material, that could provide new spheres and textures in
designing space. New techniques in digital image printing,
printable electronic circuits and 3D-cutting computer programs
(Papercura) could lead to interesting options beyond the
possitbilities of traditional wallpaper.
Second, the low weight, recyclability and endless source of
wood, provides, an ecological material. The low-ecological
impact outstands all traditional materials.
Third, by experimenting with cardboard for houses, we can
learn about new possibilities for existing materials and the
way that we perceive them. For example, new techniques
are developed in aluminium by looking to commonly used
techniques in corrugated cardboard.
And fourth, we hope, we can develop new interesting products
and techniques, using the unique material aspects, as folding,
printing and lightweight.
For playing a role in building tradition, a new material will have
to have sufhciently equal properties as the current existing
building materials; it will have to meet some functional
demands. And it should have one or more special qualities,
validating the material and distinguishing itself.
Like transparency being the unique property of glass. Thanks
to recent developments the material can be used for load
bearing properties as well. The synergy between transparency
and construction creates intrigue and unknown possibilities for
architecture and the building industry.
There is another possibility. The new material should have
special qualities. So that it can provide these qualities in
combinations with other materials.
For cardboard the speciality could be valuable in an ecological
way, the light weight or the hexibility in use. Also the low
production price and the possibilities of machine production
seem to be an advantage.
At the moment, also at the faculty of architecture at the
TU Delft, cardboard is undergoing enthusiastic design and
The purpose of the research-group, is researching, designing
and development of new applications of cardboard/cardboard
composites in the building industry. The new developments'
ability to stand out, when compared to traditional (building)
materials will manifest itself mainly in maintaining a low
ecological impact.
Through an analysis of building parts/function we will describe
what the customary materials are at the moment, which
demands should be met by that building part and especially
what was experienced when using cardboard. This will bring
to light unknown knowledge and give us the possibility to
estimate whether cardboard could be successful for this
building part or function.
2. Mechanics and structure
A paper sheet is weak; cardboard – actually thick paper
– is a lot stronger. The tensile and compression strength
vary according to the direction of the hbre; parallel to the
machine the strength is much greater than perpendicular to
it (anisotropic properties, comparable to that of wood). A well
distributed load can be transferred well, yet, with a point-load
cardboard is much more vulnerable. A considerable part of
building means connecting materials. Concerning cardboard,
forces concentrated on one point (peak-stresses) have proven
to be the weak link. Glued connections are much stronger.
The creep – elongation of a material under a constant pressure
during a long time – depends on the type of cardboard, the
pressure exerted, the relative humidity and other factors. It
might prove to be a factor we will have to watch closely.
The mechanical behaviour of a material must be known in order
to use it as a building material in constructions. At the moment
only incidentally, materials and projects can be subjected to
thorough calculations, but common material properties usable
values for tensile and compression strength, young's modulus,
values for creep, etc. are still unknown. The long-term behaviour
and predictable behaviour are two very difhcult research areas
to grasp, both being at the beginning of their development.
Some very hrst and provisional data is available in publications
about the research of Julia Schönwälder (TU Delft)
and in
the publications of Buro Happold, Cotrell & Vermeulen and
Andrew Cripps about the Cardboard School.
The book
about Shigeru Ban also mentions some (test) data.
From a building perspective there are two important divisions:
construction and separation. From a construction perspective,
different parts will be discussed: foundation, hoors and roofs,
columns and plate constructions. Special shapes are those
where vertical and horizontal constructions meet. Connections
will also be discussed.
2.1. Foundation
Depending on the type of ground we build on and the degree
of temporality of the building, we will have to choose a type
of foundation. Principally there are two possibilities: a heavy
foundation or a foundation which leaves no trace at all, `like
a traveller'. Where caravans leave virtually no trace, we often
do need a sturdy foundation. The most common material
for foundations is concrete. Even when using a wooden
skeleton as a construction, the foundation is often made from
Cardboard perishes in the humid ground and thus is principally
unsuitable as a foundation material. Only the similarity in
temporality of cardboard and mould materials might offer
some possibilities. Cardboard tubes used for casting concrete
Fig. 3. Structural test of a
honeycomb cardboard
columns have already been accepted on the market. One of
the hrst tests with a cardboard (lost) mould as a replacement
for traditional wooden moulds went less successfully than
hoped. A second round has not yet been undertaken.
Formwork can be used as an envelope, but also as an `insert'.
The formwork thereby keeps the material from reaching
that point. In a case-study in Amsterdam
(not executed)
cardboard was the answer to a very tricky formwork problem.
The fact that no certihcates and guarantees for cardboard as a
formwork material were available stopped it from being used.
In the past formwork tubes have been used as inserts in cast
hoors (monotube van Antwerpen)..The round tubing reduced
the amount of concrete used and thereby the weight of the
hoor. At the moment the demand for these types of formwork
is low, most probably because the reduction in weight is also
achieved by prefab hollow core hoors.
2.2. Floors and roofs
Floors span spaces. They must have enough load bearing
capability and be able to sustain concentrated loads. The
building industry basically knows a few (traditional) materials
suitable to meet these demands: steel, concrete and wood.
In the Netherlands (only very recently) concrete became the
most commonly used material. Historically seen, until the
1900's, wood was the favourite material. !n the Scandinavian
countries, Canada and North-America, where wooden frames
are a common way of building, wooden hoors are a frequent
and accepted phenomenon.
Next to being very usable, the actual large scale use of a
material is also determined by cultural aspects and habits: the
building traditions.
A new material in the building industry will have to prove itself;
in a technical way, meeting the different functional demands
and beyond that, in order to acquire a place between the
existing materials (e.g. light weight for building legislation)
and be competitive.
To get a hrst impression of the dimensions of a hoor package
and beams we use rules of thumb. For traditional building
materials, the ratio height f span of a hoor element or beam
vary from 1/10 to 1/30, depending on the material used and
the prohle used (section). Nost common is the ratio 1f20. The
rule of thumb of 1/10 is only used for relatively transparent
steel trusses.
Roofs distinguish themselves structuraly from hoors, because
their dimensions are much more favourable following the
lighter load. Shigeru Ban used a cardboard roof construction
in his children's museum in Japan
Beams of honeycell
cardboard (60 cm x 1 m and 60 cm x 3 m) from a triangular
structure. Every three meters we hnd a column. The joints are
made of aluminium.
Untill recently, cardboard has been used very little in hoors. !n
the pavilion built in January 2006 at the faculty of Architecture,
TU Delft, honeycell panels were glued together making a
large dimensioned hoor. To be able to sustain concentrated
loads, the hoor was supplied with a few layers (liners) of solid
cardboard. Creep (elongation progressing with time) and
the type of glue as well as the manual production process
presented a reasonable problem.
Experiments with cardboard beams have also been undertaken
at the TU Delft, Faculty of Architecture (mechanical research,
Julia Schönwälder)
. The tested materials were mainly
prohles with honeycomb cardboard, some combined with
cardboard tubing.
Experiences with the ratio height / span for now point in the
direction of 1/10. A relatively large amount of material for the
Large material sizes provide us with a specihc image in
architecture. Architects usually strive for a minimal use of
materials: slender columns, thin window frames and slender
cantilevers. Besides that, excess use of material is ecologically
unsound. This can however be compensated by the cheap
price and the ability to recycle cardboard.
In conclusion we can ask whether it is possible to go from
a 1/10 ratio to a 1/20 ratio, or to take a different approach.
Experience has taught us that beams ht well with materials
capable of withstanding large spans. When using cardboard
it might be more practical to choose a hoor package which is
load bearing by itself, whereby it is easier to spread the loads
(no concentrated loads). Studies into (folding) hoor systems
are still in an early stage of development.
2.3. Columns and load bearing plates
For load bearing structures there are different options, varying
from columns to parallel plates to a spacious (plate) structure,
whereby the hexibility of the structure decreases respectively.
The existing building materials which are most commonly
used for construction are: concrete steel and wood. Plates
can be divided as: (1) stacking systems, like masonry walls,
(2) hollow partition systems, like a wooden skeleton, and (3)
panel systems, whereby the panels are being placed as a unit.
Besides the structural function, the different systems often
have to fulhl different partitioning functions.
Cardboard columns are promising when using cardboard
tubes. The tubes are often being used to transport tapestry.
However, in buildings the tubes are being stressed in a
different way, namely in axial stresses (following the length
of the tube). There is not a lot of knowledge about cardboard
tubes in technical building situations. We do know that the
production method of the tubes (wrapping) reduces the
tensile strength of the tubes.
As the houses designed by Shigeru Ban prove, they are
however usable only in one story buildings.
Also the Multished by Taco van Iersel
uses tubes in its
construction. The prohles here have been used as a column
and as a roof beam.
Round columns do not always ht the building industry with
its predominantly orthogonal shapes. The joints are especially
difhcult to design. !n Japan square columns are available, but
the disadvantage is they are vulnerable to buckling.
With cardboard, plates in different typologies have been
tested. In the category of stacking systems, a load bearing
wall was designed. This wall
, developed by Taco van Iersel
during his graduation research, consists of a kind of masonry
of stacked boxes. The boxes have been equipped with
ingeniously placed haps which slide into each other in order to
get a stable wall. With the same purpose, the surface of the
wall is being covered with solid cardboard plates. The result
is a cardboard sandwich wall. Starting from the conceptual
idea a load bearing wall was designed and tested; serious
continuation of the product seems hardly feasible, looking
at aspects like dimensional stability, building order and load
2.4. Special shapes
Although we hardly immediately think of special structures
like domes and arches when thinking about houses, these
constructions are handling loads ever so efhciently. The
thickness in these constructions can therefore be minimal.
When we compare the application of steel and cardboard
tubes for a dome, the latter are still larger in diameter. Shigeru
Ban used tubes in different kinds of dome and arch-shaped
structures. Examples are the Expo Pavilion (Hannover 2000)
and the temporary theatre of a Dutch theatre company
(Mimegroup Jeanette van Steen, IJburg, now a municipal
multi-purpose pavilion in Utrecht).
A disadvantage of the cardboard tubes is the low tensile
strength; this is being dealt with in most structures of this
type by using steel cables. Optimising the tensile strength of
tubes would expand its application possibilities.
The experiences with these structures also leads to the
preliminary conclusion that a relatively thick use of cardboard
is appropriate to the application of the material. However, high
safety factors due to the unknown structural behaviour over
time and the lack of available data are partly to blame.
Fig. 4. Detail of the roof of the
Fig. 5. The Multished
Roof frames are another example of a structure where
horizontal and vertical constructions meet. Jop van Buchem
experimented with more or less arch-shaped trusses in
his graduation project.
In a temporary house in Sydney,
roof frames were used as well.
One more example of a special construction method, are the
dwellings developed by Renee Snel.
On a machine designed
by himself he wraps elements; hoor, walls and roof form
a continuous section. The connection of several elements
produces a small dwelling. If supplied with a coating, they
could be used as emergency housing and built on site
relatively fast.
The provisional conclusion is that constructions in cardboard
until now are mainly applications such as tubular columns
and a few special structures. With load bearing walls very
little experiments have been undertaken. From a structural
point of view it would be logical to make load bearing walls;
the connection between the walls and the hoors would then
be possible as a line bearing joint, whereby the transfer of
loads is better than with concentrated loads such as columns.
Too little is known to make a good comparison with these
Fig. 6. The Cardboard Dome
during build-up in IJburg
materials and building systems, but for now the conclusion
that structure in cardboard is only applicable in special
situations, like emergency housing, or because it is cheap,
beautiful or ecological, seems justihed
2.5. Connections
A distinctive characteristic for the building industry is the
manner of connecting. Connections are mainly constructive
andfor for waterproohng in their use.
Structural connections are often point or line shaped.
Examples are: Steel girders, connected with bolts (point) and
prefab concrete hoors supported by stone-like walls (line).
The most important aspect of, especially point connections,
are the relatively large tensions it has to transfer. Historically,
many wooden connections and joints were used, nowadays
the emphasis lies on steel joints and glue.
Most of the cardboard building projects at this stage still use
non cardboard connections. Often these connections are
made from steel or wood and are very characteristic from a
architectural point of view. For example, Shigeru Ban used
wooden square blocks combined with steel rods
, and the
nodes of the Paperdome in IJburg are made from steel
The Multished by Taco van Iersel
uses a round wooden block
as a connection between the tubes. These are standard blocks
used as a intermediary between the driveshaft of the machine
and the cardboard tube in the cardboard industry. The tubes
have been bolted on the blocks.
Another type of connections consists of literally tying together
tubes with rubber or rope, like in some of the Shigeru Ban
The most common connection techniques in the cardboard
packaging world (e.g. cardboard boxes) are folding and sliding
into each other.
!n a cardboard house in Sydney (200S, exhibition `Houses
of the Future'
the structural elements can be slid together
like the partitions in a wine-box. The cardboard house could
be delivered to the building site as a relatively lightweight
package with cardboard frames and panels. It takes only two
Fig. 7-8. Cardboard house
designed by Stutchbury
& Pape
people to assemble one house in approximately 6 hours.
An important focal point for future research is the concentration
of tensions around point shaped joints. As mentioned above,
cardboard seems to be more adaptable for line shaped
connections, because this means the internal stresses can be
divided better than with point shaped joints.
3. Physics and construction
The shell of a building can have a load bearing function as part
of the construction. But above all, the façade and roof have to
separate the inside and the outside. The demands taken into
consideration are: water-resistance and warmth regulation,
but also aspects like dampness and sound regulation. A few of
these aspects are very much intertwined.
3.1. Water resistance
Water resistance is one of the most important functions of
the shell of a building in general. There are a few principles
that bring about the success of this function. With roofs the
angle of slope is of great importance. Even a hat roof has
a slope. With roofs as with facades, the water resistance of
the materials used is essential. Wood is painted or varnished,
the leaf of a cavity wall disconnected; these are examples
of layers of material which are more or less water resistant
Furthermore there are a few principles to achieve water
resistance in the seams: (1) overlapping of roof tiles and
foil strips, (2) added waterproof connection materials and
elements, like the mortar and glue with which bricks get
connected and (3) the interlocking of building parts through a
labyrinth of seams or click systems, like with window frames
and panel systems.
The variety of materials and products which can be applied in
a façade are endless, each having its own specihc chemical
and physical, strong and weak properties.
Water is both a friend and an enemy of cardboard. During the
production process a large amount of water is added to the
hbre (99¾ water and 1¾ hbre). With sieves and presses, the
water is then extracted so the paper and cardboard can be
formed. When paper and cardboard subsequently come into
contact with water, it loses its strength and disintegrates to
pulp. Therefore it is not a very logical choice to use cardboard
as a water repelling layer. And if we do decide to do so, we will
have to pay a lot of attention to this aspect.
Cardboard can be made more water resistant in two ways: on
top of and/or inside of the cardboard. On top of the cardboard
it is easy to attach a plastic layer (e.g. PE), thus creating a
moisture repelling laminate, whereby the cross cut end will
remain unprotected. In the Multished by Taco van Iersel
these sides were covered by tape for protection.
In Australia research has been done into composites with
paper. Vulnerable materials such as paper and straw are being
protected by a cover of recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate
(PET) A thin layer of polyethylene is vacuum drawn around a
material like paper
It is also possible to use all kinds of additives during the
manufacturing of cardboard. For example, kitchen paper
towels which are much stronger when wet compared to toilet
Neasures to make cardboard water-resistant are in conhict
with the potential of paper recyclabililty. The paper and
cardboard industry points out that a small percentage of these
types of cardboard in the pulp-phase are not a limitation for
the recycling process.
