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.