The Palm Arms


Palm trees are angiosperms, which means flowering plants. They are monocots which means their seeds produce a single, leaf-like cotyledon when they sprout. This makes palms closely related to grasses and bamboo.

Palm Tree
Components of Palm Trees
Growth and Decay
Palm Growth and Decay Process
Palm Tree Information
Palm Tree Information

Mimicking the Geometry

This mature palm shows how the pattern originally seen in the young plant, forms a distinct mathematic pattern known as ‘Phyllotaxis’. This is a pattern with reoccurs throughout nature and is based on the Fibonacci sequence. In order to try to understand the use and formation of the palm fibre, the overall formation of the palm stem needed to be mathematically explored.

However, redrawing the cross-section of the base of the palm plants allows a better understanding of the arrangement of the palm plant.

Frond Arrangement
Palm Frond Arrangement

This exercise allows models to be made to recreate the patterns found in palm plants. By engineering plywood components, the basic shape of the palm geometry can be made into a physical model.

Palm Base Model
Re-creating Palm Base

This was pushed further by curving the plywood components to make extruded palm structure models

Palm Structure Model
Extended Palm Structure Model
Palm Structure Model
Three-Dimensional Palm Model

The arrayed components can then be altered so that the base of the models form regular polygon shapes. Doing this allows the potential for the structures to be tesselated. Using different numbers of components mean the structure can then be tested for strength.

Tessellation Models
Tessellation Models

Palm Wine

There are hundreds of used for palm fruits, this the plant producing materials which range from durable, to flexible to edible. One of the more interesting ones if the production of palm wine using the sap from the tree. Within 2 hours of the wine tapping process, the wine may reach up to 4%, by the following day the palm wine will become over fermented. Some prefer to drink the beverage at this point due to the higher alcohol content. The wine immediately begins fermenting, both from natural yeast in the air and from the remnants of wine left in the containers to add flavour. Ogogoro described a ‘local gin’, is a much stronger spirit made from Raffia palm tree sap. After extraction, the sap is boiled to form steam, which is then condensed and collected for consumption. Ogogoro is not synthetic ethanol but it is tapped from a natural source and then distilled.

To understand the fermentation process more clear, the process of fermenting sugar to make wine has been undertaken.

Palm wine tasting
Testing Palm Wine

Alternative Fuel

The distillation of the wine can be used to make bio-ethanol. This production of this fuel can act as a sustainable alternative to fossil fuel energy, which is overused and damaging to our environment.

How Much Energy?

Future Proposal

The developed structure, as well as the production of palm wine and bio-ethanol, can be collaborated to develop a programme, which provides sustainable energy, within a space that is inviting and exciting.

The production of bio-fuel releases a lot of carbon dioxide. In order to ensure the process does not impact the environment, this needs to occur inside a closed system, so the CO2 does not enter the atmosphere. This can be done by using the properties of a Solar Updraft Tower. Carbon dioxide released from the fermentation and distillation processes can be received by palm trees for increased photosynthesis, while the excess oxygen from the trees provides fresh air for visitors.


Solar Updraft Tower Implementation
Form 01 – Solar Updraft Tower Implementation


The fermentation process can be controlled within an isolated area of the model.

Fermentation Implementation
Form 02 – Fermentation Implementation


The Distillation process, which requires a store of water for cooling, can also be conducted in an isolated area of the model, with apparatus incorporated into the structure.

Distillation Implementation
Form 03 – Distillation Implementation


The final proposal will be a combination of all three forms




The aim of this project was to develop a sustainable building system, which uses repetition and symmetry to produce a large scale structure. To begin the development process, inspiration was taken from crystal structures to form a panel system with an infinite array.

A rectangular lattice can be simply formed by slotting together regular panels. By interchanging the direction of alternate panels, a continuous standing structure can be formed.

Furthermore, investigating the different possible scales the panel systems can be used for, and the dimensions which would be needed to achieve different forms, lead to the exploration of using different sized panels in the same system.

To design a system which works in many different scales, it become prudent, the test the system with a variety of plywood.

Plywood tests for every possible combination of plywood thickness between 0.8mm to 18mm were conducted, with the intention to design a proposal where the plywood thickness to increase with size of each panels.

For precision to be achieve, a laser cutter and CNC machine are required. This lead to the discovery of some rules:

  • Laser cutting plywood is restricted for use on 0.8mm, 1.5mm and 4mm thickness.
  • The 3mm drill bit on in CNC cutter, is limited to cut plywood sheets with thickness of 9mm, or smaller.
  • The 6mm drill bit on in CNC cutter, is limited to cut gaps, no smaller than 6.1mm and sheets with thickness no greater than 9mm.

Plywood connection test results20190123_193819

To scale up the system even further, the use of Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) has been explored.

In construction, CLT is prefabricated to fit together making to very easy to construct, therefore very time efficient. Similarly, the panel system being designed requires these properties.


In order to increase the stability of the overall system, a panel which fits in the z-axis, has been introduced to the system. This is achieved by extending a further slot in the panel on the x-axis, for the new panel can be slotted in without, changing how the system previously fit together.

Additionally, this third panel will then rest on the panels directly below it, to create a ‘floor’ level.

Addition of z-axis (floor) panel

Following the plywood tolerance tests, a slightly differing system for panels to slot together has been develop, to work for the more delicate, thinner plywood. The result is a lattice structure which, seems to be work effectively as a grille, or light filtering device, and therefore would work well positioned at a high level in the final proposal.

Roof system

The process of construction the large scale model included time using the laser cutter and CNC machine, as well as many manual construction hours. The entire process lasted approximately 10 days, including the preparation of files to upload to the cutting machines.

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The result is a large (2.3m tall, 1.8mm width and depth), made entirely of timber panels which intercept each other to form an arrayed construction using repeated elements, with no additional fixtures required. The structure was built to allow uses to enter into it the look above to the roof system.

full model