3.2. Damp regulation
Next to repelling water from the exterior, the transport of
moisture through the facade, in the form of vapour, is an
important item. With a surplus of condensation the moisture
can, given time, produce funguses and decrease the insulating
For a short amount of time, cardboard can absorb a small
amount of moist. The relative dampness of an internal space
is of no immediate problem in a normal situation, but when
the cardboard construction gets exposed to large amounts
of water during a long period of time, it becomes a large
3.3. Warmth regulation
Insulation of warmth is an important function of the shell.
Heat can be transported in different ways, mainly by air and
radiation. Most of the time stand-alone insulation materials
are being used in a partition. Commonly used materials are
glass wool and mineral wool panels. The panels have different
properties, from, weak and bendable to stiff and very hard
and can therefore be used in various situations and types of
façades. Heat transfer through radiation can be limited by
adding a layer of rehecting aluminium foil.
In principle, paper is suitable as an insulation material. Using
cellulose, different kinds of insulation panels have been made,
ecologically speaking htting in the category `best material'. The
panels are continuously being developed, making them just
as usable as their less ecological competition. For example,
has developed a panel with an insulation
(calculation) value of 0,0+ mKfW which is bendable and can
be processed, dust free, using standard equipment. Moreover,
the panels breaths, thereby temporarily buffering moisture.
are loose cellulose hakes, which can be sprayed,
blown or manually dispersed in sealed constructions like walls,
hoors and ceilings, insulating warmth.
For air insulation, cardboard is principally well suited. A project
by Paul Rohlfs
came up with positive results. Honeycomb
cardboard as well as corrugated cardboard have insulating
properties, based on the idea of still air between layers of
Concerning the reduction of heat transport through radiation,
experience was gained from a project in The Hague. Cardboard
here is one of the elements of a partition system. Using wooden
posts and cross beams and adding misprints of orange-juice
cartons (a laminate of plastic, paper and aluminium foil) as a
top layer which rehects heat was created.
Cellulose isolation panels insulate just as well as other
insulation materials. This might point out the ability of
cardboard to insulate. Further research will have to determine
what the insulation values of the different types of cardboard
might be. For now we can only conclude that cardboard is
similar to wood and will not form a heat leak.
In a building heat can be stored temporarily. In principal
a lightweight construction will heat up quickly and lose
its warmth just as fast, whereas a building with a heavy
construction will temporarily store the warmth (accumulation).
Wooden constructions are an example of a lightweight
construction and stone-like materials are often used for
warmth accumulating `heavy constructions'.
A cellulose insulation panel (Homatherm
) has a higher
warmth accumulating value than comparable insulation
panels. The question remains where in the spectrum of
warmth accumulation, do the different types of cardboard,
like honeycell, corrugated cardboard and solid cardboard are
3.4. Sound insulation
Sound transfer exists in different ways as well: through air
and contact sound. Important issues for the reduction of this
transfer are respectively mass and separation of materials
(mass-spring system) For partitions each area of application
forms different demands. For housing these are rather high,
for ofhce buildings a lot lower.
A partition of honeycell plates covered with solid cardboard
can be categorised as a panel system. This partition was
designed as a non-load-bearing partition and stands out
because of its light weight. The sounds insulation is low
(but sufhcient for light building units) The expectation is that
through disconnection the values will increase.
One of the advantages of cardboard is its light weight. This
however counters the principle of sound insulations by mass
and therefore asks for some attention. The effect of cardboard
on sound insulation varies and because of that we will have
to determine the value for each kind of cardboard. Weather
cardboard partitions will become a successful building product
will depend largely on its sound and hre insulating properties.
Besides air and contact sound there is sound absorption.
This form of sound reduction is important with regard to
the acoustic properties of a room. Cardboard has a few
applications in this area. There is a cellulose spray hnish
on the market (Sprayplan+)
which reduces the amount
of resonance in rooms. This can be used without seams on
almost every kind of straight or curved surface.
As well as the honeycell partition in the pavilion of the faculty
of Architecture (Jan 2006) as in the ofhce interior of Ad Kil
and Ko Roster in Eindhoven
, the stacking of honeycomb
cardboard has proven to have a reasonable damping effect
on the amount of sound in the area. In an open area where
many people have simultaneous conversations, this is a
valuable aspect.
3.5. Fire resistance
The hre resistance of materials is important for buildings. The
main factor is time. To be more precise, the amount of time
left to hee the building when a hre starts. A few aspects are of
importance here: varying from the degree of hre resistance of
a material to possible exit routes
Fire resistance at hrst seems to be an unachievable aspect
of paper and cardboard. Paper is an excellent fuel. But some
cases have shown the hre resistance of cardboard to be better
than hrst assumed. A layer of solid cardboard reacts in a
similar way to hre as wood might. The material forms a layer
of coal and thereby protects itself.
Moreover, cardboard contains a certain amount of chalk-like
material as a result from the ink traces left in the recycling
process. Chalk is an excellent hre retardant. Tests have shown
that a simple piece of solid cardboard already meets NEN
Besides that, cardboard can be made with extra protection. A
wide variety of products are on the market, all of them based
on (boric) salts. Adding these materials does not affect the
ability to recycle the material. The disadvantage is that the
gasses which escape when the material burns, are toxic.
Fire retardants have the tendency to increase the development
of smoke during a hre. This is an important aspect in relation to
safety. The industry / suppliers have a lot of information about
hre resistant cardboard, but a clear overview is missing.
3.6. Burglar protection
Burglars seek the weakest place to enter the building.
Cardboard sounds like something you can simply walk
through, or at most requires a Stanley knife. Is this true or
is cardboard being underrated when looking at the scale of a
building? A chainsaw will probably grant you access through a
cardboard panel, but this is no different from a wooden house.
A possible solution might be found in using (some light form
of) reinforcement inside the cardboard walls.
3.7. Moving and transparent parts
When we think of a cardboard house, we eventually come
to moving parts and transparent parts. Doors and windows,
traditionally placed in a wooden frame, with steel hinges in
a window frame. Also other materials like steel and plastics
can be considered as framework. Recent developments in
technology have been able to create glass walls without a
frame. Transparency and glass are inextricably bound up with
each other. The transparency and sun protection properties of
glass are being inhuenced by the use of milk-glass, forming sun
protection, or by adding another material inside the cavity of
double-glass panels, inhuencing the transparency of the glass.
Fig. 9-11. Cardboard Pavilion
at the Faculty of
Architecture, Delft
Doors nowadays are usually made from a solid wooden frame
with a plate covering (hardboard, mdf or chipboard) and a
hlling of rockwool or honeycell cardboard.
The Austrian company Gap-solar
hlls the cavity in double-
glass panels with the core of honeycell cardboard. The
warmth resistance of the glass thereby increases and an
interesting effect occurs with the transparency of the panel.
When moving alongside these windows the transparency hrst
increases than decreases, vice-versa.
Japan has a rich building tradition, as said before. Well known
in (historical) architecture are the semi transparent sliding
doors (Shoji and Fusuma)
. The question is whether there is
relevant knowledge to be found here for cardboard research
4. Designing a cardboard house
The mechanics and physics in relation to the structure and
construction play an essential role in the building industry. But
there is more to it. A building hnds itself also in a changing
cultural social context, with for example, ecological demands.
Clearly, space, composition and aesthetics are essential in
architecture. Materials are not only chosen for technically
meeting technological demands. Other factors, like the
atmosphere a material creates, play an important role. Some
architects let themselves get inspired by materials, with its
specihc characteristic properties.
4.1. Architectural inspiration
Many of the realised projects in the last decade show that
cardboard might have been used in spite of, instead of
because of these properties. When architects are inspired by
a material, they experiment and play with it.
The advantages of a material are being used, the
disadvantages dealt with as well as possible. The texture of
honey cell cardboard is being used in the ofhce interior in
, the unexpected strength of a cardboard tube is
being used for constructive purposes
and the ability to fold
solid cardboard led to the design of a smart cable duct
!t has probably always been this way, looking at Narc Lampe's
conclusion in ¨The greatest power is the power of attraction":
“Structure was and still is, that much may be assumed proven
by this publication, for architects, hrstly a source of possibilities,
a way of escaping from everyday reality, and only secondly a
given which has to be solved while working out demands such
as strength, stiffness, stability and durability"
4.2. Characteristics
Cardboard has advantages with regard to traditional building
1. Low weight, lightweight materials have advantages
in many aspects of the building industry (transport,
reducing the need for human or mechanical energy)
2. Foldable/printable, in the world of packaging
folding and printing is essential when applying
cardboard. Considering as a building element, these
advantages are less obvious
3. Recycling, the ecological advantage is large. The
raw material is inhnite (cellulose hbre) and the cycle
of old paper has an efhciency of 70¾. However, the
energy intensive recycling process does increase its
impact on the environment
4. Mass production, the bulk production has all the
(dis-)advantages of the production process. The
liquid and `rolling' phase (pulp and roll pressing)
give us excellent opportunities to guide the
properties of the material.
5. Low price, the raw material is very cheap. This
means that we have a margin, by working the
product, to achieve a cost efhcient product or
building part.
Cardboard is a material with many appearances (tubes,
corrugated, honeycell and 3D-`shaped' cardboard) and with
different material properties. It inspires artists, furniture
designers and architects into making designs which are (most
of the time) based on the specihc characteristics of paper:
foldability, printability, or the ability to shape (papier-mâché)
and texture. The cardboard which is currently being produced
can be used directly without any problems for interior
applications. Applications in the building industry require a
much higher complexity. Therefore, direct application with
the current types of cardboard are being blocked by its
4.3. Contemplating
A house is a complex form with the addition of many
architectural, technical, functional and social demands,
wherein these different demands can lead to opposing
solutions. In order to meet (a part of) these different aspects,
many different materials are being applied, with their specihc
characteristics. The connection of materials and building parts
heighten the complexity.
A cardboard house is just as logical as a concrete house
or a glass house. They are all extremes, only useful in
contemplating the material. Once they are built, at most they
deliver a ephemeral statement.
Thinking about a cardboard house, we can set a direction, or
many, and we can draw conclusions where to apply cardboard
in a house. And questions can be formulated, addressing the
paper- and cardboard industry and researchers in the area of
material, product development, social context, etc.
4.4. Building cardboard
The mechanical data, required to use this material in
constructions, are hardly known, especially considering long-
term behaviour. The lack of material found for calculating rules/
values, forces us into a project based approach. Therefore
acquiring knowledge is fragmentised and discontinuous.
Connecting a database to fundamental research could slowly
hll in the knowledge gap. For now however, because of this
gap, cardboard load bearing building parts (hoors, roofs and
walls) seem to have a limited future.
Fig. 12. Paper waste ready for
Also the physical properties are largely unknown. Regarding
sound and warmth the different kinds of cardboard seem to
behave neutrally, with one or two exceptions like cellulose
board, which has excellent warmth-isolating properties and
honeycomb plates and work well as sound-deadening devices.
We all know the moisture sensitivity of cardboard and it can
therefore often only be used with a protective layer.
Research into the material properties is necessary to hnd the
connection with the building industry. Not only do we need
to research the characteristics, but we also need to establish
classes and properties within a set spectrum, in order to set
norms and begin certihcation. The existing paper and cardboard
assortment has originated from a long tradition of developing
packages. In the development and production of cardboard this
market has been the basis. Improvements in the product and
the production process are pointed at the functional demands
of the package relative to its price. To apply cardboard in the
building industry means we must improve it, and yet learn
from the knowledge gained in the packaging industry. Precisely
that is why it is so important to search globally for different
kinds of paper and cardboard: we hnd that cardboard tubes
from Germany and Japan are better suited for constructive
applications, because these tubes are made from cardboard
with a high percentage of virgin hbre.
The research being sketched here will result in `building
cardboard'. This is a material specihcally developed for the
building industry with indisputable technical specihcations,
divided in classes. It will be specially produced as a material
with specific constructive and/or partitioning properties.
Moreover, the material has one or more unique qualities with
which it stands out from traditional building materials. The data
which is interesting for architects, data aimed at application,
is known: price per square metre, obtainable and maximum
measurements, possibilities in colour and structure, product
guarantees, (10 year), certihcates, design rules and rules
of thumb. Next to this, we need a (basic) broad knowledge
considering the material properties, so that during each building
phase, application can be reasoned or proven. For example, we
know up to which thickness we can fold cardboard, how well
we can process it (among others impact sensitivity, wear and
tear, and the way it works), what the isolating values are, how
much moisture can be absorbed without damage and the way
the materials holds itself when assembled (damage)
4.5. Combinations
For now, it seems evidently that paper and cardboard by
themselves cannot satisfy the entire list of demands and
wishes in the building industry. So we have to explore
other possibilities as well. Material properties necessary for
building applications can be improved by hnding combinations
with other materials or by developing products with new
characteristics. Cardboard could for example be reinforced
with steel. A paper phone
might be the predecessor of a
wall (hnish) with integrated electrical circuits. Combinations
with textile or rubber might also produce surprising results.
An important shortcoming of cardboard is its behaviour when
confronted with moisture. Precisely in this area a combination
with another material might provide an appropriate solution.
An important reason to use cardboard could be the ecology,
as said before. Most plastic products are made of oil. When
we can use paper and cardboard (in combination with other
materials) in stead of these plastic products, probably we can
make biodegradable and recycleble products.
In practice, there is a very well known cardboard composite:
Eternit. The hbre-cement plate Eternit is being produced in
a similar way as paper, but instead of the `normal' water
based connection, the cellulose hbres are being bound
through cement. The end-product is a moist retardant and
strong product, but it is not foldable or lightweight. Also the
reuse/recycling properties of cardboard have been lost in
the composite. The properties of cardboard have therefore
become inferior to the properties of the end-product. Can we
still regard it as cardboard?
Two other products based on paper are cardboard in a vacuum
PET cover (Armacel)
and honeycomb cardboard inserted in
laminated glass (Gap-Solar)
. In these products cardboard
is recognizable as cardboard.Research and developments of
cardboard combinations must be catalogued clearly, so that
we avoid developing an existing product. A hrst drive in the
direction of a clear dehnition of cardboard in combinations
1. cardboard is a material based on cellulose hbres,
brought about through the addition of water during
the production phase. This secures the cycle of
paper and is to be the basis for new developments.
2. next to recycling, the presence of one or more of
the afore mentioned characteristics in the new
product is essential: lightweight, foldable and
printable, machine produced and low price.
4.6. Context
Not just technical properties play a role in the development
of new applications for cardboard, also the social and cultural
context is of importance. Two examples will illustrate this.
Cardboard seems to be a suitable material for application in
temporary housing, because of its relatively short technical
and its advantages (lightweight, cheap, foldable
and thereby easy to transport).
The last few decades we have seen several initiatives. Shigeru
Ban is the best known architect, who has designed cardboard
emergency housing on a large scale. Still, these projects seem
to remain incidents. This can have different causes, technical
as well as economical or political. The research into these
aspects is of importance as well in order to progress with the
development of cellulose hbres in the building industry.
Next to the suitability of the material, the application is
also derived from cultural aspects and habits: the (building)
tradition. Traditions come to existence because something
proved to be useful or practical, thereby assuring a kind of
guarantee. What worked in the past, will work in the future.
