Jin Young Song

University at Buffalo & Dioinno Architecture PLLC

SIMS (Snap-Interlock Module System)

In 1953, Konrad Wachsmann imagined a single, universal structural element which, if mass produced, could be used in building construction for every conceivable purpose. More than 60 years after his notion of a modular, coordination-based system, building structures are still based on the Dom-ino system (1914), or steel-based post and beam system, with conventional bolt/weld connection. Even after significant development in digital and manufacturing technologies, we are currently adding new subcomponents to this primary building system. Current smart fabrication techniques, with advanced digital design tools, allow us to revisit Wachsmann’s holistic approach for a unit-based ‘part to whole’ system.

SIMS (Snap-Interlock Module System) is a structural module prototype based on the elastic instability of steel, distributing forces through its unique stacked and interlocked configuration. One module has four hooked legs on the top and bottom and snaps into four legs from four adjacent modules. The five modules are interlocked as one unit, where individual steel modules are braced with each other. Finite element analysis shows the elastic nature of the steel modules and confirms structural integrity for building scale. The module can be industrially produced as cast or cut assemblies, while the internal opening and thickness of the module can be adjusted to provide the strength and stiffness. A middle part of the module can be modified to allow specified angles and form a curved geometry.

The snap-interlock stacking is easily executed by a single worker. Two arch-shaped prototypes have been built, using 3D printed modules, that exhibit how the system can achieve limited geometric freedom. Further structural analysis, and new interpretation, will be necessary to demonstrate how this ‘part to whole’ system can be applied to the building structure, facade, substructure, architectural partition walls, and more.

Project Architect: Jin Young Song

Fabrication Manager: Dan Vrana

Structure Analysis: Jongmin Shim, Xiangdong He

Student Researcher: Michael Gac

Structure Consultant: Bonghwan Kim