Resource-Based Design Research Lab (RBDR/Lab)
Institution: Texas A&M University
Department: Department of Architecture
About the lab
Dr. Ali is the founder and director of the Resource-Based Design Research Lab at Texas A&M University. The lab is dedicated to research and develop solutions for building components and assemblies made from the waste flow and by-products from industrial manufacturers. The lab partners with the United States Business Council for Sustainable Development (US BCSD), the industry and other research institutions in cross-disciplinary collaborations to design and assess new forms of architecture and products. Dr. Ali is currently leading an applied research project with General Motors (GM) and Zahner Metal to design building envelopes and roofing systems from GM sheet metal by-products.
Featured projects (1)
Defining the role of design and architecture in the circular economy paradigm
Featured research (15)
The emerging concept of Industrial Symbiosis (IS) is becoming an important strategy to achieving goals of the circular economy paradigm shift. In this interdisciplinary study between academia and the industry, large and consistent volumes of predictably sized waste prompt sheet metals obtained from standard stamping and blanking processes at the automotive industry during production of automobile bodies were used to design and fabricate planters in a custom-designed modular living wall system (MLWS) which was installed as a retrofit on an existing building façade. This study is the second part of an attempt to foster IS between the automotive and building and construction industries through creative architectural reuse of these automotive by-products and waste-flows for more sustainable MLWS. Experimental data from field observations of a case study were used to calibrate 24-hour simulations of four seasons in ENVI-met. Life cycle analyses were carried out using Tally a Revit plug-in and United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Waste Reduction Model. Results showed that the MLWS has a promising cooling effect on the brick building façade when compared to bare brick surface. Applying reuse strategy in IS could reduce heat islands, greenhouse gas emissions and energy from conventional recycling practices of prompt metal.
The aim of this study was to determine if local or regional native plants might be suitable for use on a custom living wall system (LWS) located in a humid subtropical climate. Nineteen taxa of plants native to the ecoregion or adjacent ecoregions were installed into 297 custom-designed modules fabricated from galvanized sheet metal by-products. This study reports plant survival and health ratings of 75 plants installed in May 2018 and 240 in May 2019. Evaluations taken in September and December of 2019 report that mean health ratings of all plants ranged from 1-5 with mean values of 3.6 to 3.68. Survivability rates ranged from 79% to 100% for 7 species of succulents, 53% to 186% for the 11 species of herbaceous perennials, and 100% for the one species of grass. Planting by location of the upper wall or lower had some, but minimal effect on plant survival. Through this study, we observed that plant selection should correspond with LWS goals regarding maintenance requirements, wall appearance, and the watering needs of plants. This study reports baseline data for the establishment of native plant taxa and plant diversity on a living wall system in a humid subtropical climate.
This paper seeks to introduce a novel approach in salvaging the urban realm through exploring ways in which design can extrapolate the use and the value of consistent industrial by- products, mainly from the automobile industry. The research begins with a need to conserve materials and energy with a focus on adding value by design. In this paper, a speculative design work and comparative analysis have been conducted. The method begins with the analysis of automobile by- product materials, observations of procurement of new material and analysis of proposed designs of automobile body manufacturing. The goal of the study is to transform the linear approach in making building components, in par- ticular, building exterior metal skins and cladding systems, to a closed-loop approach, which ensures multi-dimen- sional economic, social, and environmental benefits. The study introduces a novel approach in initiating a symbiosis between non-hazardous automobile waste and the building and construction industry. In particular, creating building skin systems from by-product galvanized sheet metal from the automobile industry. The results are expected to change the focus of the current waste management practices in the manufacturing industry from conventional recycling to creative reuse.
Matrix Trays are single-use plastic carriers used to transport integrated chips and circuit board components during automated test and assembly processes for Printed Circuit Boards. These trays represent a significant yet consistent waste stream; primarily in the electronics industry and many other industries that integrate microchips into their products especially the automotive industry. By the end of 2017, the National Sword Policy which was implemented by China on plastic waste import from other countries and especially the United States catalyzed a huge crisis and forced manufacturers and companies to deal with their own plastic waste streams. This study presents two alternative approaches of reusing trays to the reduced conventional recycling practices which have caused used trays to remain in storage or be deposited in landfills. Approaches including a students’ design competition and a proof of concept case study for an autonomous shading device are presented. The shading device was designed, tested and validated. Trays were transformed from waste into 13 possible products showing that a circular economy and industrial symbiosis can be achieved by integrating multidisciplinary reuse approaches for by-product reuse and sustainable industry practices. Environmental and economic impacts were evaluated comparing reuse to recycling, combustion and landfilling. The results showed that reusing trays reduces energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
This paper provides a serious attempt to build a compelling case, arguing for a new materialism paradigm shift based on structuring a synergistic workflow between the automobile and the building industries. Although the transfer of technology between the two industries has seen an unprecedented increase in the last ten years primarily in robotics technologies and digital fabrication methods, the very basic fundamental aspects of materials supply-chain, fabrication processes, and waste-flow optimization have been overlooked by the design community. The story of making the stamped-aluminum skin of the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA) building in Pittsburgh (the site of the Material Frontier call discourse) reveals a profound similar synergy between the Pullman company and the building design. The emerging opportunities from such a cross disciplined engagement in materials investigations allows for an informative design process that influences the fabrication territories of both industries. As such, this paper introduces a new methodology in transforming the consistent sized waste-flow of metals from the automobile industry to the building industry addressing an untapped opportunity in design within a time-sensitive circular economy paradigm. The paper presents a thorough review of the ALCOA building design and fabrication processes then introduce a speculative built case study illustrating the conversion from the conceptual to the applied through a series of tactile exterminations.
- Department of Architecture
About Ahmed Kamal Ali
- Dr. Ali’s research and scholarship investigate the relationship between the architecture of waste and the constructive technique, within materials and methods of conventional practice. His work in integrated design and construction mechanics explores the threshold between architecture, structure and tectonics. He is an active advocate for recourse-based design build, design for dis-assembly, adaptive reuse and traditional construction methods.