In the building industry, the parties involved, like the architect
and contractor, take a risk, in order to minimize this risk as
much as possible products nowadays undergo certihcation,
so people know what they are using. A new product (for
the building industry) will therefore have to prove itself
with guarantee, before it will be accepted as an adequate
1 Klomp en Post, levensduur+gebruiksduur, XX, een gebouw
als prototype van een nieuw milieuconcept, Stuurgroep
Experimenten Volkshuisvesting, Rotterdam, 1999, ISBN 90 5239
153 X
2 Christoph Naria Ravesloot, !ndustrieel, hexibel en demontabel
vloerverwarmen, Gezond Bouwen & wonen, 2001-2
4 Christoph Maria Ravesloot, Elastische isolatieplaat van gebruikt
papier, Gezond Bouwen & wonen, 2001-2
5 Mathilda Mc Quaid, Shigeru Ban, Phaidon, 2003, ISBN 0-7148-
6 Therese Weber, die Sprache des Papiers, eine 2000-jahrige
Geschichte, Verlag Haupt, ISBN 3-258-06793-7
7 Kashiwagi Hiroshi, Living with paper, http:ffweb-japan.orgf
8 Tom de vries, Karton, papier, Ban was hier!, Architectuur 8
Detail, december 2000
9 BN/DeStem van 9 juli 2005, gepubliceerd op
10 Schönwälder J., Rots J.G., Veer F.A., Determination and
Modelling of Cardboard as a Building Material, Proceedings, 5th
International PhD Symposium in Civil Engineering, Delft, The
Netherlands, 2004.
11 Buro Happold en Cotrell & Vermeulen, Constructing a prototype
cardboard building, op
12 Andrew Cripps, Cardboard as a construction material: a case
study, Building Research & Information (may-june 2004)
13 Taco van !ersel, Karton om beton, in Rumoer 32, april 200+,
jaargang 10, Periodiek voor de bouwtechnoloog, uitgave van
Bout, praktijkvereniging Bouwtechnologie faculteit Bouwkunde,
TU Delft, ISSN 1567-7699
14 Taco van Iersel, Feesten in kartondoos, detail in architectuur,
maart 2003
15 Taco van Iersel, design drawings graduation project
16 Eekhout, Het ontwikkelen van de kartonnen
IJburgkoepel, in: kartonnage, Rumoer 30, sept 2003, jaargang
9, Periodiek voor de bouwtechnoloog, uitgave van Bout,
praktijkvereniging Bouwtechnologie faculteit Bouwkunde, TU
Delft. ISSN 1567-7699
17 Jop van Buchem, graduation report
18 http://www.houses of the
20 Adriano Pupilli, The paperhouse report, http://
21 Taco van Iersel, report interview Paul Rohlfs
22 Testresultaat Multished TNO 17 okt. 2002
24 Henk Wind, Leidinggoot eerste bouwproduct van karton,
Bouwwereld nr.9, 10 mei 2004
25 Marc Lampe, De grootste kracht is aantrekkingskracht,
publicatieburo Bouwkunde, Faculteit der Bouwkunde, Technische
Universiteit Delft, 1992.
26 van !ersel, T., Karton; lichtgewicht in de bouwwereld, detail in
architectuur, maart 2003,
27 Life Cycle Coordination of materials and their functions at
connections, Design for total service life of buildings and
its materials, E. Durmisevic and T.M.van Iersel, Conference
Deconstruction and Material Reuse, USA 2004
28 Innovative Construction and design in Cardboard, T.M.van Iersel,
Cardboard in Architecture. M. Eekhout et al. (Eds.). IOS Press, 2008.
© 2008 The authors and IOS Press. All rights reserved.
Structural Engineering and Design in Paper and
Cardboard - Approaches and Projects
Helen Gribbon, Florian Foerster
The following paper outlines approaches to the use of cardboard
in structural design and construction and illustrates its successful
use on a number of example projects. The paper summarises and
illustrates the experience gained in cardboard design by the multi
disciplinary engineering company Buro Happold Ltd.
Cardboard and paper products have been used for decades in the
helds of interior and product design and the packaging industry.
But cardboard has not been used widely in architectural design,
building technology and structural engineering and construction,
despite its potential advantages of hexibility, low material cost,
ready availability and good environmental credentials.
So far only a few cardboard structures have been built, each
designed as a one-off by designers specihcally interested in
cardboard as a structural and building material.
As the structural design with cardboard and paper products is not
yet codihed and only limited material data is available the designer
relies not only on empirical knowledge, project specihc tests and
the understanding of hrst principles of engineering, but also on
a willingness and curiosity to take extra design responsibilities.
As a result, cardboard allows the designer to pursue structures
not primarily based on precedent and go beyond conventional
structural ideas. The designer can thus gain new knowledge
from the individual one off structures which might feed back into
standard construction practice and lead to a wider acceptance of
cardboard as a valid and economic structural material.
In addition cardboard responds well to current issues of
sustainability: it is primarily manufactured from waste paper
products and can easily be repeatedly recycled; it has excellent
acoustic and thermal properties; and it is very easy safe to work
with on site.
1. Cardboard product range
No cardboard products specifically manufactured and
designed for the construction industry are currently available.
Structural projects using cardboard products generally use
standard cardboard or paper products from the packaging
industry, hence it is useful to briehy summarise the structural
and construction qualities of these products.
1.1. Tubes
Tubes are manufactured by rolling multiple layers of spirally
wound paper plies over a spindle. The layers are glued
together by starch or PVA. The tube wall thickness depends
on the number of plies but can range up to 16mm. Tube
diameters up to 600mm are commonly available. The inner
and outer layer of the tube walls can be made from different
paper than the interior build up, to give a treated, coloured or
stronger paper on the surface. The tube length is not limited
by the manufacture process, but by transportation.
The winding of the paper plies effectively means that the
longitudinal hbres of the tube are not continuous. This
reduces the structural capacity of tube members in bending
and increases the risk of delamination.
1.2. Panels
Cardboard panels are manufactured by laminating sheets of
paper or cardboard onto an interior honeycomb structure. The
honeycomb boards are made by sandwiching a honeycomb
structure between sheets of paper. The honeycomb structure
itself is manufactured by gluing multiple sheets of paper
together and pulling them apart or by gluing two halves of
moulded honeycomb panels together, made by pressing paper
pulp into a honeycomb mould.
Panels are generally between 1.2m and 1.5m wide and 2.4m
to 3.6m long. The size of the sheets is determined by the size
of the lamination press used in the manufacturing process.
The thickness and build up varies from single layer sheets of
1mm thick to 65mm thick sheets of honeycomb board. Sheets
can be laminated or mechanically bonded together to achieve
thicker sections. Sheets can be curved and easily cut into
any shape, either by hand or by state of the art CNC cutting
processes. It is possible to laminate different types of paper
onto both sides of the sheets to achieve differing interior and
exterior surfaces. It is also possible to laminate non paper
based sheets into the surface of the boards, ie metal or
plastic foils to achieve an enhanced moisture resistance. In
construction, honeycomb panels are the most commonly used
structural cardboard products.
1.3. Sections
A number of L and T shaped and rectangular hollow sections
are available in cardboard. They are generally single layer
elements with wall thicknesses up to 4mm. cardboard sections
are manufactured as connection and stiffening elements for
furniture products or packaging. While they are not commonly
used in any of the example projects described it is possible to
use them similarly to small size steel sections to build up larger
sections or connect tubes or panels.
2. Structural form and elements
Like all other structural materials, cardboard is best and most
efhciently used in forms that use its inherent strength and
characteristics. Due to the manufacturing process cardboard
is an anisotropic material, hence the material strength varies
greatly depending on the direction of the stresses. Cardboard
is most efhciently used to transfer only axial and in plane
stresses, which should be kept in mind when deciding
the structural form and load path. And due to the critical
importance of the connection detail it is generally simpler
to transfer compressive forces than tensile ones. Hence the
majority of the large scale projects using cardboard uses
arches or shells as the primary form.
2.1. Columns
Axial loaded columns can be designed using tubes or build
up hollow sections. Load bearing columns are generally of a
large diameter and the ratio between the tube wall thickness
and the diameter is high, hence tubes tend to fail in local
buckling. Overall buckling of the tubes is less likely due to
the low slenderness ratio of the sections. The critical areas
when designing column are the load transfer points. The loads
should be spread over the entire tube circumference to avoid
stress concentrations and local creep.
2.2. Beams
Beams can be designed in using sheets of honeycomb
cardboard or sections. Due to the low ultimate strength of
cardboard elements the beam sections will appear deep and
slender compared with all other structural materials. This high
slenderness especially of the beam webs or sides increases
the risk of local buckling. Hence it is important to stiffen the
beams to achieve a resistance against lateral buckling.
In addition the system and duration of load application onto
the beam elements is important and will greatly inhuence its
hnal shape and detail. The support conditions of beams need
to be considered carefully to avoid stress concentrations and
minimise shear dehection and shear creep.
2.3. Walls
Flat panels or rows of tubes sandwiched between panels
can be used for the design of walls. The walls can either be
load bearing or self supporting stability elements. walls can
either be designed entirely in cardboard or more commonly
as cardboard elements mounted onto a primary timber frame.
In both cases the stiffness of the wall and its performance
under lateral loads are critical. The stiffness can be enhanced
by utilising stiffeners, cross walls or the design of the wall as
a folded plate. If the panels are mounted onto timber frames
the cardboard becomes primarily a cladding material and the
board a stability element.
3. Design parameters
As a result of the projects described within this paper a number
of tentative design parameters for cardboard have been
established. These parameters are based on project specihc
tests and particular products and can be divided into material
properties and connection parameters. However as there are
no generally agreed structural requirements and standards for
the use of cardboard in construction, it is essential that these
parameters are reassessed and re-evaluated prior to each
It should also be noted that the design parameters depend
strongly on the specihc cardboard product used in a project
as the quality and range of manufacturing processes varies
greatly: the use of differing glues or source materials being
two major variants. Hence two similar looking products will
not necessarily exhibit the same structural properties.
Based on data gathered during these projects the following
design parameters can be used as a guidance during the
scheme design. The following parameters are based on
cardboard tubes:
Tensile/Compressive strength
8.1 N/mm
Lomg term design tensile/
compressive strength taking
account of creep effects
0.8-2.2 N/mm
E value (stiffness)
1000-1500 N/mm
The following values might be used for the design with 20mm
thick honeycomb sheets:
Bending strength
6.9 N/mm
Design tensile/compressive
strength taking account of
creep effects
0.6 N/mm
E value (stiffness)
1000 N/mm
4. Connection design
The design and detailing of the connections is the Achilles
heel of most cardboard structures. It is the area most
difhcult to control during fabrication and construction and
at the same time the point where by necessity stresses are
concentrated and changed in direction. It is also often a
point where cardboard is connected to different generally
stiffer and stronger materials, ( mainly steel or timber )
and the interaction of these materials needs to be carefully
Technically the connections can either be glued or bolted.
A well bonded glued connection, using high strength
glues is stronger than the surrounding cardboard. Hence
the intersection between the standard cardboard and the
connection element will be the weakest point in the design.
Glues can either be PVA or epoxy based. Any glued connection
should aim to transfer the loads either in direct compression or
shear along the sides of the connected elements.
Bolted connections behave differently and again form a critical
point in the design. Failure occurs due to the different strength
of the bolts and washers and the cardboard elements. This
can lead to stress concentration and in the case of failure
tearing of the cardboard. It is advisable to use large diameter
or sleeved bolts or large diameter washers. If possible loads
should be transferred in shear between the washers and the
cardboard elements. The detailing of the connections should
take into account the edge distance, number of bolts, bolt
spacing and especially the direction of the load application.
In addition it should be checked if the loads are static or
dynamic. Dynamic loads on cardboard connections will soon
lead to plastic deformation of the connection and hence
potential weakening.
The third type of connections can be achieved by folding
or sleeving cardboard elements into each other, completely
avoiding glue or bolts for the transfer of load. Very little
experience for this type of connection has been gained on
structural projects, but it is a technique commonly used for
interior and furniture design. It would have the advantage to
connect elements of similar low strength thus reduce the risk
of stress concentration.
5. Analysis and structural model
The choice of the structural models used for the analysis of the
design depends on the complexity and function of the project.
Cardboard can, in principle, be analysed in the same way as
any other structure, as long as stresses and dehections stay
low. However the difhculty of any useful and representative
analysis is twofold.
Firstly due to the lack of design parameters and material
properties. The empirical data varies greatly depending on
the product used and to obtain it for a specihc project one
might have to test a full scale mock up of structural elements.
hence the detailed analysis is carried out relatively late in the
design process and mainly as a back up check of the initial
assumptions and design concept.
Secondly the design parameters vary greatly with time and the
environmental conditions. Hence, any permanent cardboard
project requires a far more wide reaching analysis than a
temporary one and might rely on assumptions which can not
be tested prior to the construction. This partially explains why
the majority of the cardboard project carried out so far have
been for temporary building structures.
Any analysis should concentrate on the detailing of the
connections as these tend to be difhcult to represent in a
model and are the areas where failure is more than likely to
occur. Analysis should be based on simplihed models that can
be checked by hand and clearly show the force how. As an
example, the most efhcient way to check the forces for the
complex shapes and volumes of the Hiroshima peace prize
project was a simple strut and tie model.
The assessment of long-term dehection is highly complex
as cardboard is an anisotropic material and the stiffness is
governed by factors such as moisture content, magnitude of
stress and duration of loading. It is hence advisable to “design
out" the need for long term dehection checks. This can be
achieved by the use of stiffeners and by avoiding the use of
cardboard in bending.
The initial dehection is strongly inhuenced by the moisture
content of the cardboard at the start of construction.
Commonly, cardboard delivered to site is still ¨green" and it
still shrinks signihcantly during the hrst month of construction
and building usage, especially if the building is relatively dry
and heated.
6. Empirical knowledge and test
6.1. Durability
Durability issues are important factors in the design and
specification of cardboard structures. The strength and
stiffness of cardboard is strongly inhuenced by the ease
with which moisture can penetrate. Cardboard itself is a
hygroscopic material. This means that it will absorb moisture
from the atmosphere, which can signihcantly impact on its
strength. If it is allowed to become wet, cardboard deforms
and ultimately degrades to pulp. If used outside water
protection can be applied in a number of ways:
6.2. Chemical Treatment
Water resistant cardboard is manufactured with additives
in the paper pulp. While this achieves water resistance the
use of additives means that the boards can not be as easily
6.3. Surface Applications
The faces of cardboard can be coated with polymeric paint
or laminated with building paper or metallic foil. Painting
cardboard surfaces tends to deform the sheets if not carried
out on both sides. Therefore the cardboard should be painted
off site and during manufacture.
6.4. Overcladding and Internal Use:
The use of cardboard can be limited to areas where it has
no direct contact with the external atmosphere. this can also
be achieved by overcladding with water resistant material. In
both cases though atmospheric moisture variations can be
signihcant and can not be ignored.
6.5. Fire
It is a known fact that card and paper burn. They can be a key
hre load in some buildings if hre management is not thoroughly
considered and applied. What has been established through
ad-hoc tests carried out during the design and material
development of the Locla Zone and Westborough School is:-
• Thick card chars like timber: the end os a 12mm
walled cardboard tube was exposed to a 1000oC
hame. The behaviour of the tube was similar to that
of timber in that the material charred, protecting
itself from further deterioration by the hame.
• Untreated 5mm card nearly achieves a rating of
Class O surface of hame.
• With treatment using a clear product typically used
on timber this rating is achieved. Alternatively over-
cladding with a protective board is a solution.
