We’ve seen CNC technology and other digital techniques used for architectural applications, like in the stunning Loblolly House, but two and a half years of research and development by the architects Bell Travers Willson has taken it to the next level. In collaboration with digital building manufacturer Facit, their Digital House provides “a new method of building houses that harnesses digital design technology and low volume production methods.” And to publicly prove the project isn’t all talk and no action, they’ve completed a their 1:1 Making the Digital House demonstration project (1:1 being an architectural term for full-scale), and followed up with an exhibition at The Architectural Foundation’s Yard Gallery in London.
The Digital House brings high-tech building methods to a broad housing market, providing a high quality, well designed and more sustainable alternative to traditional housing. Just how does it work, you ask? The structure is produced using a detailed 3D computer model that includes specs for every single construction element, from entire walls to tiny screw holes. This information is then transfered to a CNC machine (Computer Numerical Control), which cuts the components from engineered timber. The components are then packed and shipped, ready to be assembled into a house of your very own. For some of the larger components, the pre-cut timber sheets are assembled into lightweight hollow “cassettes” , which can be filled with recycled newspaper for insulation and air tightness.
Because the CNC and computer modeling technology allows for detailed customization down to the individual parts, the possibilities for house customization are virtually endless, even more so than the standard pick-and-choose “kit-of-parts” model we see in prefab construction quite frequently.
Nick Willson, Director at Bell Travers Willson Architects, says: “The Digital House offers house builders a real solution to the continued problems of high labour and material costs, sustainability and getting design quality right. It is hard to believe, but Britain is still using house building methods that go back to the Elizabethan age. The Digital House takes a quantum leap in terms of adopting current technology to construct better designed and more efficient housing.”
photos copyright Ludwig Abache
Imagine ordering a custom house and having it delivered in a box, opening it and connecting lightweight, manageable pieces without a crane, living in a house where the framing is furniture quality and you don’t even want to cover it with drywall. This is truly the future.