The parts of this holiday home outside Copenhagen came straight from a rapid-prototyping machine.

Danish architects Frederik Agdrup and Nicholas Bjørndal partnered with London-based Facit Homes to design the house with digital software, then fabricate the wood parts using a CNC milling machine. The parts snapped together for easy assembly.

Construction took just six weeks.

Each part is light enough for two men to carry, which meant that the house could be built without the use of cranes or other heavy machinery.

The house doesn’t have a standard concrete foundation. Instead, it floats 1 foot off the ground thanks to 28 screw piles, inserted 12 to 20 feet into the earth.

The architects now plan to offer similar on-site, digitally fabricated houses to the public.


An Entire House That You Snap Together, Like A Toy

The house, built from sustainable wood and made using digital software, is a kit of parts that took just six weeks to construct.

Hunting for a new house? Soon, you can yank one right out of a machine.

A pair of Danish architects partnered with Facit homes, a London-based digital fabrication and architecture specialist, to construct a two-bedroom house out of parts produced in a rapid-prototyping machine. The 1,250-square-foot Villa Asserbo—named for the small Danish town 50 kilometers outside of Copenhagen, where the house sits—was built from 400 Forest Stewardship Council-certified Nordic plywood components designed in digital software, fabricated using a CNC miller, then snapped together (each part came with a number for easy assembly). All told, the house took just six weeks to build and cost $300,000.

The benefit of the technique is that it cuts back on many of the environmentally unsustainable practices of standard residential construction. "No component of the construction is heavier than two men are able to carry… and the house can be built without the use of cranes or heavy machinery," says Frederik Agdrup who designed the house with, and for, his colleague Nicholas Bjørndal. Additionally, the villa does not rest on a resource-intensive concrete foundation. Instead, it has 28 screw piles, inserted 12 to 20 feet into the earth, and as a result, floats 1 foot off the ground. The whole thing can be disassembled and recycled quickly, allowing the site to return to its original state, they say.

The biggest challenge was what Agdrup calls "tolerance": "the fact that we were building one large piece of 'furniture’ with millimeter digital precision opposed to the fact that the building is placed in 'living nature’ and built with human hands with a lesser degree of precision," he writes in an email.

This is not the world’s first attempt at rapid-prototyping a house. Just recently, a USC researcher announced that he was trying to build a house, layer by layer, using a 3-D printer. But for the moment, Villa Asserbo might offer the most practical model. Whereas the USC project requires an enormous, highly specialized printer that can’t exactly be lugged from one place to the next, Villa Asserbo can be repeated in various permutations anywhere you find CNC milling machines (they are relatively common nowadays) and plentiful wood. The next step, the architects say, is to offer on-site, digitally fabricated houses to the public.

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  • Troy Leistiko

    Were the screw piles installed by hand as well?  Do you have more info on the screw piles?

  • Mark Shoalts

    $300K for 1250 sq. ft.,
    no service space (basement?) and this level of finish would be a pretty tough
    sell in any market. Nice flooring, but I’m not wild about the
    wallpaper.  Another example of something that really only happened because someone with money allowed someone with an idea to play, but no one will buy one or live in one.

  • Timmyherrig

    Exactly. $300 is an outrageous construction cost. And what are the R-values? If not at least 20 in the sidewalls and 30 in the ceiling, this is a throwback to tar-paper shacks.

  • Locnar

     Holy cow, you read my mind...that's $240 sq/ft. w/out a foundation pour, let alone a basement as you pointed out. Also, $300 K and recycled quickly? Just saw a youtube video yesterday of someone using material pour layering to build a 2 story structure. Unfortunately it was in another language, but ingenious nonetheless. I'm not sure how it stands up against internationally accepted building codes though.

  • Sarpyu

    How much would it cost, with wood and CNC milling machines included in the price?

  • Suzanne LaBarre

    Hi, Sarpyu--

    Just updated the post to answer your question. It was $300,000. Thanks for reading!


  • Simon Kwan

    I'd love for this experiment to evolve into a customizable house design and component manufacturing brand, where consumers use apps on their tablets and other devices to customize their houses starting from a set of templates. I also wonder how many other components of a house could be manufactured using other rapid prototyping methods, using different materials, and integrated into the modular panels to further ease construction? Imagine plumbing and wiring that are pre-integrated into the structure and are connected by lockable joints through the various major panels of the house? Same goes for the HVAC system.

  • ergodesk

    Toy, is the key word here, absorbs smells and burns real nice. Try and get that passed inspection and the Insurance man.  

  • Nicholas

    It allready passed. Its no different from any other building constructed out of timber.

  • studio elves

    Wonder how the house would hold up in a tropical climate with intense rainfall?

  • Nicholas

    It would perform well in terms of heavy rain, but you might have to think about termites. The envelope is cladded is Superwood™ - a eco-treated nordic spruce, which has been tested in extreme tropical conditions - with great results. The roof consists of a traditional yet innovative bitumen based product, with an added mineral called Olivine, that neutralizes CO² - it transforms it into quartz sand and Magnesium Carbonate.

  • Regina Ann Skidmore

    Curious how insulated this would be and what types of weather it could stand up to? I am just curious and did want to say this looks so awesome!

  • Nicholas

    The insulation is wooden fibres pumped into every component. It took one day to insulate the entire house. You can see the components have precut holes that fits a special nozzle for blowing the loose fibres into the structure.

  • Carlos

    The insulation appears to be built into the panels. If you look closely at the picture where the two men are maneuvering a wooden block, you can see some type of insulation material running alongside the mounted beams.

  • Pink Elephant

    Ikea is launching a US$85K home called "Aktiv home" which has already been displayed at a home show in Oregon, US, suggesting that they're looking at the US at a market.