Geometry for Sustainability: VAULTED's Visionary Approach to Circular Construction

The ETH spin-off VAULTED AG was quietly founded in 2023. The founders, Prof. Dr. Philippe Block, Dr. Tom Van Mele and Dr. Francesco Ranaudo, want to offer the highest-quality prefabricated floor solutions for circular construction with VAULTED. This is all done with a strict geometry. Dr. Francesco Ranaudo talks in an interview about the great interest in the still young company.

What kind of service does VAULTED offer?

VAULTED designs and delivers circular structural floor solutions, covering everything from engineering consulting services to the manufacturing of bespoke prefabricated floor structures. Our flagship product, the Rippmann Floor System (RFS), is a prefabricated funicular concrete floor that can achieve reductions up to a 70% in mass, 90% in steel use, and 80% in equivalent carbon emissions compared to conventional concrete floors. The RFS is a 'system', meaning it can be configured to meet specific structural and architectural needs of any project.

How big is your team currently and which expertises do you have within your team?

Our team is small but mighty! Currently, we are a team of four, with plans to grow to six full-time employees by the end of the year. Together, we offer expertise in advanced structural engineering, computational design, and digital fabrication of optimized prefabricated components.

You work according to the BRG guiding principle "Strength through geometry". What does that mean exactly?

‘Strength through geometry’ refers to harnessing strength and stability from the meaningful geometric design of structures, rather than from merely over-engineering materials. This principle was central to the design of marvels such as Roman bridges and Gothic cathedrals. Today, advances in computational design have made its application easier and more precise. We apply this principle in the design of the RFS and it is reflected in the very name of our company.

You produce bespoke prefabricated floors designed to promote sustainability, reduce carbon footprint, and optimise construction while ensuring maximum functionality and durability. This sounds like a dream. How do you plan to bring this groundbreaking technology to businesses?

We don’t just plan—we are already doing it! In just one year since our incorporation, we have commissions for over 10,000 sqm of the Rippmann Floor System in Switzerland alone. This success is due not only to the performance of our products but also to our specific approach to design: we internally solve all the complexities typically associated with the implementation of new technologies, so that other stakeholders don’t have to alter their usual business practices. For example, our floors are designed to not require special equipment on-site or specialized workforce, allowing any contractor to install them easily, quickly, and safely. We apply this principle at every stage, from design to prefabrication to installation.

Fig7 RFS Creatower Matteri Gabriele 1024x768

Fully tested, one-to-one mockup for the CreaTower I project in Zug, Switzerland. Picture by Gabriele Mattei

Which market do you target?

Our entry market is Switzerland, where we have established a strong network along the entire value chain. We are planning to expand soon to neighboring countries, where we are already working on a few projects. It is important to note, however, that our technology can accommodate any structural building code, making it easily adaptable to other markets as well.

What about the production? Where do you produce the floors?

Producing prefabricated elements at scale is challenging and requires specific expertise and infrastructure. To ensure the highest quality, we collaborate with established prefabrication partners, delivering top-tier floors tailored to each project. By delivering the formwork and specifying the materials for our floors, we control the quality of the products and we ensure that our demanding sustainability targets are always met.

Can you tell more about the material that you use?

Another core principle of the BRG is what we call 'material effectiveness,' which means using each material where it is most effective. Our floors are designed to be in a compression-only state under the applied load, making concrete the natural choice of material. However, by optimizing the flow of forces within the structure, we can use concrete mixes with a much lower cement content that are far more sustainable than the conventional high-strength concrete typically used in prefabrication. Additionally, thanks to the peculiar design of our floors, we are able to keep concrete (in compression) and steel (in tension) separate. This separation of materials makes our products easy to assembly, disassembly, reuse, and eventually recycle,

You have already received a lot of interest since the company was founded. Why do people contact you?

There is a growing demand in the construction market for sustainable solutions that extend beyond merely reducing carbon emissions to actively promoting a circular economy. Our offerings satisfy all these requirements. Additionally, we have established a reputation for consistently delivering on time and with the highest quality.

What would you like to see for VAULTED in the next five years?

I expect VAULTED to become a central player and an example in the sustainable construction market. We will soon introduce a comprehensive family of floor solutions for residential, office, and other applications. As we continue to grow, we will keep refining our products over time. Additionally, we plan to expand our services and provide software that enables architects, engineers, and developers to easily incorporate our solutions into their projects. Exciting times are indeed ahead!

You are already working on a commercial project and have more in the pipeline. Can you tell us what you will be working on in the near future?

We are actively engaged in several projects, each at different stages of design. The first to break ground is expected to be CreaTower I, a 10-storey office building designed by Gigon/Guyer Architects located within the Tech Cluster Zug area in Switzerland under the supervision of Urban Assets Zug AG, with construction scheduled for 2025. For this project, we are delivering over 6,800 sqm of the Rippmann Floor System. We are also involved in the design of other office buildings, a car park, and a school, and we plan to soon enter the residential market.

Visit VAULTEDs Website: https://www.vaulted-floors.com/

Connect with VAULTED on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/vaulted-floors