6.6. Cost
Cardboard as a raw material is relatively inexpensive. However,
recycling can only be achieved by a manufacturing process that
is highly repetitive and standardised, hence recycled cardboard
is only economically available in a number of basic shapes. As
long as standard elements are used cardboard presents an
economic material, especially for complex structures. The
additional cost of cardboard structures lies primarily in the
extended design time, costs for specihc material research and
testing and the use of specialist labour.
As the use of cardboard in building develops and the
knowledge base increases, the effects of these parameters
may be reduced.
6.7. Recycling
Cardboard is a recycled material that itself can be recycled.
Consequently it is a material with very low embodied
energy and almost no material take. The critical issue is not
cardboard itself but other material used for connections,
weather protection or additional structural elements.
In addition there is a surplus of cardboard material in economic
terms hence the transportation of a demolished cardboard
structure to a recycling yard might be more expensive that
the production of new cardboard from different source
material. In developing early stage concepts, it is important
to consider these life-cycle cost issues to ensure the loop is
closed for the design, construct, use and deconstruct cycle.
7. Case Studies
The next pages describe 7 projects in which Buro Happold
was involved:
7.1. Westborough School
7.2. Japanese Pavilion, Hanover Expo
7.3. Exhibition Models for the Hiroshima Peace Prize
7.4. Trial and Error Exhibition, Building Centre Trust, London
7.5. Cardboard Arch, MOMA, New York
7.6. Nomad exhibition, New York
7.7. Local zone, Millennium dome
location Westcliffe on Sea
client Westborough School
architect Cottrell and Vermeulen
contractor CG Franklin Ltd
engineer Buro Happold
cost n/a
7.1. Westborough School
In a project partly funded by the Department of
the Environment Transport and Regions (DETR)
Buro Happold engineers headed a team to
construct a building for Westborough Primary
School, Westcliffe on Sea, Essex, which uses
cardboard components wherever possible.
The projects main objective was to produce a
building which was 90% recyclable at the end of
its life and which is almost entirely constructed
from recycled materials. In addition we had
the aspiration of producing a product which
could be made available to the construction
industry fo ruse in other buildings. The new
building, intended for use as an after school
club, is actually used by the school pre, post
and during school hours. In order to realise the
project, we teamed up with an architectural
practice, Cottrell and Vermeulen, paper and
board manufacturers; Paper Marc Ltd, Essex
Tube Windings Ltd, Quinton and Kaines Ltd,
and, at the time of construction, a building
contractor, CG Franklin Ltd.
At Westborough School we have used a
combination of board, tubes and panels, all
made from the same basic board material.
The concept of the form of the building
was to literally represent the use of ¨paper"
through the folded/origami aesthetic of the
building, which, whilst proving challenging
when detailing the panels and the junctions
of the panels, did provide for a distinctive eye-
catching form.
With the input of manufacturers, the process
of design and development for the building
was informed by the products and processes
currently available in the industry. The team
were keen to ensure that the development of
any product was realised through the use of
current available materials and processes.
A prototype bay was erected to test the
ease of manufacture and erection of the
panels. The prototype erection proved
important in the development of the
scheme. In particular, panel junctions
could be rehned and simplihed aiding
the manufacturing time and the ease
of erection. This prototype construction
provided us with a building which could be
created from a number of panels simply
screwed together on site along their
location Hanover
client Expo 2000
architect Shigeru Ban
contractor n/a
engineer Buro Happold
cost n/a
7.2. Japanese Pavilion, Hanover Expo
The Japanese Pavilion was built for the Hanover
World's Fair in 2000 and remained in place for
seven month. The theme of the exhibition
¨design for planetary continuance" required
pavilions to be designed to demonstrate
reduced use of resources and CO
The architect Shigeru Ban, working with Buro
Happold, designed a pavilion hall formed
from cardboard tubes and clad in a paper
The building was conceived as a hexible grid
shell structure that would be assembled and
laid lat on the ground, and then lifted and
formed into place by a protruding scaffolding
system that would give it the a hnal geometry.
This hnal shape was hxated by a stiff border
element at its perimeter edge. The overall
dimension of the hall is 75m by 35m with a rise
of up to 15.5m.
The main tubes consisted of 120mm diameter,
22mm thick paper tubes. The tubes were
formed of three glued spiral card tapes of
an exact moisture content and structural
strength. Their design was based on material
properties established in tests by the University
of Dortmund with a partial factor of safety
approach similar to the European codes for
timber structures. The tubes were lashed
together at their crossing points by hre resistant
plastic straps.
The connections had to be rigid enough
to transfer the design loads once the shell
had reached its hnal geometry, at the same
time the connections needed to remain
hexible to accommodate the change in shell
geometry during the construction process.
The foundations were constructed with sand
retained by timber boards to avoid as far as
possible the use of concrete. Sand was used as
it is both low energy and easily reusable.
The design and modelling of the of this
structure was part of an intense design
effort which included form hnding exercise
and the construction of physical models, in
order to determine the project geometry
as well as the possible buckling failure
modes. Rigidity is aided by wood arches
at regular intervals. Steel struts at the
ends were incorporated into the grid at
the insistence of the German checking
authorities, although analysis indicated
that these were not needed.
Detailing the structure involved the
resolution of some key connections.
These are the cross points between the
two tubes, the connection of the tubes to
the ground plane and the connection of
the tubes to the cladding as well as to the
wood ladders. The connection solutions
are similar to the ones designed for the
MoMA Arch, described later in this article.
The hall was stabilised laterally by rigid
end walls and longitudinally by the shells
tubular shape structural supported by
metal cable cross bracing.
The hall was totally recycled by the end of
its seven month life.
location Hiroshima & Tokio
client Hiroshima Museum of Modern Art
architect Studio Libeskind
contractor n/a
engineer Buro Happold
cost n/a
Architect Daniel Libeskind was awarded the
Hiroshima peace prize in 2001. Following
this, four large scale (1:5) building models
of recent projects by studio Libeskind formed
the centrepiece of an exhibition that started in
the Hiroshima Museum of Contemporary Arts
in July 2002and moved to the ICC Museum in
Tokyo at the end o 2002. The models where
approximately 30m in plan and up to 10m in
height. The second exhibition in Tokyo was
not part of the original design brief, but it was
decided to design the exhibition as a travelling
show, such that any interest arising from
the hrst show, could be responded to with
remounting the exhibition.
The design time was extremely tight, with
one month for the entire design from the
concept to the detailing stage and one
month for manufacture and a week for on
site construction. In addition the scale of the
proposed models required a light construction
material to avoid excessive loads onto the
museum floors. Hence it was decided to
design all models entirely using cardboard and
paper fabricated into a modular box system of
20mm honeycomb cardboard sheets, glued
and jointed together. The joint – a cardboard
angle glued and screwed to the inside of the
cardboard facing boards- carries the forces and
the screws are for positioning only. The glued
connection form a structurally rigid unit which
could be transported into the exhibition areas
and bolted to the adjacent units.
The maximum size of the units was determined
by the largest access door into the exhibition
hall. Small access doors in one face of the
allowed them to be bolted together and give
access into the inside of the large models. The
modules itself where all of different shape and
size and hence there was an enourmous variety
of cardboard panels needed to form the
modules. The fabrication of these panels
was achieved by CNC cutting all panels
from templates supplied by the architects.
The models where analysed using by
imposing simplihed strut and tie systems
onto the units and hand calculations. This
approach gave a clear understanding of
a dehned load path within the complex
layering of units formed from plane
panels. The models where analysed for
strength and stability only. Creep and
long term dehection where not analysed
because of the temporary nature of the
project, but creep issues where addressed
by detailing each model as a highly
redundant system.
The project showed how cardboard
could be used effectively to respond
to a number specific site issues, ie
access and manhandling restrictions,
speed of construction and design,
ease of maintenance and local repairs,
demountability, minimum weight of the
overall structure. In addition the project
responded well to the Japanese tradition
and knowledge of using paper products
in construction. Hence the construction of
the complex shapes was easily understood
by the fabricators, once the design had
been demonstrated with a full scale
mock up module. This mock up module
was constructed by the design team to
test the connection detail and stiffening
7.3. Exhibition Models for the Hiroshima Peace Prize
location London
client Building Centre Trust
architect Magma Architecture
contractor n/a
engineer Buro Happold
cost £ 15.000
The exhibition investigated the use of working
models in the design process. The models
are housed in a structure composed of hve
layers of cardboard panels, stacked to form
walls which loosely follow the outline of the
exhibition space. the panels change height and
fold in different directions to the ones above
and below, they are all hat but not generally
vertical. The folded arrangement creates steps
and shelves on which the designers models are
The overall stability of the structure is achieved
by the folding geometry of the walls and by
overlapping the panels, so that, for example,
folded portion of an upper panel is triangulated
with the straight portion of the panel below
it and vice versa. Using this stacking system
the shelves can easily cantilever into the room
or draw back into the space behind. The
cardboard used was 30mm thick honeycomb
panels, faced both sides with an aluminium foil
to give resistance against the spread of hames;
they have a thin white paper hnish.
The panels support themselves and the
exhibition models, some of which weigh up to
50 kg. the vertical load transfer is achieved by
the cross over points, where one panel rests
on the panel below. These points have been
locally strengthened with small timber inserts
into the honeycomb structure to spread the
point loads onto the facing boards. The folds
of the panel junctions are made with 50mm
brass hinges screw hxed to wooden battens
inserted into the panel edges. Hence each
layer behaved strucurally, until it was hxed into
position, as a chain formed from panels. The
joint is reinforced with white card angles which
where glue hxed on site, giving rigidity to each
layer of panels.
The design and construction period for
the entire exhibition consisted of only 7
weeks, and again cardboard was chosen
to rapidly and easily respond to a complex
geometric layout. All cardboard sheets
were pre-cut and delivered to site and
the entire exhibition constructed in two
days. The use of cardboard also allowed
easy modihcations on site to respond the
existing structure, which had, due to time
and cost constraints, only been surveyed
very basically during the design phase.
The budget for the exhibition design and
construction was just above £ 10.000
and due to the cheapness of cardboard
base material, the majority of the budget
could be spent on the labour, design and
7.4. Trial and Error Exhibition, Building Centre Trust, London
location Courtyard Museum of Modern Art New York City
client Museum of Modern Art
architect Shigeru Ban
architect of record Dean Maltz
contractor Atlantic-Heydt
engineer Buro Happold
cost $400.000
This temporary structure was erected as part
of a retrospective of art and architecture of
the 20th century at the Museum of Modern
Art in New York City. It is made up by 200mm
diameter cardboard tube sections with a wall
thickness of 2Smm. The tubes dehne the top
and bottom chord of 600mm deep paper tube
arches. These arches span approx. 24m and are
linked transversally by a paper tube gridshell
of 150mm diameter tubes with a 25mm wall
thickness. Cable stiffening ties are located
under the arch and attached to the bottom
chord. The overall size of the structure is 24
x 24 m and it was installed over the summer
season for a period of 90 days.
The structural analysis of this structure was
relatively straightforward. The gridshell
behaviour was conservatively ignored in
the arch span direction with the grid shell
contributing only lateral support to the primary
arches. Detailing the structure was complex
because of the mixture of materials, which
created different connection conditions. The
top and bottom chords of the trusses are paper
tubes but the vertical and diagonal members
are steel rods and cables. The attachment of
the trusses to the building and base are by
means of steel connection plates, supporting
the tube ends in direct bearing.
Initial construction took place offsite where
the roof was laid over a series o scaffolding
elements much the way of a ship's hull in a
shape forming cradle. The grid shell paper
tubes the grid shell paper tubes were modelled
three dimensionally in order to determine the
precise location and angles of the pre drilled
holes for the connections, which would follow
the project geometry. After the tubes arrived
on site, holes where drilled into them, then the
bottom chord laid down on the scaffolding, the
7.5. Cardboard Arch, MOMA, New York
vertical elements were inserted and the
grid shell elements added. The diagonal
truss cables were inserted into the truss
and then the top chord was attached
in order to complete the truss. Once
assembled and painted with waterproof
coating the structure was cut into eight
half arch slices in order to be able to
transport it to the museum. Adjacent to
the museum site the pieces were partially
connected together, lifted into place and
then attached to the receiving support
location New York
client n/a
architect Shigeru Ban
contractor n/a
engineer Buro Happold
cost n/a
This 4000m2 temporary exhibition hall is
intended for a travelling venue that will
highlight the work of a contemporary artist.
The hall is approximately 20m wide by 200m
long. It is constructed of materials typical
used in temporary structures including fabric,
scaffolding, cribbing and the containers used
to ship them.
The museum uses 148 shipping containers
as external walls and two internal rows of
columns, using coated paper tube, topped with
roof trusses.
It has a central roof support that is made up
of two large diameter paper tube triangle that
connects to the roof ridge. The structural loads
on the paper tubes can be determined from
a straightforward analysis. The difference to
some of the previously described projects is
that although the structure is temporary it is
meant to be assembled and disassembled a
multitude of times, with the added condition
that all pieces must be able to ht within a
standard 6.1m container. For this reason the
paper tube detailing has been designed in
such a way as to minimise the wear and tear
on the paper tubes. This has been achieved by
permanently afhxing steel plates and elements
to the paper tubes. In this way the connection
points could be restricted to more durable
connections which are steel on steel.
The conhguration of the structure will also
change from time to time, as Ban adapts the
design to ht the size and shape of different
As long as the museum remains in the US, the
paper tubes will be shipped along with the rest
of the building components. However, when
7.6. Nomad exhibition, New York
the museum departs for other countries
(expected to include France, China and the
Vatican State), the tubes will be recycled,
as it's less expensive to buy new ones than
it is to ship them. ¨!t's a transportable
museum where we don't have to transport
the building material."
location London
client Building Centre Trust
architect Magma Architecture
contractor n/a
engineer Buro Happold
cost £ 15.000
This building was one of the exhibition buildings
in the Millennium Dome. The architects Spence
Associates Limited with Philip Gumuchdjian
and Shigeru Ban as consultants developed the
concept for the project. In addressing issues of
sustainability and environmental concerns the
building along with the exhibition are intended
to highlight how the individual can make a
difference to the world around them. Children
nation-wide sent cardboard to be recycled and
form part of the structure.
The zone was a two-storey elliptical spiral
of 100 vertical cardboard tubes (10.5m to
24m high) with smaller tubes for mullions
and louvers. The primary column elements
consisted of 500mm and 200mm diameter
tubes, the former in the location of the braced
frames. The inhll panels between the S00mm
diameter tubes are formed using a cardboard
honeycomb sandwiched between two flat
100mm diameter cardboard tubes positioned
horizontally clad the building. All of the members
are coated with an intumescent varnish
providing a class 0 equivalent surface spread
of flame. The 500mm diameter cardboard
tubes have an internal and external membrane
to prevent moisture ingress ad protecting the
inner structural core. The membrane is an
aluminium foil which is sandwiched between
layers of paper and when wound around
the tubes have lap joints to further minimise
moisture ingress.
At roof level a deep steel truss provided a
diaphragm, transferring lateral loads to the
braced columns. The "splayed wing" at the
entrance to the building was tied back to the
lift towers via the roof truss and ties.
7.7. Local zone, Millennium dome
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Cardboard in Architecture. M. Eekhout et al. (Eds.). IOS Press, 2008.
© 2008 The authors and IOS Press. All rights reserved.
Application of Cardboard in Partitioning
Taco van Iersel, Elise van Dooren
1. Introduction
Cardboard in the building industry means the enlargement of
the share of renewable raw materials in the building industry.
