The LIGHTVAN

The Master track of Building Technology at the TU Delft provides students with many interesting courses in which not only a design is desired, but also the fabrication is demanded. Because of this, students learn to think further than only creating a design by exploring fabrication methodologies and functioning details. Also, a solid planning and the creation of a efficient working order for seven people was crucial in this course. The Bucky Lab Course provides the expertise in the name of tutor Marcel Bilow and also the necessary tools and explanation by Festool. Put this all together in a big warehouse during the two ‘building weeks’ and amazing results can be achieved.

I participated in the course over the final months of 2014 and had final presentations in February 2015. During this semester, there was a special product to be created for a group of only seven students which was entitled: ‘The LIGHTVAN project’. Besides me, the team was given shape by students with many different nationalities, such as Italian, Chinese and even a Pakistani. Our assignment was to transform a second hand Mercedes Sprinter into a professional mobile light laboratory which could be used by the 3TU Bouw initiative for research regarding the admittance of light.

Firstly, we created a new design for the appearance of the van which was eventually applied by an external company during the building weeks. Apart from that, we converted the back of the van into a laboratory by designing and building an entire storage unit, a workplace, a diffuse white interior, artificial lighting in a new ceiling and a docking system for placing different facade mock-ups in the back opening of the truck. Everything had to be designed so that the van would still be able to travel safely and therefore, it was essential that it could be changed from laboratory to travel-safe very fast.

The storage unit was completely made from wood and smartly uses the space above the cabin for an optimal volume of space. The top cabinets can be rolled out completely to make it user friendly and a bottom door can be used as a pillar for the hinged desk. One of the cabinets holds the electric system in which the van can be connected to the grid which enables the artificial lighting and the heating system to work. Power sockets are also provided to enable working with laptops or other electric equipment. Safety during transport is provided by a locking system for all cabinets.

The diffuse white interior has been created by mounting roller blinds to the ceiling plates. This way, white sheets can easily be rolled down for lab-work whereas they can be rapidly stored for traveling. Another advantage of this is that the sheets stay nicely white and can easily be changed for another color or material if necessary. The new ceiling finishes the white interior and is assembled by screwing wooden ribs to the inner steel beams going from side to side. On these beams, a secondary grid of beams is added to allow for some space above the ceiling plates for wiring and to create enough points to transfer the loads. Finally, the wooden ceiling plates are applied to cover the entire area. The squared lighting box was added in the middle and a final white paint job finished this part of the project.

Finally, a docking system was made to hold different sizes of facade panels. A permanent wooden U-frame was screwed into the existing steel structure and enabled further possibilities for mounting different passepartouts as can be seen on the pictures above. The mounting of these passepartouts and also the test objects is done by clamps which can slide in incorporated rails. The entire docking system is mounted by nuts, bolts and clamps and is therefore very flexible and manageable.

The final result and the road towards it can be seen in the pictures above. Also, I’ve made a Time-Lapse during the building weeks which can be seen here.