Structural Efficiency Classification System
S.E.C.S.    by tte

a new metric for building structures

exposing 90% potential material savings

El desarrollo de este proyecto está confinanciado por el Fondo Europeo de Desarrollo Regional en el marco del programa operativo FEDER Galicia 2014-2020 a través de una subvención para el fomento de la participación gallega en el Programa marco de investigación e innovación de la Unión Europea (Horizon 2020).
The development of this project has been co-financed by the European Fund for Regional Development within the operational framework: FEDER Galicia 2014-2020 through a Grant for the promotion of Galician entries to the Research and Innovation program framework of the European Union (Horizon 2020)

Initially based on these very intuitive principles, the "Structural Efficiency Classification System" have bee taking shape over the last 18 years. Finally in late 2018, the first parametric approach to the theoretical optimal structural design for buildings was collated, enabling in full the methodology and proving how current buildings hardly achieve 4% material structural efficiency. The Structural Efficiency Classification System (or S.E.C.S. for short) works similarly to the Energy Efficiency Measurement, but applied to the structural material use in building structures: It quantitatively compares any real design to its equivalent theoretical optimum, obtaining a ratio representative of its 'level of optimization'.

Tracing a parallelism to energy efficiency, current building structures are like incandescent light bulbs: as soon as its efficiency was measured, it was clear that new technologies had to be developed. Now LED has replaced incandescent, that has been already banned from most developed countries.

The S.E.C.S. has demonstrated potential material savings over 90% from current designs & methods of construction, then it becomes paramount we start measuring structural efficiency: 90% material savings in building structures equal:

- Recover 45% of all natural environments destroyed to extract natural resources from earth.
- Reduce the concrete use by 67% worldwide (current buildings are behind 75% of all concrete produced nowadays)
- Reduce de embodied carbon in buildings by 45% (i.e.90% of the 50% due to the structure)
- Reduce the mass (and weight) of buildings by 73% i.e. translating in massive reaductions in heavy transport.

S.E.C.S. endorsers and support received

We knew the task ahead would need collaboration among all construction stakeholders, something that have been reassured through the variety and importance of our supporters in this quest: architects, engineers, contractors, green building rating schemes, universities and public bodies from all across Europe make up this selected group of pioneers we have on our side. Your commitment to sustainability will not be forgotten down the line.

The volume of support achieved is incredible, considering the initiative is still doing baby steps and our communication campaigns haven't really started yet. Among all our endorsers, we add up about 28% of the Green Building market worldwide, over 170,000 people's workforce and well above € 17,000 million revenue.

To those companies more conservative, I must say: our doors will always be open for you. The mammoth task ahead of us will welcome any help, whatever the size or the kind.

Among those organisations supporting our request of European R&D funds, we are allowed to mention:
- Architectural practices like: M-A-M Architecture (ES) and tp bennett (UK)
- top-20 international engineering consultants like: Ramboll UK
- Public bodies committed to Innovation and Sustainability like: GAIN - Galician Agency for Innovation (ES)
Some of the unanimous positive feedback the project has received so far:
"It makes total sense to go down a parallel path to energy efficiency certification, and the industry would benefit from this to help drive more consideration of carbon impact from a structural perspective. It is very much in keeping with the Ramboll mission, and I am keen that we support it." Mat MacNab, Ramboll UK Innovation and Excellence Director
"The paper demonstrates well that a unified assessment method is required [...] The ambition to update the method over time is excellent." Elsevier's specialist reviewer #1
"This is the kind of research and approach to building design which I believe can result in deep changes in architectural sustainability" Dushko Bogunovich, Adjunct Professor, Architecture, Auckland University NZ
"Your proposal could represent a significant opportunity to improve the sustainability of the construction industry and the way that buildings are designed." Chris Webb, Head of Sustainability and Environmental Management at tp bennet Architects
"You treat design optimization as a whole in many aspects and this is the right approach to get optimal solutions for practical designs" Tomasz Sokol and Tomasz Lewinski, Proffesors at Warsaw University of Technology
"Loved your quantitative approach to constraint the theoretical optimum" Jaime Cervera, Professor at Polythechnic University, Madrid
"Congrats to the great paper! Way to go! I'm in full support and hope we'll hear more of this in the future!" Martin Rettinger, Researcher at Technische Universität Berlin

history and next steps

Since Galileo, engineers and scientist have been researching on structural optima. However, the gap between theory and praxis could not be bridged until now.

tte´s Technical Director Quisco Mena started this research project as a personal quest almost 20 years ago, but it wasn´t until he founded think tank engineering that he could focus on its development, as part of the `R&D first` company principle.

It´s been a long journey, from the original concept through research, hypotheses, approach, development, initial tests, first results... until the official publication of the methodology in March 2020:

`Towards a Structural Efficiency Classification System´

The S.E.C.S. not only provides insights of the structural design, it also informs about the impact of the chosen site in the structural material consumption and more importantly, in the appropriateness of the architectural imprint, efficiency-wise.

We are currently awaiting response from the European Commission Horizon2020 - EIC Accelerator programme, regarding the R&D Grant we requested to tackle the final stage of development, and deliver the necessary software tools to architects and engineers to incorporate the Structural Efficiency into their design process and decission making.