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Researchers at Harvard University have developed a new type of material that can change size, shape, volume, and stiffness. It can be folded flat, withstand thousands of pounds of weight, and pop back up to be reshaped into another form. The researchers believe the 3D material could be used to design portable buildings and to transform walls in those buildings into windows.
The research team was led by Professor Katia Bertoldi, Senior Research Scientist James Weaver, and Chuck Hoberman from the Graduate School of Design. The material is described in the journal Nature Communications.
The design of the material is inspired by snapology, an origami technique. It is made from extruded cubes that have 24 faces and 36 edges. A cube can be folded along its edges in order to change its shape.
The researchers demonstrated theoretically and with a centimeter-scale prototype that by folding certain edges that act like hinges, the shape of the cube can be changed. They embedded pneumatic actuators in the structure that can deform hinges to change the shape and size of the cube without any need for external input.
The researchers connected 64 cells to make a 4x4x4 cube. It was able to grow, shrink, change shape and orientation, and fold completely flat. Changing the shape of the structure also changes its stiffness. The material can be made pliable or very stiff with the same design. These changes in the material’s properties add a fourth dimension to the structure’s material. The material can be embedded with other types of actuators, such as thermal, dielectric, or water.
The researchers at Harvard believe the new material could have many practical applications. They think it could be used for portable shelters, adaptive building facades, and retractable roofs. The material can work at a variety of scales, from nanoscale to meter-scale. It can be used to make small objects, such as surgical stents, and large pop-up domes to shelter victims of natural disasters.
Open Architecture, a design firm based in Beijing and New York, was inspired by China’s rapid economic growth and the building boom it spawned in the past 10 years. The firm began researching construction methods, ways to streamline production, and temporary building techniques. They developed a system they called HEX-SYS.
HEX-SYS is a building system that can be adapted easily to serve multiple functions. The temporary buildings can be disassembled after they are used and then reassembled at another site. The buildings were designed this way in an effort to prevent the waste of resources.
Open Architecture explored the potential of building and the role of sustainability in architecture to develop HEX-SYS. They created a method of building structures quickly that is in keeping with China’s architectural heritage. The HEX-SYS system is based on ancient Chinese methods of building with wood. The system creates buildings that are light, industrialized, flexible, sustainable, and reusable.
Open Architecture recently completed its first HEX-SYS prototype. The temporary building is located in Guangzhou, China and was constructed for real estate firm Vanke.
The structure is light and is clad in sandblasted and anodized aluminum panels. The interior of the building is lined with bamboo, which is well known as a very environmentally friendly building material.
The building was constructed with hexagonal elements in reference to Le Corbusier’s work done at the Swiss Pavilion in Paris in the 1930s and to modular building in general. The modular parts can work together easily in many configurations.
Open Architecture designed three unit typologies that each span about 40 square meters and have an inverted umbrella form. Each column contains a pipe that collects rainwater, which is used for landscape irrigation. The prototype building required a minimal amount of excavation and site disruption.
In 2015, climate change and the migrant crisis in several countries made the need for shelter more acute. It became necessary to provide homes for people in less time while minimizing environmental effects and costs.
Architects and planners are increasingly turning to shelters that can be built quickly, linked together, disassembled, and relocated. These types of designs make it easier to deal with a refugee crisis and the effects of climate change.
Suricatta, a Spanish architecture firm, introduced Shelter Units for Rapid Installation (SURI) in 2015 to help victims of earthquakes. These super-portable trailers have been used in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East to help displaced people. SURIs are more advanced than other modern homes and have water filtration systems. The walls can be filled with sand to weigh them down. They are breathable and thermally insulated to maintain a comfortable temperature. After a life cycle of 10 years, SURIs can be recycled, reused, or biodegraded.
ALPOD apartment pods are changing the concept of what a structure is and how people should live. The ALPOD is a stand-alone structure with a kitchen, living area, and bathroom. Units can be stacked to create an apartment building or set up individually. Production is scheduled to begin this year. An ALPOD will be able to be manufactured in four days and set up in less than a day.
ETH Zurich and MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab unveiled a new form of 3D printing at the Chicago Architecture Biennial in October. The process is called rock printing. A robotic arm loops and stacks thin string in layers. Buckets of rocks are poured between the layers to form a massive column that supports itself without scaffolding or beams. It is as durable as a traditional building but costs less and wastes less material than typical construction methods. Rock printing is intended to be used to create temporary architecture.
As climate change and conflicts displace more people, the need for temporary architecture is expected to continue. A permanent building may be seen as a liability in those circumstances, while a temporary structure can be seen as advantageous.
Hvgz Portable Homeless Shelters is a nonprofit organization based in Washington State staffed by volunteers who help the homeless in their communities. Many of the volunteers who work for the organization used to be homeless themselves.
Jerad Nichols was inspired to create the shelters last year after he saw some stationary shelters. The group has created seven portable shelters so far. Nichols was homeless as a teenager.
The shelters are made from fiberglass and wood. They have windows and storage space inside and wheels to make them portable. The shelters cost about $350 each to construct. They are funded through donations made through a GoFundMe account. The group provides portable shelters to homeless people in Vancouver, Washington.
Hvgz Portable Homeless Shelters hopes to expand in the near future. They would like to secure grants to help with fundraising efforts so they can purchase three to five acres of land on the Long Beach Peninsula in Washington. They would like to set up 20 mini homes on the property and create a workshop to employ people they help and build more shelters to help others who are currently homeless.