Considering that this industry is one of the most polluting
sectors, the use of ecologically sound materials is desirable.
With the current technical knowledge, application of cardboard
inside a building is technically achievable. Cardboard and
paper are already being used as furniture and inside panel
doors. Still, there is no broad application in the Dutch building
market. Different causes can underlie the limited use of the
cellulose hbre-material: complexity of innovation and market,
scepticism with regard to the material andfor ignorance?
Using three case-studies of cardboard partitions based on
existing forms of traditional partitions, surrounding factors
and possibilities for the application of cardboard systems will
be charted.
2. Surrounding
The proper functioning of a partition system depends on
the materials properties and how far the design meets the
markets demands. The demands are a multitude of conditions
asked from a building product: the surrounding factors. An
analysis of these factors gives an insight in the conditions,
traps and success factors, a partition must meet.
The technical specihcations are inhuenced by three categories
of surrounding factors (hgure 1a):
1. legislation and rules
2. user demands
3. economical factors (market)
2.1. Legislation and rules
The Dutch legislation and rules for the building industry have
largely been set in the Building decree (Bouwbesluit). This has
been divided in hve directions: health, safety, usability, energy
efhciency and environment.
Within these directions, for example the hre and smoke
development, insulation of warmth and sound are being
directed. From these directions, technical specifications
and achievement levels are being laid upon (new) building
products and materials.
2.2. User demands
The user demands come into existence in different stages
of the actual use. Four user-stages can be determined:
transport, assembly, use, and disassembly. Each stage states
its specihc demands from the material and the hnal product.
Fig. 1. Chain of surrounding
factors around the
technical specihcations
of a product/system
(E.g. the ability to manoeuvre the product during transport,
the placement and adjustment possibilities during assembly
and the adaptability during the user stage).
3. Economical factors
Each segment of the market (housing, utility building, amd
project building) have their own user characteristics, size and
tradition. Different existing building systems have taken their
place in a segment of the market.
Each of the three surrounding factors is the highest common
factor found in a long chain of underlying factors of inhuence
(hgure 1b). These underlying factors are sometimes closely
connected or intertwined with another large actor. For
example, the labour legislation (use) is a direct input for new
building legislation and rules.
4. Current building systems
Drawing up the inventory of existing product supply results
in many suppliers of partitions in the current market. Each
system is characterized by it own price-quality level, technical
possibilities and building manner. A division of products based
on geometry reduces the multitude of products to three
archetype partitions (table 1a).
geometry product/brand
1 hollow wall system Metalstud
2 stacking systems Xella, Gibo
3 panelsystems Faay, Verwol
Table 1a. Division of partition systems by geometry
4.1. Hollow wall system
Hollow wall systems consist of posts and cross-beams with
plating. The posts are the load-carriers of the system. The
thickness of the hnishing layer is also determined by the
demanded strength during transport and assembly.
The system is hollow, allowing for the integration of ducts and
making the amount of sound insulation and hre resistance
easily adaptable. Characteristic for the system is the multitude
of different parts and hnishing possibilities.
4.2. Stacking system
Stacking systems can be divided in structural and non-
structural end products. Light stacking blocks, like cellular
concrete, are especially suitable as non-load bearing partitions.
Sand-lime stone can be used for load bearing walls.
case study
with cardboard
1 hollow wall system Metalstud
case study 1
2 stacking systems Xella, Gibo
case study 2
3 panel systems Faay, Verwol
case study 3
Table 1b. Division of partition systems by geometry and
brand with cardboard case-studies
Fig. 2. Assembly of the hollow
wall system
Fig. 3. Assembly of the stucco
panel system stacking system hollow wall system
The solid character of the wall offers few possibilities for
integration of electrical and mechanical installations. Milling is
a good but laborious way of integrating ducts in the wall.
4.3. Panel system
Panel systems can be characteristized by a high building speed
and a minimal amount of building and hnishing actions on site.
As many demands and wishes as possible are being integrated
in the system: adaptability and hexibility (mutual connection),
emanation (top layer), integration (skirts for electric cables),
etc. Starting January 2007, all partition systems faced an
important weight limitation. For then legislation will come into
force limiting the maximum weight to be lifted by man at 25
kg. Especially panel systems could hnd themselves in trouble
by this law.
Untill now no partial or complete cardboard partition system
has been available on the market. The use of cardboard in wall
systems is considered an innovation on material level. The
design will have to incorporate the properties of cardboard in
a positive way, in order to distinguish itself from the existing
5. Cardboard in partition systems
Research has been done into 3 partition systems, based on
the earlier mentioned geometry. Each system uses cardboard
and utilizes the specihc technical characteristics in its own
way. Three case-studies can be distinguished.
5.1. Case-study 1
Type of wall hollow wall system
Material - core whitewood
- liner laminate of PE, aluminium foil and paper
(liquid packaging cardboard or stucco hoor)
Connections glue and stitches
The system in case-study 1 makes use of traditional wooden
posts and beams. The liners are made from cardboard. These
are being stapled on the beams, creating a 20 mm air cavity.
The purpose of the system is to realize an insulting partition
with a stock cardboard product. The misprints from the liquid
cartons industry were chosen. This `waste' is also being
used as hoor protection during building (stucco hoor). !t is
a laminate of synthetic, paper and aluminium foil. The result
of the construction of the wall and the choice of material
has two effects; the stationary air inside the cavity insulates
and the aluminium layer inside the cardboard rehects heat
from radiation, contributing to the heat balance. Concerning
radiation rehection, the cardboard laminate does not reach
the level of eminent synthetic foils. To reach the same level
many layers were applied.
5.1.1. Sub-conclusion
The low cost-price of cardboard, with its rehecting properties,
shows that it technically might be a replacement for mineral
wool. Cardboard can also compete with glass wool concerning
cost-price per square metre. The work-intensive assembly
of the many cardboard layers makes the system as a whole
economically unviable to replace traditional systems (metal
5.2. Case study 2
Type of wall stacking wall
Type of cardboard corrugated cardboard (c-hute, 3mm)
Connections timber glue or starch glue
The stacking system originates from a stackable box shape.
However, there are a few essential differences between
stacking boxes (hollow) and a stone stacking block (solid).
The mechanical properties of the box wall follow a different
pattern. Boxes in their current packaging application are
stacked on top of each other, without a mutual connection.
The mechanics of the box actually lead to this; the corners
of the box are the strongest. The compression strength curve
of a box is shown in hgure +. The system of boxes in case-
study 2 is built as a half bat brick system. The upper box is
being carried by the lower box in the centre of the box, at Fig. 5. Assembly of stacking wall
single box connection in detail completed wall
Fig. 4. Curve of compression
strength according to
the point with the lowest compression strength. The design
of the box overcomes this problem. The boxes are provided
with a few haps which stretch out and slide into each other
and get glued at precisely this point. This way the boxes form
a stabile wall construction. They in fact create vertical baulks,
capable of carrying loads (Figure 5). Extra solidity is created
by gluing one or more solid cardboard layers to the wall of
stacked boxes.
5.2.1. Sub-conclusion
The staking system of glued cardboard boxes shows a direct
translation of masonry. However, technically the system is
not capable of replacing solid blocks directly. The hollowness
of the wall gives it a weight advantage, but the mechanical
properties are not parallel to solid blocks. The building speed
might be high, but the use of glue requires many handlings
and long drying time. A critical remark is the fact that it mimics
traditional masonry in detail. A stacking system without
adding a third element (glue), would produce a smarter and
faster building system.
5.3. Case-study 3
Type of wall panel system
Type of cardboard
- liner solid cardboard
- core honeycell cardboard
Connections tongue and groove system with a
strip of honeycell cardboard
This case-study concerns a panel laminated from different
types of cardboard. The core consists of plates of honeycell
cardboard with a liner of solid cardboard. In the hollow
spaces ducts can be integrated. The prohled edges follow an
H-shape. Connections are being made with a few strips of
cardboard; dry assembly. The liners can be provided with a
print. The main advantage of the use of honeycell cardboard
is the light weight. Next to that, by recycling the panels after
use the material cycle can be closed.
5.3.1. Sub-conclusion
The panel system has a high building speed and remains
under 25 kg through the use of honeycell cardboard. The dry
assembly offers possibilities for reuse and recycling. When
the cycle is restored by taking back the product, a hnancial
advantage is created for the user in the demolition phase. This
could possibly be rehected in the purchase price.
detail of panel connection to hoor completed wall
Fig. 6. Assembly and options of
panel system
6. Sound
Sound insulation takes place in the shape of absorption,
rehection and through mass. The latter is the most important,
but also the missing factor when using cardboard. Corrugated
cardboard and honeycell cardboard are lightweight paper
constructions. One possibility of overcoming the lack of mass
is disconnection. In hollow partition systems this can easily
be realised by assembling the posts disconnected. With panel
systems this is a more difhcult task; it is a one-element panel.
Adding mass is being restricted by government rules. A panel
can weigh a maximum of 25 kg.
For temporary buildings there are no demands on sound
concerning partitions. For utility buildings there are some
demands, but the perception of the customer is the standard
for the level of achievement. !n an ofhce surrounding sound
of conversation should be insulated, no matter what kind of
material the walls are constructed from. For the (professional)
housing market demands on sound insulation are very strict.
The demands can vary per different segment, making one
single solution unnecessary or unwanted. It is, however,
very easy for the user to determine whether the insulation is
sufhcient: can ! hear the neighbours or not?
As we write this, the sound aspects of cardboard are being
researched broadly.
7. Environment
Each mentioned partition system has an environmental
advantage because of the use of cardboard. Cardboard can
use an inhnite amount of raw material: cellulose hbre. For
fresh hbres (virgin hbre) waste products from the wood
industry are being used: bark, branches and sawdust. In The
Netherlands for the production of new paper 90% of recycled
paper is being used. !n fact, cardboard from old or new hbres
is always a re-used product.
Table 2 shows the environmental load next to the traditional
materials wood and sand-lime stone. The last two materials
are known for their low environmental load.
The use of renewable raw materials (cardboard) provides a
substantial contribution in relieving the environment. When
during the further development of cardboard partitions the
re-usability of the cardboard is not being lessened by the use
of additives or laminated materials, cardboard has a strong
ecological position. Within the landscape of surrounding
factors this factor will have to prove itself of decisive inhuence
concerning the effect of cardboard on the world market.
8. Conclusion
To appoint decisive factors in the landscape of surrounding
factors which will guarantee a successful product is very hard
to determine. On some levels it is possible to dehne success
factors and factors that act as a brake.
Acting as a brake hrst of all is the factor of industrial production.
The paper and cardboard industry consists of a long chain of
different paper and cardboard producing companies. The
basis of this industry is built on large volumes (quantity) The
development of a cardboard suitable for the building industry
(`buildingcardboard'), will be a hard trajectory. An application
with a large sale volume connects to the current nature of
the industry. The introduction of a new building material is
characterised by a project-basis and small-scale.
Secondly, cardboard being well-known by the public acts as a
brake. The image as a packaging material and the homeless in
his cardboard box is difhcult to break. The general conviction
of cardboard immediately collapsing under water and hre, will
often have to be proven wrong by many solutions.
subject material positive ĺ negative
weight cardboard
weight wood
weight sand-lime stone
exhaustion cardboard
exhaustion wood
exhaustion sand-lime stone
energy content cardboard
energy content wood
energy content sand-lime stone
emissions cardboard
emissions wood
emissions sand-lime stone
use of water cardboard
use of water wood
use of water sand-lime stone
recycling cardboard
recycling wood
recycling sand-lime stone
disassembly cardboard
disassembly wood
disassembly sand-lime stone
waste cardboard
waste wood
waste sand-lime stone
Table 2. Positive and negative effect of the partition materials per m
When a cardboard building system reaches the same level of
existing systems, is there still no reason for the customer to
choose cardboard. Case-studies have shown that cardboard
systems have can distinguish themselves on a few aspects.
Especially the ecological factor, the relative low price, the
printability and the light weight are dehnite qualities and
thereby success factors.
As shown above, cardboard can provide a substantial
contribution considering the environment.
Moreover, paper and cardboard are a bulk material with a
subsequent low cost-price.
Thirdly, the production process of paper and cardboard
has one unique possibility: the printing technique. A visual
radiation can be given to cardboard. The existing pressing
and printing techniques have reached a level as with no other
material than cardboard and paper.
Finally, already mentioned, all partition systems will have an
important weight limitation starting January 2007. Cardboard
will remain under the maximum lifting weight of 25 kg thanks
to its relatively light weight.
1 Rapportage IFD Haalbaarheidsstudie, project nummer 04019,
Kenniscentrum Papier en Karton, Arnhem, 200S
2 Compression Strenght Formula for Corrugated Boxes,
R.C.NcKee, J.W.Gander, J.R.Wachuta, 1963
3 Wijziging Beleidsregels arbeidsomstandighedenwetgeving, nr.02
48717. Convenant Sociale Zaken en Werkgelegenheid. M.Rutte,
R.!J.N.Kuipers, 2002
4 Indicatieve LCA berekening kartonnen binnenwand, H. van Ewijk
(!vAN), Kenniscentrum papier en Karton, Arnhem, 200S
S Stucloper als warmte-rehectie folie, !ris de Kieviet, !n Situ
Architecten, Den Haag.
6 Isover Benelux,, januari 2006
7 EET-Kiem rapport (Senter Novem 02021),
Eindrapportage Bouwen met Karton, 20 juni 2003
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Cardboard in Architecture. M. Eekhout et al. (Eds.). IOS Press, 2008.
© 2008 The authors and IOS Press. All rights reserved.
Recently the interest of architects grows in using cardboard
for constructions. For the realization of any structure adequate
knowledge of the mechanical properties of the building material
is essential. For structural application the mechanical behaviour
and the load bearing capacity have to be predictable as well.
However, there is not enough information about the mechanical
properties of cardboard in terms of a building material. Common
numbers and codes are not established yet. In the presented PhD
project the mechanical behaviour of cardboard and cardboard
structures are investigated concerning structural application. Also
a computational model based on the hnite element method will
be developed as a prediction tool. The project combines material
testing, structural design and computational modelling. In this
regard preliminary beams completely made of cardboard were
designed and tested. In this paper the outline of the PhD thesis
and the hrst outcome of the preliminary design of the beams are
1. Scope of the Research Project
Paper and cardboard is indispensable for our daily use,
but considering it as a construction material is not a com-
mon practice yet. Cardboard is cheap, based on renew-
able resources, environmentally friendly and recyclable. It
is a remarkably strong material considering its light weight.
Hence, cardboard has high potential for structural application
in temporary constructions. Also from the architectonic point
of view cardboard is a very appealing material. Cardboard
is variable in form and structure and by bending, folding
and gluing many types of structural components can be
produced. However, in order to beneht from the advantages
paper and cardboard have and to make this material a real
building material, further research in several areas is required.
Especially insight pertaining to the mechanical properties of
paper and cardboard is essential to make constructions with
cardboard possible. A considerable database of knowledge
of paper properties is available from the paper industry,
but rather concerning production processing, visual quality,
Mechanical Behaviour of Cardboard in Construction
Julia Schönwälder, Jan Rots
packaging and personal hygiene. Most of the mechanical
properties required for structural usage are generally not
determined for paper or board. Particular little research on
long-term behaviour is documented, given that creep is a big
issue for cardboard constructions.
