2017 - Current | Doctoral Research

Project-based Robotic Timber Construction

Hans Jakob Wagner

Project-based Robotic Timber Construction

A framework for the integrative co-evolution of building- and automation systems in computational wood construction

The renewed interest in robotic fabrication in architecture that started at the beginning of the 21st century is based on the adaptive usability of industrial robot arms for various fabrication processes. Although this notion proofed successful for the work in international design research laboratories, fundamental questions of how these technologies could be integrated within the industry emerge.

This work sets out to investigate suitable frameworks for the broad implementation of integrative design computation and robotic fabrication in timber construction and critically reviews current trends in industry and research. Existing frameworks, that are mostly converted from advanced manufacturing automation, assume that buildings should be managed as ‘products’ to enable the implementation of advanced technologies. Although this would allow for consistent reuse of technological developments across multiple buildings, such frameworks are only applicable to a niche of the construction industry, that offer consistent functional requirements and boundary conditions.

The core hypothesis of this work is, that for the successful embedding of advanced building design computation and construction automation, a technology management framework needs to be devised that preemptively assumes that each building project is fundamentally unique in both its design as well as production modalities. This opens up corresponding research questions of how the development of design computation methods as well as robotic fabrication technologies can be reused across projects in such a scenario.

The chosen research method follows an inductive approach, in which strategies for project-based robotic construction are first tested through a large-scale demonstrator building, the BUGA Wood Pavilion. They are subsequently evaluated, extended and refined in order to conceptualize a cohesive ontological framework that describes the basic actors, components and relationships for the broad implementation of such approach within the industry.

The aim of the dissertation is to demonstrate the applicability of project-based robotic timber construction through (1) the development of a flexible and transportable robotic timber construction platform, (2) novel computational design methods for the management and reciprocal coordination of design and fabrication planning and (3) through the theoretical contextualization of flexible automation technologies in construction and their relationship to developments in manufacturing.


ICD Institute for Computational Design and Construction, University of Stuttgart

Hans Jakob Wagner, Prof. A. Menges


State of Baden-Wuerttemberg

EFRE European Union

German Research Foundation


Wagner, H. J., Groenewolt, A., Alvarez, M., Menges, A.: 2020, Towards Digital Automation Flexibility in Large-Scale Timber Construction: Integrative Robotic Prefabrication and Co-Design of the BUGA Wood Pavilion, Construction Robotics, Springer, 2020. (https://doi.org/10.1007/s41693-020-00038-5)

Wagner, H. J., Alvarez, M., Bhiri, Z., Buck, M., Menges, A.: 2020, Flexible and transportable robotic timber construction platform – TIM, Automation in Construction, Volume 120, December 2020. (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.autcon.2020.103400)

Wagner, H. J., Aicher, S., Balange, L., Basalla, U., Schwieger, V., Menges, A.: 2021, Qualities of the Unique: Accuracy- and Process-Controll in Project-based Robotic Timber Construction, in Proceedings of the World Conference in Timber Engineering, Santiago di Chile, Chile (accepted)

Wagner, H. J., Chai, H., Guo, Z., Menges, A., Yuan, P. F.: 2020, Towards an On-Site Fabrication System for Bespoke, Unlimited and Monolithic Timber Slabs (Poster), Workshop on Building Construction and Architecture Robotics, International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), Las Vegas (USA)

Contact Information

This picture showsHans Jakob Wagner
M.Sc. ITECH (Dist.), B.Sc. (Arch.)

Hans Jakob Wagner

Research Associate

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