Aldrin James Gaffud

MIT Department: Architecture
Faculty Mentor: Prof. Caitlin Mueller
Undergraduate Institution: University of Florida
Website: LinkedIn
Research Poster


My name is Aldrin James Barbosa Gaffud (they/them/theirs), and I was born in the Philippines. As a rising senior at the University of Florida, I am completing a dual degree in Architecture and Civil Engineering. Passionate about social activism, diversity, equity, and inclusivity (DEI) efforts, sustainability, and self-perception, I explore architecture’s ability to impact civilizations. I hope to do this as a researcher, as a designer, and as a future professor. I also aspire to design solutions for improving infrastructure in marginalized communities. When I’m not focused on academia, I play volleyball, dance, and consume queer media. I also have a passion for people and learning about their lived experiences.

2021 Abstract

Structural Upcycling of Trees: Applying Traditional Joinery Mechanics to Digital Design with Tree Forks

Aldrin James Gaffud1, 2 and Caitlin Mueller3, 4
1 School of Architecture, University of Florida
2 Department of Civil and Coastal Engineering, University of Florida
3 Department of Architecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
4 Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Tree forks are an underutilized element in the timber industry due to their variability and complex milling needs. In recent work, tree forks have been studied for their low environmental and economic cost in conjunction with their natural ability to perform well structurally. However, the question of how to mechanically join them with each other or other timber elements to create large structures, especially in a scalable, standardized manner, remains unanswered. This research focuses on engineering the traditional splice joint, a type of scarf joint, as a parametric connection mechanism to be used for complex structures built with irregular tree forks. The scarf joint was common in historical boat design and used to lengthen wooden boards and other timber elements when they were cut too short. Due to the joint’s geometric symmetry as well as the congruency between the connecting elements facilitating its fabrication, it is a compelling connection mechanism for modern structures made with nonstandard elements. In this research, the splice joint is explored in three ways. First, this research mathematically models the joint to predict its loading capacities. Second, the joint is digitally modeled in a CAD environment and parameterized using four design variables of structural relevance. Third, reclaimed tree branches are used to fabricate these connections to be tested in three-point bending. In future work, these experimental results will be compared to the original predicted structural capacities of the mathematical models. By expanding knowledge about the structural potential of scarf joints applied to tree forks, this work contributes to the movement towards environmental responsibility in architecture and engineering.