During the American Institute of Architects (AIA) show, April 27-29 in Orlando, the American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA) held its fourth annual Composites Pavilion. The pavilion was an opportunity for architects, engineers and designers to learn about the value of FRP products in architectural applications from ACMA and many members of its Architectural Division.

Architecture is a rapidly growing market for ACMA members, and each year ACMA’s Architectural Division works to create opportunities in architecture through the development of standards and other educational events. This year’s Composites Central, at the heart of the pavilion, featured 16 presentations from eight speakers on a wide variety of topics including durability, restoration, thermal break construction, structural insulated panels, and translucent FRP.

The pavilion also featured the second annual Composites Challenge, coordinated by David Riebe of Windsor Fiberglass. The challenge asked architectural students working in teams to develop a unique composite architectural/building component or assembly. Contest judges were looking for the students’ designs to push the limits of architecture beyond the traditional cladding and secondary components currently identified within the International Building Code. Last year’s contest yielded a number of amazing designs, and this year’s students raised the bar even higher.

This year’s winning design, “MANIFOLD,” came from Clemson University. The design deviated from traditional mold-making methods by applying folding techniques that capitalize on fiberglass composites’ flexible textile qualities to create a complex and structural full-scale column.

“The ACMA Composites Challenge was an excellent opportunity for all,” said Joseph Choma, Assistant Professor, Clemson University. “It began with industry leaders sharing their expertise, and ended with students and faculty sharing their design research investigations. The reciprocal dialogue between industry and academia energized the explorations – knowing that what we do could contribute to advancements in composites manufacturing for architectural applications.”

Two teams from the University of Southern California tied for second place. One group designed “The Incubator,” which is a proposed extension of the university’s Marshall School of Business. The Incubator is a modular structure with composite panels designed to allow daylighting throughout the building to create an open environment for students. The other group from USC is also a proposed design for a satellite campus for the Marshall School of Business, known as “Plug N’ Play.” As the team explains, the site faces challenges of constrained accessibility for construction, poor daylighting, a narrow floorplate, and strict building regulations. Composites help overcome these challenges and serve as a viable replacement for steel.