Inspired from the efficiency of pizza boxes, the Expand-a-Panel System [EPS] reduces abundant construction wastes of material, money, and time. Using Digital Fabrication and Computer Numerical Controlled [CNC] machinery, the EPS panels are fabricated with minimal material waste while allowing for a simple assembly using precise components. These components are also designed for disassembly and reuse for future structures. Additionally, the EPS’s form merits high structural strength and unique directional views while also providing shading from the sun.

The EPS challenges current building practices by reducing material waste, monetary waste, and the waste of time. The material of study for this project is plywood. Plywood is made up of a series of plies which are sliced on a rotary lathe. This process yields less material waste than the process of quarter-sawing lumber. Building upon the inherent properties of plywood, the EPS uses CNC machines to manufacture the panels. The concept of “nesting” allows several designed elements to fit within a stock sheet size. The EPS has a “zig-zagging” alternating pattern which allows panels to expand from a single sheet of plywood without added fasteners. The efficient alternating pattern of the EPS paired with nesting reduces material, time, and money wastes.

A study was projected to compare the EPS to traditional light-frame construction. This study used a predetermined 750 s/f floor plan and applied traditional framing and the EPS to it. The stick-built structure cost $1,716 using eight-foot tall sheathed 2x6 members for structural walls, and 2x4 members for non-structural walls. The EPS structure cost $1,129 using ten-foot tall assembled panels, which are sheathed and fabricated from 30 half-inch thick Fir plywood sheets. The stick-built structure weighed 8, 731 pounds compared to the EPS’s 3,325 pounds. In this study, it was proven that the EPS not only reduces material waste, but saves money as well.

The Expand-a-Panel uses a series of tiers, which stack, to create load bearing walls. Each tiered panel has “end clips” that lock into a horizontal plate’s registered slots. These structural clips provide an easy assembly without the use of additional fasteners. Each horizontal plate has an additional series of clips which attaches sheathing or rigid insulation to the structure. The EPS can be disassembled as easily as it can be assembled by releasing the clips, allowing flat panels for transportation. An EPS wall is composed of expanded panels, and horizontal plates. The plates and panels attach to form conduit chases, which allow pipes, wires, and the like to easily be installed and maintained. Openings, such as windows and doors, can be achieved by subtracting panels or sheathing from the assembly.

The structural strength of the EPS is derived from its simple yet intelligent form. While under compression, the panels transfer loads to the horizontal plates. The horizontal plates then distribute loads throughout all of the panels, allowing equilibrium of stresses. This reaction makes the EPS strong for compressive and lateral loads without the need of structural sheathing. Standard framing requires structural sheathing and fasteners to bear loads. The EPS does not require structural sheathing for load bearing conditions. Additionally, in natural disasters [for example earthquakes] the EPS is superior to standard practices because its form is flexible allowing for give. In addition to withstanding natural disasters the EPS has a high potential for easily transportable, strong, and quickly built relief structures after such disasters.

The Expanded Panels, when stretched, create a series of openings which provide directional views as well as the possibility of sustainable solar protection. The panels can be designed for a specific purpose of filtering light by positioning the panels between glazings while allowing the expanded panels to block the harsh sunlight. Directional views are also controlled by positioning the panels in a similar way. The EPS also has the ability to be applied beyond wall construction. Different patterns and shapes can be introduced to form tunnels, hallways, roofs, or other accentuated aspects. Also, the EPS’s materiality is not limited to wood. Other materials such as metals, plastics, and composites could be tested for production. However, wood is an appealing renewable resource that is affordable and efficient.