The topic of this PhD research project is the investigation of
the mechanical and structural behaviour of cardboard. The
aim is to enable the use of cardboard as a structural building
material, that means for load barring components. The focus
hereby is on the mechanical behaviour considering structural
safety and long-term stability as well as on predictability of
cardboard structures. In order to analyse the mechanical and
structural behaviour, experiments have to be performed on
material level (sheets of paper or board) and component level
(e.g. beams, wall-element, tubes). Therefore a cardboard
beam will be designed as a structural component. As
prediction tool a computational model based on hnite element
method will be developed for cardboard. Hence, this research
combines experimental material testing, structural design and
computational modelling.
2. Cardboard in Architecture: Design and
Fundamental Research
At the TU Delft research on `Cardboard in Architecture' has
been started in 2000. Since then several examples and case
studies have been performed at the Department of Building
Technology of the Faculty of Architecture.
In 2005, it was
decided to build for practical experience a cardboard pavilion
in one-to-one scale. Some students got the assignment to
come up with a design for the pavilion. Even though the
students had interesting ideas, none of the designs was
realizable in cardboard. For instance, one of the designs had
a big roof performed in a cantilever with a hxed support. A
cantilever, however, brings big bending stresses at the restrain
and requires a very rigid construction material otherwise the
deformations would be too large. Generally, cardboard is
not very rigid. Hence, as long as there is not a stiffer board
developed the stiffness and the deformability of the cardboard
always has to be taken into account for the structural design.
This example showed again that it is important to know about
the construction material and that design and fundamental
research have to cooperate. Mick Eekhout illustrates in his
the relationship between research and design (Fig.
1), with the areas of fundamental research, technology
development and application design and their relationships. All
helds are inhuenced by each other in fundamentally direction
(right to left) and application direction (left to right). That
means that the fundamentals give indication for technology
development and that gives further indication to the design. On
the other hand the design also gives application indications to
the technology development and the fundamental research.
The presented research project deals with the fundamental
research in terms of mechanical properties of cardboard.
Cardboard is still a very new and unknown building material
and many areas have to be explored. The fundamental
research on mechanical behaviour is one of them. This
research is essential for the possible application of cardboard in
construction. It gives indications to the technical development
and design of components and connections. The research on
the mechanical properties also aims to prove and insure the
safety of cardboard constructions. Hereby a computational
model facilitates the predictability of the material behaviour.
The research project is seen as a start-up project and will give
insight in material behaviour of various cardboard structures
and components and will provide a basis for further research
towards `Cardboard in Architecture' for both architectural
design and structural engineering.
Fig. 1. The relationship between
research and design (by
3. Approach
The aim of the research project is to enable the use of
cardboard as a building material by analysing its mechanical
and structural behaviour and developing a prediction tool.
In cardboard a structural element is always a composition
of many layers of paper or board sheets performed by
gluing, bending, folding and cutting. The sheet, the glue
and the geometry determine the structural behaviour of the
component. In order to understand and eventually predict the
mechanical response of a cardboard component it is important
to know about the mechanical behaviour of the single sheet
of paper or board. For this purpose the material behaviour
will be studied by elementary tests on solid board. Based
on these results a material model can be developed using a
hnite element program such as D!ANA. The material model
will be verihed by reproducing the mechanical response of
a structural element. In this case, a beam was chosen to be
studied as structural component. Therefore a cardboard beam
has to be designed and tested. Hence, this research combines
three domains:
• experimental material testing
• structural design
• computational modelling
Fig. 2. Domains of PhD research
3.1. Material testing
The material behaviour of paper and board is well documented
in the literature, but rather concerning production process,
converting and packaging. Many of the mechanical properties
required for structural application are usually not determined
for paper or board. Hence experiments on single boards
are necessary to get the required parameters. Tests are
performed on three different boards and deliver the in-
plane material properties such as E-modulus, elastic and
plastic strain, Poisson ratio, shear modulus, failure stress
and strain, post-peak behaviour, failure energy etc. Also the
long-term behaviour of cardboard is studied. All tests are in
meso-scale, that means the sheet properties are investigated
without taking into account the hbre and hbre-to-hbre bond
The material testing also comprehends the investigation
of multilayered elements, to understand the inhuence of
numbers of sheets and glue on the mechanical properties.
Therefore tests on specimen of multiple layers bonded with
different adhesives are performed.
3.2. Structural design
In architecture, structural elements are columns, bars, beams,
slabs or panels. The structural behaviour of these elements
depends on their geometry and the type of loading. For this
research project a beam was chosen as a structural element to
study on. A beam is preferred as it is a well known component
in structural engineering. Also all sorts of cardboard (i.e. solid
board, honeycomb board, corrugated board or tubes) can be
applied in the design of the beam, whereas columns or bars
are mostly performed in tubes.
Usually beams are made of steel, reinforced concrete or
wood. For these materials common types of beam prohles
exist. For cardboard, these prohles hrst have to be developed.
An appropriate cross-section has to be found which can be
build in cardboard and meet the structural demands of a
beam. However, it has to be mentioned that the design of
the beam is not main issue of this research project. In the
hrst instance it should answer the purpose to deliver an
appropriate structural component that can be simulated by
the computational model.
3.3. Computational modelling
Computational modelling facilitates the structural design as it
helps to simulate the structural response of a construction or
single component. Therefore a suitable constitutive material
model must be developed which describes the mechanical
behaviour of cardboard. Cardboard is a quite complex
material to model, as it is anisotropic, non-linear, viscoelastic
and hygroscopic. The resulting material model will be based
on sheet properties, and not go into the micro scale, thus hbre
properties and bond characteristics are not considered in the
model. Concerning structural behaviour of the components,
also geometric non-linearity must be integrated in the hnite
element model. As most of the cardboard structures consist
of paper or board layers, buckling and delamination is are
the main failure criterion. The computational model can be
verihed in comparing the predicted response and failure
mechanism with the actual response of the beams.
4. Mechanical Properties of Paper and Board
Paper or board is a disordered network of cellulose hbres. The
properties of the hbres and the bonding between the hbres
determine the mechanical behaviour of the sheet. These
characteristics are inhuenced by the choice of the raw material
and the papermaking operations. The mechanical behaviour
of paper thus depends on various factors and is inhuenced by
both network and hbre scale. All papers and cardboards differ
from each other unless they consist of the same raw material
and were produced in the same way. This makes paper and
board difhcult to standardize in mechanical point of view.
However, there are general tendencies and relations of the
properties of paper and board, without taking into account
hbre or bond parameters.
In general paper and cardboard is an inhomogeneous,
anisotropic, non-linear, viscoelastic and hygroscopic material.
The anisotropy is due to the manufacturing process. During
the forming and drying process the hbres align more in the
production direction (the machine direction [MD]), than in the
perpendicular direction (the cross-machine direction [CD]).
This has the consequence that in MD the paper or board
is stronger than in CD. The MD/CD-ratio, or the anisotropy,
depends on the hbre properties and production processes and
has thus no constant value.
Figure 3 shows typical stress-strain curves of paper in
tension and compression for MD and CD. The four different
curves indicate the anisotropy of paper. In MD the material is
stronger than in CD. In CD the board is less stiff, the strength
is lower and the deformation higher. Also a sheet of paper has
higher tensile strength than compression strength. The curves
show, except for tension in CD, a relatively brittle failure,
that means there is no signihcant plastic deformation before
breaking. In compression the nonlinear region is very short.
Furthermore in the paper industry the measured stress-strain
curves end at the maximum load. There has been hardly any
interest in measuring the post-peak and softening properties.
Post-peak behaviour, however, is important for an adequate
computational modelling as the model provides more precise
results when the residual load carrying capacity is included.
For the mechanical properties such as tensile and compressive
strength, ı, elastic modulus, E, maximum strain, İ, Poisson
ratio, nj, and shear modulus G, general proportions exist and
are collected in Table 1.
From the table it can be seen that most of the properties can
be derived from one single tensile test, if no more experimental
data is available. However, as the relations are still rather
vague and depend on the single paper it is always advisable
to do a complete test series for more specihc information.
Time and rate-dependent properties characterize cardboard
as a viscoelastic material. Creep is an increase of strain at a
constant stress level in time. The creep rate, ijcr, depends on
the type of cardboard, stress level, relative humidity and other
factors. Different papers exhibit different creep curves. Stress-
relaxation is the decrease of stress at a constant strain level.
Most of the stress decay is log linear with time. For both creep
and relaxation no reference values are provided.
The cellulose hbres make cardboard hygroscopic. That means
the moisture content of cardboard is related to the ambient
Fig. 3. Typical stress-strain
curves of a solid board for
tension and compression
in MD and CD
relative humidity, RH, and temperature. The moisture content
is highest in humid and cold conditions. When the moisture
level in paper increases the hbres soften and the hbre-bonds
loosen. As a consequence the stress-strain behaviour of
paper changes with moisture content. Increasing moisture
contents reduce the elastic modulus and the failure stress. At
23`C and a RH of S0¾ the moisture content in cardboard is
approximately 5%. At a relative humidity of 90% the moisture
content is around 14% and the stiffness and strength
properties decrease by 50%.
Table 1. General relations of paper and board mechanical properties
In component level the responses can be different than in
sheet level. The behaviour of the component is depending
on the paper properties, the adhesive and the geometry. In
general, however, for the design of a structural component
in cardboard it is important to consider the anisotropy while
placing the sheet, so that the MD veers towards the principle
stress direction of the component. Also load concentrations
should be avoided in the structural component, as the hbre
network of paper and board is very sensitive to point loads.
The viscous nature of paper and board have an inhuence
on the long-term behaviour of the structure and should be
considered in the construction and in the safety factor of
the material. Also it is very important that the cardboard
components are sufficiently impregnated and have no
unsealed areas, to avoid that humidity can penetrate in the
cardboard structures and decrease the mechanical behaviour.
In Table 2 the mechanical properties of common building
materials and cardboard are listed for com-parison. The list
shows that cardboard is of course not comparable to steel or
concrete, regarding the stiffness and the maximum strength,
but that it has similarities to wood. Wood is also anisotropic
material whereas wood is stronger in the grain direction but
has almost negligible properties in perpendicular direction.
The comparison shows that cardboard is a reasonable building
material in terms of mechanical properties.
The table also includes the outcome of the own tests
performed on a solid board with the grammage of 1050 g/
m2. The results are not further discussed in this paper but
can be found in publications
. This board was also used for
the construction of the preliminary cardboard beams in the
following section.
5. Design and Testing of Cardboard Beams
A beam is a structural element that carries load primarily in
bending due to vertical forces. Internally, a beam experience
compressive, tensile and shear stresses as a result of the loads
applied to it. Under vertical loads, in the middle of the span
the top of the beam is under compression while the bottom
of the beam is under tension. Shear stresses become more
crucial above the supports.
In order to develop an elaborate beam as a structural element
in cardboard, hrst preliminary beams have been built to study
the mechanical response of each prohle. The results of the
Table 2. Mechanical properties of common building materials
preliminary beams give indications for the later design of the
actual beam. Here the design and test results of four of the
preliminary cardboard beams are be presented.
All beams had a span of 2.75 m and were tested in a four-
point bending test (Picture 1). The requirement for the design
was to construct a beam only made of cardboard (solid board,
honeycomb, etc) and glue. The aim was to use the qualities of
the basic materials and to hnd a preferable design for a beam
with a good strength to weight relation.
5.1. Beam 1
For the construction of beam 1 only solid board was used. The
structure was a double !-prohle which was hlled with a zigzag
slat to prevent buckling of the web. The solid board was glued
together with wood glue. The connection between hange
and web was performed by toothing and glue. The overall
dimension of the section was 25x30 cm.
This beam could bear a maximum force of 6000 N. The top
hange showed large local deformation at the load transmission
points. This was because the layers in the hanges were
Fig. 4. Test setup for the four
point bending test of the
cardboard beams
not continuous all over the length of the beam. Hence the
stiffening effect of glued layers was missing and the layers in
the hange behaved like single sheets causing high deformation
and local buckling. The load-deformation response (Fig. 4) of
the beam was linear until the maximum load and showed a
unsteady, but non-brittle post-peak behaviour.
5.2. Beam 2
This construction was also built of solid board. The main
structure was a double !-beam were the hanges and the webs
consisted of several sheets glued together with wood glue.
The top hange counted 12 layers of board and the bottom
one 8 layers. The web was designed with 5 layers. The two
webs were stiffened by a triangle construction to prevent
early buckling. The hanges and the web were connected by
toothing without any additional glue. The overall dimension of
this beam was 30x15 cm.
Fig. 5-8. Cross section, local
buckling and total
buckling of beam
The maximum load of this beam was 10,000 N. The load-
deformation response was linear up to the maximum strength.
The failure occurred in the top hange and was due to pure
compression, as the top hange buckled in the middle of the
beam length. With further loading also the web started to
buckle in this zone. The load-deformation curve (Fig 5) also
shows clearly these two failures. The hrst peak belongs to the
buckling of the top hange and shows a signihcant decrease
of load capacity which increased again until the failure of the
web (second peak). This beam showed very good results,
and the design was clever and easy for manufacturing. Only
the overall dimension could be reduced to make the load/
slenderness relation more effective.
5.3. Beam 3
The main material of this beam was honeycomb board. The
beam had different cross-sections in side (Picture 11) and
middle part (Picture 12). In the compression zone of the beam
honeycomb boards were placed vertical in order to beneht
from the high compression strength of honeycomb structures.
Around the honeycomb structure solid board was glued in a
box shape. The bottom, the tensile zone, of the beam was
strengthened by extra layers of solid board. This beam was
designed to be smaller than the previous beam and had an
overall dimension of 25x15 cm.
Fig. 9-13. Cross-section, top and
side view and failure
of beam 2.
The maximum load of the beam was nearly 400 kg. The
load-deformation response (Fig 6) was linear until reaching
the maximum strength and showed a non-brittle and almost
ideal plastic post-peak behaviour. The beam showed buckling
on both sides of the beam underneath the load transmission.
Later examination of the beam showed that at these areas the
solid board delaminated from the honeycomb structure, but
also a crashing of the top horizontal placed honeycomb layer
in the compression zone (Picture 16).
5.4. Beam 4
As all the previous beams failed in the compression zone, a
beam was design with a tube in the upper part of the beam
as a compressive reinforcement. The rest of the construction
resembled beam 3 to have a clear comparison for the effect of
compressive reinforcement.
The maximum load of this beam was 600 kg. As expected the
beam could bear more compressive stress and started to crack
in the tension zone. After reaching the maximum strength the
crack mouth opened very fast and the beam immediately lost
strength. The load deformation response of this beam was
Fig. 14-19. Cross-section (side
middle held) and
failure of beam 3.
hence very brittle (Fig 7). After the crack opening the tube in
the top hange was exposed to bending and contributed to the
residual strength of the beam (Picture 19).
Fig. 20-22. Cross-section and
failure of beam 4.
5.5. Conclusion of preliminary beams
The results of the preliminary beams showed that the glued
connections are the weak parts of the structure. Especially
the connection between hange and web of the beams turned
out to be difhcult. All beams showed local buckling due to
elementary slenderness. The structural design should take the
buckling into account and minimize the free element length in
the compression zones.
Beam 4, with compression reinforcement, was 50% stronger
compared to the similar beam 3. Hence the compressive
reinforcement improved the load barring capacity of the beam
enormously. However, the reinforced beam showed brittle
failure, which should be avoided in construction as it gives
no warning in terms of cracks before failure. A good balance
between strengthening the compression zone and non-brittle
failure has to be found.
