The Digital House

When computer aided design (CAD) became a common ground for designers, everyone’s vision was not to draw but also to build it in the computer and then drive the machinery to build it. Softwares, such as AutoCAD, Revit, build electronic versions of buildings, and a lot of architectural cabinetry is produced from CAD drawings using numerically controlled tools.

Bell Travers Willson has taken it to a whole new level with their demonstration project, 1:1 Making the Digital House, that gives the public a unique opportunity to see a prototype of the Digital House, as a cross-section of an actual house is constructed in full public view. They have set up an exhibition of it at The Architectural Foundation’s Yard Gallery in London between March 6th – 20th.

As a major advance in the construction of house building, 1:1 Making the Digital House demonstrates to house builders and the house buying public a bespoke, high quality, well designed and more sustainable alternative to traditional housing.

The Digital House is the accumulation of two and a half years of research and development by the architects Bell Travers Willson, and made possible by funding from the London Development Agency, with the aim of engaging with traditional house builders to develop ways to enhance new housing construction using digital technology.

The Digital House utilizes the advantages of hi-tech production, such as speed (five times faster than ordinary build programs) and quality, and the advantages of on site activities such as a flexible labor 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.

The technology behind the Digital House allows every part cut to be different than the next, so that houses can be customized to each individual’s requirements. This moves away from standardization that has previously been an economic driving force in prefabricated systems that are criticized for being inflexible in their designs and visually repetitive.

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