Thursday, January 18, 2007

This is the house that hack built

Two items on Wired make me think. In the first, our attention is called to a project at Loughborough University that's making robots build houses, spraying concrete and gypsum on formers. The encapsulated air makes for very high insulation R-values. But what it reminds me of is my dad, who once said one of the reasons why he didn't go into Harrowell & Sons, Building Contractors was the pain involved in buying a forklift to handle palletised bricks.

It wasn't that long ago. The second deals with the revival of modular, prefabricated buildings. Apparently, according to the US Energy Information Administration, prefabbing a building reduces the energy involved by 40 to 50 per cent. If the components are packed with structural insulation, then, well - you're not far from a Passivhaus right from the start.

I remember working on buildings in northern Australia, where the vernacular materials are lengths of windmill bore casing, corrugated iron, and any timber that will stand the insects. It was amazing how quickly a really nice structure could go up, and how obvious it seemed to have double skins, a large air space beneath the building, and the like. And you could adapt the building with a screwdriver and a saw. Now, if you had insulation between the skins rather than air, well...

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