Regarding the dehection of the beams, all beams were not
very stiff and showed high deformations. These were due to
local buckling and deformation, but also because the basic
material did not have a signihcant stiffness (see test results
own test, Table 2). A stiffer beam can be obtained with a
higher modulus of elasticity of the basic material and higher
moment of inertia of the cross-section.
Nevertheless the prototypes showed, that cardboard is strong
enough to be used as a construction material and through
smart design and maybe in combination with other materials
it can be a preferable material to use.
6. Conclusion and Outlook
This research project deals with the fundamental research of
the material properties of cardboard. The mechanical and the
structural behaviour of cardboard sheets and components are
investigated and a computational model will be developed
as prediction tool. This research is essential for the further
development of `Cardboard in Architecture'. !t will give insight
in the material response and hence deliver indications for
design and technology development.
Concerning the progress of the project, the 3 solid boards are
tested at the moment. When the testing is hnalized, three
Fig. 23. Load-deformation curve of beam 1. Fig. 24. Load-deformation curve of beam 2.
Fig. 25. Load-deformation curve of beam 3.
Fig. 26. Load-deformation curve of beam 4.
design of the actual beam will be build and tested in small
scale of 1 meter and the best performing will be rebuilt in
large scale. Based on the results of the elementary testing
of the solid board the material model can be modulated and
The outline of the project is presented to give interested
people from the building or the paper industry an idea what
the research is about and open possibilities to cooperate.
As cardboard is still a new and undeveloped construction
material, the research area is still very wide. It is obvious
that the presented research project can not cover all essential
areas. Especially the areas for water and hre-resistance,
material improvement and development of connections have
to be investigated to make cardboard constructions common.
This research, thus, should be seen as a start-up project that
give indications for the design in mechanical point of view, and
motivation for further fundamental research on `Cardboard in
1 Verhoef, M. Paper Buildings – Onderzoek naar de mogelijkheden
van karton als bouwmateriaal. Graduate project, Building
Technology, Faculty of Architecture, TU Delft, The Netherlands,
2 van !ersel, T., Kartonnen Woonhuis, Graduate project, Building
Technology, Faculty of Architecture, TU Delft, The Netherlands,
3 Den Boon, M., Studie naar honingraat panelen van karton.
Graduate project, Building Technology, Faculty of Architecture,
TU Delft, The Netherlands, 2003.
4 Eekhout M., Cardboard: Technical Research and Developments
at TU Delft. (???)
5 Schönwälder J., Rots J.G., Veer F.A., Determination and
Modelling of Cardboard as a Building Material, Proceedings, 5th
International PhD Symposium in Civil Engineering, Delft, The
Netherlands, 2004.
6 Schönwälder J., Veer F.A., Rapid determination of creep
properties of paperboard using staircase loading tests,
Proceedings, Progress in Paper Physics Seminar, Trondheim,
7 veer F.A., Schönwalder J., Heidweiler A., Kuipers N. The creep
fatigue interaction in solid paper, Proceedings, 15th European
Confernce of Fracture (ECF15), Stockholm, 2004.
Cardboard in Architecture. M. Eekhout et al. (Eds.). IOS Press, 2008.
© 2008 The authors and IOS Press. All rights reserved.
The Cardboard Dome
as an Example of an Engineers Approach
Mick Eekhout
Designing is an incredible experience. Looking for new solutions
for posed problems challenges you to keep on improving yourself
and others. It is a continuous course of action: you will always
regard issues and situations with `designer-eyes', often resulting
in passion and enthusiasm.
The most energy for the development of the cardboard dome
was taken up by technical fundamental research. After 4 months
from scratch, a trustworthy cardboard technology with circular
tubes was established. This lead to a conventional engineered
dome using the state of the art dome technology. Humidity is still
one of the major problems of cardboard produced in the current
industrial manner. The tubes were partially prestressed to avoid
complicated bolted connections in this 3-way single layered dome
1. Designing is composing and inventing
Naturally, at Delft University of Technology technical ingenuity
scores high. The previous Chairman of the Board dr. Nico de
voogd intended to transform the TU Delft into a `research
driven university'. However, in the meantime the TU Delft
acknowledges design as a respectable activity. The dehnition
of design as a result of designing at the TU Delft is: “The
(technical) design is a record of principal and/or eventual
working method and/or shape of a technical and realistic
solution for a described problem". The Faculty of Architecture is
proud of its focus on design. A couple of dozen years ago, the
Faculty of Architecture in Delft and the Faculty of Architecture
in Eindhoven agreed that Delft would focus on the design
process, whereas Eindhoven would focus on the realisation
process. Well-known Dutch architects like Jo Coenen, Sjoerd
Soeters, Rudy Uytenhaak and Frank Wintermans were all
educated as architects in Eindhoven and therefore seem to be
lost and an exception to this rule.
What signihes design at the Faculty of Architecture and more
Fig. 1. The position of the
designer is located
between the composer
and the inventor
specihc in the Nasters Building Technology? What exactly is
design? A precise and comprehensive dehnition is nowhere
to be found. So let us considers design from different points
of view:
x Functional: The goal of design at the faculty of
Architecture is a material solution by inventing an
architectural composition for a posed architectural
x Composition: Design is composing parts into
a larger whole (artefact). Architectural design
is composing elements and components into a
material artefact. Depending on the three levels this
could be: city planning, a building or components of
the building.
x Artistic: Design is creating an original spatial
composition. The material and immaterial means
are usually familiar; the position of matter in space
transforms a building into a piece of applied art.
x Technical: Design is inventing and ingeniously
developing new material elements, components,
systems and products for city planning/architecture/
building technology and the integration of those
parts into an artefact.
x Process: Design is the process of analysis,
synthesis and development starting with a problem
statement and ending in a material solution.
x Philosophical: Design is seeking an optimal
compromise between ambiguous demands and
x Economical: Design is seeking a balance
between demand, formulated in many wishes and
requirements and supply of a possible technical
execution with the required hnancial means.
Every designer will describe design in a different manner.
! will try it from my point of view, the chair of `Product
Development'. !n a convention about design methodology
in 1998
I have described design as: “The applied technical
design is an original, ingenious and material solution for a
technical problem, acquired by means of an efhcient process
of making decisions from initiative until execution".
Ever since my hrst day at the Faculty of Architecture ! have
been interested in design as a collection of activities with a
path-breaking result. Novelty is at top of the list. Not only
for yourself (which is quite common when you're a student
and still learning) or for the national group of architects
and technical designers towards a patented world-novelty.
Novelty for yourself, your friends, the Dutch scene and the
world are entirely different concepts. These environments
could be compared to arenas with different rules of the game
and different rewards. Confusing these arenas can cause
disillusion. If you, for example, admire your heroes and even
identify yourself with them, you skip several arenas and an
unnecessary confusing identihcation arises with unavoidably a
big disappointment and a qualitative goal and recognition that
will never be attained.
Design with a path-breaking result is in many cases just a
`fata morgana' if the designer gets trapped in dichotomous
demands and desires, as a result of which only a meagre
compromise can be achieved. Design is often seeking the
best compromise. Young and ambitious architects, who
primarily strive to attain the maximum amount of novelty in
their design and at the same time enhance their own fame
(as an archetype: Erick van Egeraat), have their own idea
of the concept of compromise. They have to win design
competitions. You cannot win those competitions if you blindly
obey all dichotomous demands and desires. The design should
have something bold, exceptional, and reckless in order to be
noticed by the jury of the competition. So a certain balance
between character and compromise is necessary. Character to
be noticed and compromise to fulhl most of the demands of
the client.
I take pleasure in composing as an interpretation of design
(which is essential and unavoidable for architects) but from
my hrst design sketches as a student at the Faculty of
Architecture I feel more like an inventor. My previous senior
lecturer Jan van der Woord, one of my mentors in my hrst year
(1968f1969) still remembers that. !n my hrst year of study
! already designed glass hbre reinforced polyester shell-like
walls and roofs for a gatekeepers building at the Calvé factory,
which was an exciting technical adventure. Recently I have
designed GRP shells again with a huge span (30 meters) on a
core of foam for architect Moshe Safdie from Boston, which is
described in another article.
I alternate between composing and inventing. But I get the
most pleasure from inventing, maybe because so few people
can do it. I consider myself more as an inventor-architect than
as a composer-architect. In that respect I would be called an
architect-engineer in Belgium.
In the city-hall of the Frisian town of Bolsward (build between
1614-1619) a text on the entrance portal of the council room
says ¨geijnventeert", which is a 17
century reference to the
entanglement of the notion of invention and design. Nothing
new under the sun. Perhaps the Ecole de Beaux Arts stressed
composing too much two centuries ago, as a result of which
the word ¨ijnventeren" moved to the background. !n any case,
the technological designers we educate in the department of
Building Technology should be able to become designer-
Many inventions can only come to existence by prompt but
most of all in-depth and methodical work without the fear
of failure. That kind of design is more scientihc compared to
the more artistic component that composing possesses. This
process of design should be transparent, so it can be verihed,
for yourself or your team, so you can discuss it and make the
right decisions at crucial moments. Design as a science is hard
to achieve, whereas composing primarily requires intuitive
decisions. Scientihc design can be achieved in some cases
and in other cases a part of the entire design and engineering
process can be recognized. !n the `Koninklijke Nederlandse
Fig. 3. Hoisting of one of the
roofs for the Yitzhak
Rabin Center, Tel Aviv,
Fig. 2. The hve GRP roofs of the
Yitzhak Rabin Center, Tel
Aviv, Israel
Akademie van Wetenschappen' (Royal Netherlands Academy
of Arts 8 Sciences) ! will hrst substantiate scientihc design to
subsequently gain understanding for design as a process of
Many Dutch architects argue that a composer should be
creative but doesn't necessarily has to be an inventor, since
and inventor is a technician. Just like a composer doesn't
have to invent music-notes in order to make a composition,
an architect doesn't have to invent materials (`music-notes')
or constructions (`music-bar') in order to make a good design.
Composing alone is already enough. The attitude of Dutch
architect Jan Benthem is derived of this position: take smart
materials and systems that have already proven their quality
and reliability and subsequently use them to compose with.
That attitude resulted in a respectable portfolio.
But there are also architects who see it as their job to design,
research and develop the means (elements, components,
systems, products) with which they shape their buildings
according to their design. The interest of these architects is
both focusing on innovation in architecture and in technology.
They are focused on both the development of material means
to build, as composing a surprising artefact into a building.
These designers position themselves both at the producers-
side as the consumer-side of technology. Think of British
high-tech architects, Renzo Piano and Santiago Calatrava for
example. In the past decade Piano and Calatrava received
an honorary doctorate at the TU Delft and were therefore
acknowledged for their professional quality in Delft.
Fig. 5. City Hall of Bolsward, The
Fig. 4. Plate explaining the word

inside the
City Hall of Bolsward
Fig. 6. `Trippenhuis' in
Amsterdam, where
the Royal Netherlands
Academy of Arts &
Sciences is housed.
2. Inventing and composing in cardboard
This lengthy introduction was necessary in order to
comprehend the backgrounds of the designers of the
cardboard IJburg dome: Shigeru Ban and Mick Eekhout. Both
of them are used to invent and compose: to research and
design, research by design and design by research.
When I was a student (1968-1973), prof. Dick Dicke proposed
to design a structural system with a hctive material possessing
the most diverse properties you could possibly think of. This
could have been `gingerbread' for all ! care, but you had to
hgure out to make some sort of construction with it. The aim
of the exercise was of course to appreciate the properties
of materials without thinking in rigid patters. When Walter
Spangenberg (ABT) called me for the hrst time about this
project, I immediately thought of considering cardboard as a
sort of gingerbread. I was eager to start working on a material
I never would have considered myself. I had absolutely no
experience with cardboard construction nor did I posses any
prejudice. Shigeru Ban had already realized several projects
in cardboard.
For the Dutch cardboard industry – thinking primarily of
increasing their own market – it was evident that several
steps had to be taken in the held of fundamental research
and development in order to establish new applications. The
adventure started in the held of architecture. We hrst had to
think of new systems. Therefore it was necessary to expand
the cardboard industry. This expansion and foundation
occurred by more fundamental research concerning the
relation between strength/moisture, elasticity modulus,
buckling and bending strength. Only after this process of
investigation and research was completed, we could think of
new structural systems and experimentally developed them,
so new applications could be designed.
3. The cardboard dome design
Japanese architect Shigeru Ban was responsible for the design
of the Japanese pavilion at the World Exhibition in Hannover
2000. The structure consisted out of long cardboard tubes that
were bend over each other. Jeanette van der Steen attended
a lecture of Ban at the NAi (Dutch Architecture Institute) and
got fascinated by his designs. She asked him to design a
temporary dome for her theatre group on the island of IJburg,
near Amsterdam. In the fall of 2002 Ban made a design
Fig. 7-8. Schiphol Airport,
designed by Benthem
& Crouwel Architects
Fig. 9. Centre Pompidou, Paris.
Designed by Richard
Rogers and Renzo Piano
Fig. 10. Centre Culturel Tjibaou,
New Caledonia.
Designed by Renzo
consisting out of a 16-frequent icosahedron in the tradition
of Richard Buckminster Fuller. An icosahedron consists out 20
regular equilateral trianhulated surfaces: a complete sphere
is built up out of 20 regular triangles, which were applied 5
times in this spherical roof. Later on I will further address this.
Dr. Peter Huybers of Civil Engineering TU Delft has published
many studies on this subject. The shape of the dome (span
versus height with folded edges) is identical to the 60 meters
span Aviodome on Schiphol Airport and the Toyotadome in
Raamsdonkveer. Compared to recent experiences with `huid
design' of Octatube, this dome was a reasonably easy, nearly
historic design. Time hies by. Blob design and engineering also
contaminates ordinary structures.
Ban's design went through a violent process to gather
sufhcient sponsoring from the side of Groep van Steen. At
the same time a thorough material research project and
material development on part of Octatube, the chair of
Product Development TU Delft and also the research & design
group `Cardboard' of prof. Fons verheijen was involved.
Ban was represented by Wouter Klinkenbijl. Despite earlier
experiences of Ban in construction with cardboard, this type
of cardboard use seemed to surpass the available amount of
knowledge when issues are involved like tensions and weight
load. The sporadic available technical data form Japan were
dehnitely insufhcient to make an independent, engineer's
judgement about the behaviour of cardboard as a structural
material. Despite repeated requests it seemed impossible to
acquire structural data from design teams and contractors
who participated in the construction of the Japanese pavilion
in Hannover (the municipality of Hannover, Buro Happold,
cardboard supplier Sonoco and architect Ban). In Stuttgart
1998 I heard my colleague prof.dr. Jörgen Schlaich proclaim:
Fig. 11. Aquadrom in Bremen
(50m span), Germany
Fig. 12. Dome of Nationale
Nederlanden building
(30m span) in
The Hague, The
¨Es ist nichts Neues das Wissen vergeht" but only after two
years this seemed rather fast.
Therefore for this design in cardboard all material data had
to be determined from our own research. In November 2002
the development was initiated. This included the process of
material research based on tests in the Laboratory of Product
Development (PO-lab) and Octatube on the Rotterdamseweg
200, Delft and a process of material design: determining the
exact geometry, tube lengths, node detailing and so on. In
this case research and design could be described as a split: far
apart, yet inhuencing each other.
In November and December 2002 numerous cardboard tubes,
supplied by Dutch companies, were tested in the PO-lab. The
results of this research were compared with the required load
from the construction analysis, which was executed several
times and sent in by computer in the mean time. Again
and again the results of practical tests proved to be utterly
disappointing. The tubes already cracked at the diagonal
seams at a minor load. But the horizontally wrapped tubes
weren't that much stronger either. The utilised glue proved
Fig. 13. Japanese Pavillion
during the World
Exhibition in Hannover.
