Working High and Low

We utilize lowly materials in highly sophisticated design applications. We use high-tech equipment and software to generate work that can be produced through low-tech and low-impact means. We develop processes that are complex and responsive yet have low resistance in the market place. We want to lower barriers so the highest number of designers and users can benefit from our work. We listen. We observe. We collaborate. We work high and low. 

HiLo Lab @ SALA

The UBC SALA HiLo Lab is an academic research lab working at the intersection of materials research, ecology, and the use of novel technologies in architectural applications. The lab’s mission centres on three interrelated ideas –the use of second stream materials in construction, building greater access to digital design and fabrication processes, and the design and application of energy efficient methods for construction that eliminate waste. More precisely, we are driven to generate sophisticated yet widely accessible tool sets and strategies for efficiently and sustainably building using low-impact materials and techniques. It is no longer sufficient for fabrication methods to simply address predetermined formal and financial logics. The responsive open city must be a place where the relationship between design production and fabrication is as fluid as the abstract manipulation of form and space.


Our Approach

“Tell me what kind of food you eat, and I’ll tell you what kind of man you are.”

– Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin


With his oft paraphrased statement, Brillat-Savarin means to remind us that our choices about consumption define us as individuals and a culture. If this is true, one could also argue that the generation of consumables and the by-products of their consumption are equally defining. These byproducts extend to our equipment, our garbage, our exhaust, and ultimately to our individual and communal waste footprints. HiLo Lab’s strategy is to de-stigmatize material waste, see it as a raw material capable of being useful and beautiful, and then build with it using sophisticated software, tools, and techniques.

The HiLo Lab’s work focuses on three main areas:

Materials Research helps us understand the properties and potentials of materials that are being transformed. We are interested in understanding materials as resource, cultural artifact, assembly, and future waste. Our research includes wood, plastics, fabrics, and concrete.

Tools Research on analog, mechanical, and digital tools (including software) allows us to propose and develop more efficient methods for producing, transporting, and assembling architectural elements.  We strive to empower designers by providing new tool sets that positively impact the built environment and how its made. We are also driven to make digital tools more accessable to all individuals.

Design Research includes the development of techniques that allow designers to effectively use waste materials in their own designs and fabrication processes. This includes designing digital interfaces and software useful for design visualization and controlling tools.

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Support and Thanks

Thank You! 

SALA’s HiLo Lab thanks Eco Waste for its ongoing support of our work.
We also acknowledge the Foundation for the Carolinas for their generous donation to the lab.


Get Involved

SALA’s HiLo Lab welcomes financial and material contributions. Our research is resource intensive and we rely on your support to achieve our goals. Donations will be used to support student researchers, purchase select project related equipment and materials, and to secure a permanent lab space. Your help is greatly appreciated.
Thank you.

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