Print your own home: how technology is changing the way we self build

By Lorrin Windahl.

So, to follow on with my unintentional architecturally themed posts of recent, I though I’d write this one about the latest ‘craze’ of printing your own self build home. Huh, you may well ask. Well, it does sound a bit bizarre I must admit. Like something out of the future. But that future is actually here. It is now possible to develop your own 3D CAD files, or even download existing designs, that can then be used to print the 2D structure of your new home.

I guess I’m using the term print a little loosely. In this case it refers to sending a digital file to a CNC milling machine which then cuts the shapes into a plywood sheet.

The finished home as seen on Grand Designs. Image courtesy of http://www.the-self-build-guide.co.uk/facit-homes.html

The ‘printed’ house by Facit Homes as seen on Grand Designs. Image courtesy of the-self-build-guide.co.uk

I first came across the idea of ‘printing’ a home a few months ago when I watched an episode of Grand Designs. A couple had contracted two industrial designers (yes, no architects here!) who had developed a new building style where plywood sheets were cut-out on-site using a CNC milling machine.

The on-site CNC machine as seen on Grand Designs. IMage courtesy ohttp://www.the-self-build-guide.co.uk/facit-homes.html

The on-site CNC machine as seen on Grand Designs. Image courtesy of the-self-build-guide.co.uk

The designers came up with a system in which the CNC cut plywood connected together, without fasteners, to form a box. These boxes then clipped into each other to form the structure of the home. The result was pretty impressive and since then the guys have developed their own business, based on this technology, called Facit Homes.

The plywood box structure as seen on Grand Designs. Image courtesy of http://www.the-self-build-guide.co.uk/facit-homes.html

The plywood box structure as seen on Grand Designs. Image courtesy of the-self-build-guide.co.uk

But since watching the show I have also come across a site called Wikihouse. This is an open source site that provides construction kits in the form of digital files. These files can be downloaded by anyone and then used as the template to building a home. Not unlike Facit Homes,  the downloaded files are used to cut 2D shapes into plywood using a CNC milling machine. These plywood shapes are then connected together to create the house structure.

A set of cutting files that can be downloaded from Wikihomes to create your own home. Image courtesy of http://blog.ted.com/2013/05/23/how-to-print-out-your-own-house/

A set of cutting files that can be downloaded from Wikihouse. Image courtesy of blog.ted.com

The parts are all numbered so it is a bit like assembling a 3D jigsaw puzzle. Or perhaps a more contemporary reference is that of IKEA furniture assembly. You can even download a set of 2D instructions that do indeed look like those from IKEA. Although the downloadable kits aren’t quite at the level of a full, ready-to-live-in house yet it shouldn’t be too long before this is the case.

Construction drawing of a Wikihome. Image courtesy of blog.ted.com

Construction drawing of a Wikihouse. Image courtesy of blog.ted.com

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