At the ILEK the term "lightweight construction" means foil-, fabric-, mesh-, cable- and bar-structures using synthetic, metallic and natural materials. This includes for example tents, pneumatic structures, cable nets, steel domes, grid domes, Y-supports as permanent or temporary installations for either stationary, versatile or mobile use. The fields of competence at the ILEK include the design, the formfinding, the construction, the patterning, the structural behavior as well as experiments and computer-based methods. The procedures and principles of form generation for objects and structures in nature and technics are examined and further developed.
Graded materials possess characteristics which undergo a fluid transition in a component. They allow for the material characteristics to be defined locally within a structural element according to the existing requirements. Parameters to be manipulated are the porosity, the fibre contents and alignment, as well as the composition of different materials. In the near future graded materials will contribute to the efficient use of materials in building and add the concept of form generation suitable for the respective material to the idea of optimization.
Research in this field focuses on the development and manufacture of lightweight fibre reinforced synthetics and on applications for these materials in architecture. These elements are to be used in multi-layer textile building envelopes and window frames. In addition to the extraordinary mechanical/physical aspects to be mastered the main objectives are functionality, sustainability, aesthetics and, last but not least, economics.