I’m not talking about “Smart Homes”, computerized home environments where lights, temperature and appliances can be controlled through remote. This is about building a house: from initial design through to production and construction. It’s a new process that focuses on the speed, high quality and efficiency of digital technology, coupled with low production methods and low-cost construction.
The Architecture Foundation in London completed an exhibit last week on the research and work of UK architectural firm Bell Travers Willson which included a cross-section of a digital house in the making, introducing the public to effective and efficient house design and construction.
The Digital House utilizes the advantages of hi-tech production, such as speed (five times faster than ordinary build programmes) and quality, and the advantages of on site activities such as a flexible labour force with low overheads.
So how is this possible? The Digital House is produced using a detailed 3D computer model that contains all of the construction elements including every wall and screw hole which are pre-determined before the construction. This information is transferred to a CNC Router (Computer Numerical Control) which rapidly cuts out elements in engineered timber. These are assembled into lightweight hollow cassettes like big bricks of Lego, which can be filled with recycled newspaper to achieve a high level of insulation and air tightness.
Unlike pre-fab construction, this technology allows for customized design, steering clear of “cookie-cutter” tract homes that are now proliferating our suburbs – where all the houses look the same, save for colour or landscaping. The key here is sustainable alternatives to traditional custom home-building, where the advantages of technology are used to minimize production, labour, and distribution costs without sacrificing design or individuality. Sounds great to me!