Designed by Shigeru
Ban Architects
Fig. 14. Japanese Pavillion
during the World
Exhibition in Hannover.
to be the decisive factor in construction use of cardboard. On
a Boosting meeting in December 2002, colleague designer
Friso Kramer suggested me to utilize a melamine composite
to reinforce the cardboard, instead of using the inferior glue.
A clever idea, yet this would make recycling of the cardboard
impossible. After two months of research and a long period
of waiting for new tubes from the Dutch cardboard industry,
we were still not convinced of the feasibility of the cardboard
tubes for this dome design. In the end the German company
Sonoco was able to supply us with cardboard tubes that
were 40% stronger than all other tubes previously tested.
This extra strength was primarily achieved by the use of
new instead of recycled paper; a learning stage for the entire
cardboard industry. Of course the tested tubes are developed
for packaging and not for construction.
The hnal design process that followed the design of Shigeru
Ban, was executed at Octatube under my strict supervision.
The initial divisions of Ban's dome were based on a 16-
frequecy subdivision. Because I have designed over 30
domes worldwide – all in steel and aluminium – I know what
repetition factors mean. Consequently I proposed to reduce
the frequency from 16 to 8, or even 6. The number of tubes
could be reduced to a quarter or even less. Ban, however,
seemed to be in love with cardboard: the more the better. This
was opposed to my minimalist principles including the cost
efhciency. But Jeanette van der Steen honoured the original
design despite the fact that costs would increase if the dome
would be realized in its original design.
A different issue concerned the edges at the bottom of the
dome. The circumference of the dome would have 5 arches
with a height of 1.5 meters; too little to walk underneath and
use as an entrance. In that phase I proposed to deform the
geometry and assign a height of 2,5 meters to the edge arch.
This way the `feet' could rest on the foundation plates and
assure a good accessibility. Subsequently a deformation came
to existence with a regular geometry derived of an icosahedron.
We could make a `rubber banding' intervention and design an
alternative geometry with the help of computers. A slight
BLOB edge to it one could say. Nowadays it is quite easy with
contemporary computers, but in the days of Buckminster
Fuller a similar deformation would be impossible. Ban was
relentless; this proposition was no good for him. It was
decided to stick to the original geometry and to build 5 corner
Fig. 15. Close-ups of a hrst
detail using bolted
connections before
tensile testing
Fig. 16. Close-ups of a hrst
detail using bolted
connections before
tensile testing
nodes on 5 elevated tetrahedron-shaped supports.
4. Cardboard Engineering
By e-mail several discussions arose between cardboard lover
Ban and metal-tiger Eekhout about several aspects of the
design, including the design of the node. Twenty years ago
I developed a useful node for an aluminium dome in Jeddah
that was covered with a double membrane and transparent
insulation. With the help of this node it was possible to
connect the bars and the tent membrane that could be hxed
and stressed. Ban kept stressing a wood-hlled node, probably
due to a Japanese tradition. The next design of the dome
was based on a compromise: Ban determined the geometry
with a relatively short tube-length (a 10-frequent dome) and
Eekhout determined the detailing.
The detail existed out of a steel head on both ends of the tube
with a hat protuberant tab to hx it to the nodes. Connection
tests proved the weakness of cardboard at the transverse
screws and bolts. In Hannover Ban did not use screws because
the tubes crossed each other. Because the IJburgdome is
composed out of different shorter tubes and not continuous
tubes, the geometry is dehned by the nodes.
Just like metal space structures the devilish idea arose: “Why
would you shorten a factory-produced tube of 6 meters to
let's say 1.S meters, to eventually come back to 6 again?"
Of course the answer is: utilising continuous tubes eventually
results in tubes that have to cross each other. The structural
engineers prefer an axial connection. Nonetheless, the design
would have gained a better cost-efhciency. Yet Ban vetoed this
proposal again. !n the hnal budget, the costs for steel were +
times higher than for cardboard! Ban's Hannover pavilion had
continuous tubes, but the tubes were only loaded to a tension
of 25% compared to the IJburgdome. The limitations of the
current state of technology concerning the use of cardboard in
construction are notably increased because of this.
Fig. 17. Cardboard pressure test
with the `Sonoco tubes'
Fig. 18. Result of pressure test
with the `Sonoco tubes'
(Fmax: 154kN)
Fig. 19. Original design of the
dome by the architect,
Shigeru Ban. A 16-
frequency icosahedron.
5. Production and Installation of the
cardboard dome
On the 1
of April 2003, after 5 months of researching
cardboard as a structural material, only 5 weeks were left
before the opening. The client had built a house of cards
of numerous sponsors. That particular day the biggest
sponsor (the VSB fund for culture) cancelled. Other sponsors
threatened to leave the project since they only wished to
participate on a co-sponsor basis: the house of cards was
about to collapse.
The dehcit was CS0.000,-. !n a telephone conversation, while
driving to Belgium, I proposed to split the shortage in three
(Group van der Steen, Municipality of Utrecht and Octatube).
This created three risk-bearing parties that all had a clear
arranged risk. The following Monday it was decided to start
production immediately.
6. Final Detailing
The last test concerning the type of connection between the
tube ends and the heads of the node showed that bolted
connections, screws and steel pins – all based on the principle
of shear force - work highly inefhcient when applied to
cardboard. Using glue is also out of the issue since it will only
connect the inner layer of paper and will therefore easily lead
to collapse. This is exactly the same for threaded connections.
Dot-shaped connections should be avoided in these kind of
cardboard constructions with high loads.
One of Octatube's structural engineers, Luis Weber, introduced
the idea to apply a steel tensile rod within the cardboard tubes.
Pressure is locked up in between two steel head-plates. The
tensile rod deals with tension. In the factory the two galvanized
steel heads were twisted in two right-threaded props with a
10mm stainless steel thread and manually pre-stressed. True
and high pre-tension cannot be applied: it would not work
considering the sensitivity for creep of cardboard.
The cardboard tubes (180mm diameter and wall thickness
20mm) were hxed with steel head-ends 100mm within the
tubes and connected to a star-shaped node with the help
of two vertically aligned bolts in order to acquire a moment-
stiff node. The star-shaped node consists of six steel plates
welded on a round steel tube. The threads of the membrane-
Fig. 20. Dome with Octatube
nodes in Jeddah, Saudi-
Fig. 21. Close-up of the
Octatube nodes used in
connection in the star-shaped node can be adjusted in height
in this arrangement. The edges of the dome consist of steel
!PE220 prohles that are folded side-ways, but the heart of the
body is placed in the axial plane of the dome bars. The IPE-
prohle has steel tabs on the outer shell to tense the membrane
that is placed over the tubes; protecting the cardboard form
the water. The hve folded edge-prohles are to be placed on
tetrahedrons: stabile corner columns with outward and side-
way supports. All steel tubes are bolted down with steel plates
on the concrete foundation slabs.
7. Shop Drawings and Production
After the 1
of April 2003 a majority of the total engineering
department of Octatube had been occupied for two weeks,
making the final design, production drawings, element
drawings, cutting lengths for the cardboard, the erection
drawings and the anchor drawings for the foundation slabs.
The steel parts were subsequently sawn, drilled, twisted, hxed
and welded in small lots and sent to the galvanisation plant.
The cardboard tubes were perfectly sawn by Sonoco. The
Fig. 22. Drawings of the 10-
frequency dome as it
was executed, made by
cardboard was treated with varnish on its outer shell, the cut
ends and 100mm inwards in order to cope with small amounts
of moisture.
The galvanized tube ends had to be slightly smoothened by
hand, since they couldn't ht the chuffs. All parts of the dome
were coded to simplify the erection process. There were 18
different types of nodes and tubes in 18 different lengths. The
membrane was engineered by Rogier Houtman of Tentech
Delft (a small engineering company in the Silicon Valley of the
TU Delft) and produced by Buitink in Duiven. The membrane
was a sand-coloured PVC coated polyester fabric. The
assembly of the membrane took place with the help of small
dishes on threaded rods directly trough the centre of the nods.
The whole htted exactly as planned and the membrane was
spanned by twisting the threaded ends underneath the dome,
so the dishes were pushed outwards (and subsequently
stressing the membrane).
8. Assembly
Initially we intended to repeat a successful assembly method
that was used 20 years ago by Octatube for an onion-shaped
dome in Singapore right next to a mosque. A temporary mast
was used to hoist the hrst ring, then the second, third etc.
This made it possible to assemble the whole dome from the
We chose for a different kind of montage because of the
relatively high dead weight of this dome (20kg/m
to 10kg/m
for steel and aluminium domes). On top of it,
because of the rain, we required sails to cover (the assembled
dome parts) and 5 supports with wind bracing. The build-up
started from an elevated location of 5 supports on a container,
tightened with leashes and gradually building outwards and
This build-up took place directly next to the definitive
construction site. At the same time the concrete foundation
slabs were placed, the anchor-holes measured, drilled and 5
tetrahedrons were built up with bent IPE beams. Days before
hoisting the dome to its hnal position, the 7
of May, the lower
ring was assembled with bars on a steel circular beam. As a
precaution the dome was hoisted with 15 cables to prevent
peak-tensions in the structure.
Fig. 23. Final detail of the
connection nodes.
Top view.
Fig. 24. Final detail of the
connection nodes.
Section AA' (Fig. 23.)
9. Humidity
Already during the research it was clear that next to creep,
relative humidity also inhuenced the strength of the cardboard
tubes. Therefore we decided to seal off the tube ends with a
layer of varnish. But what is the inhuence of rain? !f it rains
during the assembly, water could drip towards the tube ends
and eventually get sucked inwards. A capillary effect between
the steel shaft and the cardboard is not very unlikely either.
The hrst week of the assembly it was beautiful dry weather,
but the second week was very uncertain: rain and hard wind
gusts. There was virtually no other choice than wrapping every
individual tube with package foil or covering the hnished part
of the dome with a covering sail. We chose for the last option,
but it seemed like covering the hnished parts took as long as
assembling the nodes and the bars. However, the result was
a dome with dry bars. And the hnish is certainly that of a
cardboard dome.
10. Future Transportation
In the Summer of 2003 the dome was disassembled and in
Spring 2004 it was transported to Leidscherijn (near Utrecht)
as an exhibition space. Disassembly, assembly and eventual
protection against moisture are depending on the weather
conditions again.
A fast solution could have been to double the number of 5
central ribs. This way the dome could have been disassembled
in 5 triangular parts and transported on three trailers to the
shore of the nearby Amsterdam-Rijnkanaal, then on a ship
to Utrecht, 2 kilometres over land, to be assembled in
Leidscherijn again. But to double the number of ribs was
out of issue for the architect, who preferred a more even
character for the surface of the dome. This way the dome has
to be taken down in smaller parts or bars and nodes in order
to be build-up again.
The transportation of the dome when assembled (20 tons of
weight excluding the steel !PE's, 26 meters wide, 9 meters
high) is virtually impossible, but still an appealing option that
was discussed during the design stage. The construction
within the steel edges is rigid enough to be transported.
Fig. 26. Assembly of the dome:
connection nodes are
bolted to the tube ends.
Fig. 25. Assembly of the dome:
a covering sail to keep
the bars as dry as
11. Conclusion
Constructing and assembling the cardboard dome turned out
to be a relatively easy task compared to the experiences in the
current turbulent Blob-era. All parts of the architectural and
structural design, choice of materials, component drawings,
material research, production, assembly, disassembly and
rebuilding were already hgured out in the stage of design.
A professionally executed design process is the secret of this
type of structural task. Design, development and research
were integrated to enhance the current affairs of technology.
By publishing the results of our knowledge, ability and insight,
it is possible to generate a far larger dispersal area. A mission
of the Chair of Product Development.
Fig. 27-30. Build-up of the
cardboard dome on
IJburg, Amsterdam
Fig. 34. The cardboard dome in
Leidscherijn, Utrecht
Fig. 31-33. Build-up of the
cardboard dome on
IJburg, Amsterdam.
Octatube Space Structures BV (
1 Mick Eekhout, Inleiding tot de ontwerpmethodologie,
Symposium Ontwerpmethodologie TU Delft 28 mei 1998, TU
Delft, 1998, ISBN 90-5269-255-6
2 Octatube Space Structures, Research Report for the Cardboard
Dome in IJburg, internal publication, Delft, 2003
3 Matilda McQuaid, Shigeru Ban, Phaidon, London, 2003, ISBN 0-
+ Buckminster Fuller, Critical Path, Grifhn, London, 2002 (originally
published in 1981), ISBN 0-3121-7491-8
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Cardboard in Architecture. M. Eekhout et al. (Eds.). IOS Press, 2008.
© 2008 The authors and IOS Press. All rights reserved.
Cardboard research at TU Delft started to take form at the
initiative of prof.Fons Verheijen of the Chair of Architectural
Engineering He aimed with his usual enthousiasm at a real
cardboard pavilion which was opened at the occasion of the
symposium of january 2006. In the meantime researcher Julia
Schönwälder had done research for some years already. But
fundamental statical research is not very suited for publication
on a popular scale. The accelaration brought into this research
around the 2006 pavilion sometimes was doubted by the
scientihc staff as it seemed to be too much directed to the
public. However, both approaches: fundamental technical
research and application design illustrated the both extremes
of a balanced total research project. Teh central domain
of Technology has to be elaborated on as well. The future
cardboard research offers an overall covering of Fundamental
Research, Technology Development and Application Design.
At the moment of writing this epilogue (september 2006) the
application direction of Cardboard research is under discussion,
but very likely to be focussed on housing. In emergency housing
and detached housing both sound insulation and hre proohng
are not bitter adversaries. It will no doubt end in Cardboard
Concept Houses. Industry and society look favorably into this
direction as there are many potential applications all over the
world due to the unfortunate conseqenses of men-made wars
and natural disasters. The follow-up of the technical outcome
of the entire research would be `only' a matter of politics and
logistics, but understood to be a held of study of its own,
where may be the help of the Rotterdam Erasmus University
should be pursued. TU Delft is happy to contribute at the
level of scientihc design, development and research to solve
important society problems.
Prof.dr. Mick Eekhout
Nestor Research Building Technology
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Cardboard in Architecture. M. Eekhout et al. (Eds.). IOS Press, 2008.
© 2008 The authors and IOS Press. All rights reserved.
Author Details
Mick Eekhout
Chair of Product Development / Nestor Research Building Technology
Delft University of Technology, Faculty of Architecture, The Netherlands
Director Octatube Space Structures BV, Delft, The Netherlands
Elise van Dooren
Chair of Architectural Engineering, Delft University of Technology,
Faculty of Architecture, The Netherlands
Fons Verheijen
Chair of Architectural Engineering, Delft University of Technology,
Faculty of Architecture, The Netherlands
Director vvKH Architecten, Leiden, The Netherlands
Peter Gentenaar
Graphic designer, sculptor, paper artist
Cees van Kranenburg
Delft University of Technology, Faculty of Architecture, The Netherlands
Fred Veer
Delft University of Technology, Faculty of Architecture, The Netherlands
Taco van Iersel
Delft University of Technology, Faculty of Architecture, The Netherlands
vvKH Architecten, Leiden
Helen Gribbon
Associate Director in Buro Happold's Nanchester ofhce, United Kingdom
Florian Foerster
Freelance Senior Structural Engineer in Buro Happold´s Berlin ofhce, Germany