The group would also like to create a community room to teach people off-grid, minimalist survival techniques that they can use in their everyday lives. The volunteers would like to generate wind and solar power so that the community could be self-sufficient and productive.
Hvgz Portable Homeless Shelters would like to expand its operations to include Oregon, California, Hawaii, and Alaska within five years. They hope that by that time every person on the Long Beach Peninsula who is currently homeless will have a home or portable shelter. The group would like to be helping people on a national scale in the next decade.
Japanese architect Shigeru Ban is famous for his innovative buildings that are designed to help the victims of natural disasters around the world. He contributed to the effort to rebuild following the earthquake that struck Nepal in April by designing temporary shelters for local families. Ban has created other structures made from a variety of materials, including paper, following other natural disasters, such as earthquakes in Haiti and New Zealand.
The initial prototype for the temporary shelters was created in Japan. Ban traveled to Nepal to create the final version of the temporary buildings. The structures used a traditional Nepalese method of making window frames.
People whose brick houses were damaged were afraid to live in them because they were concerned that they might collapse. The temporary buildings used brick from collapsed buildings for walls.
The walls were assembled by connecting modular wooden frames infilled with brick and covered with plastic sheets. This design made the building process quick and simple. After a roof was added, the buildings could be occupied immediately. The roof trusses were made from local paper tubes.
Students volunteered to help prepare to assemble the buildings. Local architects and companies coordinated construction of the temporary shelters.
The project gives hope to those whose homes were damaged or destroyed by the earthquake, improves living conditions for low-income families in the developing world, and stimulates local employment. Over the long term, the plan is to develop low-cost prefab housing similar to the type Ban created in the Philippines.
3-D printing technology is advancing rapidly and is being used in a wide variety of applications. The United Arab Emirates National Innovation Committee has announced that it plans to construct the world’s first 3-D printed office building.
Other teams have built the exterior walls of buildings using 3-D printing, but this will be the first to print the interior walls and furniture as well. Dubai officials say it will be the most advanced 3-D printed structure ever built at that scale and the first to be put into use.
WinSun Global, a company that 3-D printed an apartment building in China in late 2014, will lead the construction of the building. Gensler, Thornton Thomasetti, and Syska Hennessy will also be involved in the project.
The building will be one story tall and will measure 2,000 square feet. It will be built with a 20-foot 3-D printer. Fiber-reinforced plastic, fiber-reinforced gypsum, and special reinforced concrete will be used to create the building’s structural and decorative elements. The team expects 3-D printing to reduce building time by 50 to 70 percent and labor costs by 50 to 80 percent.
Officials say the building will showcase the efficiency and creativity of 3-D printing technology. They believe it will play a major role in reshaping the fields of design and construction. The United Arab Emirates hopes to become a global hub for innovation and 3-D printing.
After the building is constructed, it will serve as the temporary headquarters of a $136 million “Museum of the Future.” The museum is expected to open in 2017.
Many cities that have hosted the Olympic Games in the past have found that their projects went over budget, leaving the public to pick up the tab, and did not produce long-term economic benefits. The Olympics have also become known for creating White Elephants, or sporting venues that are built for the Olympics and not used afterward. Those trends have made many cities reluctant to consider hosting the Games.
The International Olympic Committee has released 40 recommendations for future Olympic Games. The IOC is encouraging cities that bid to host the Olympics in 2024 to create temporary stadiums and venues or to use existing facilities to avoid going over budget or having facilities that will go unused later.
Temporary Olympic stadiums have been used for opening and closing ceremonies in two Winter Olympics in France. A temporary venue is also planned for the 2018 Winter Games that will be hosted in South Korea. Temporary non-stadium venues, such as beach volleyball grounds, are typically used.
Constructing a temporary stadium could make more financial sense than building a permanent one. The public could be opposed to the city or state government’s borrowing money to build a permanent facility. A private sector partner would therefore generally need to provide financing. In the case of a temporary venue, however, the IOC allows revenue generated by ticket sales, sponsorships, and broadcast rights to be used to build temporary facilities that will only be used for the Games.
Several U.S. cities are competing for the opportunity to host the Games. When the Boston 2024 committee unveiled its proposal to the International Olympic Committee in November, one notable feature was a temporary Olympic stadium that would be constructed at Widett Circle in South Boston and dismantled after the Olympics were over. The Boston proposal also recommends using existing venues, such as the TD Garden, Harvard Stadium, Gillette Stadium, and other facilities, for the event. The Boston 2024 group believes it can cover all construction costs with about $4.5 billion from revenue generated by the Olympics and donations.
Other U.S. cities are bidding for the 2024 Olympics and taking the IOC’s recommendations into account with their proposals. San Francisco has proposed building a temporary stadium. Washington, D.C. has proposed constructing a stadium that could be converted for another use after the Games are over. Los Angeles wants to renovate the Los Angeles Coliseum, which has hosted the Olympics twice before.
The USOC will decide this winter whether to accept one of these proposals. It would then submit the proposal to the IOC.
Pvgzly Addams is working with a team of friends and volunteers to build “Homeless Huts” to provide shelter for those in need in Ocean Park, Washington.
Addams designed the 20-square foot shelters, which have a box-shaped design similar to a dog house. The portable homes are made from plywood frames and are insulated to provide protection from the cold. They have large off-road bicycle tires and are lightweight enough to be pulled around easily from place to place by hand.
Addams understands the needs of homeless people well since he used to be homeless himself and lived in a tent in the woods as a teenager. It was difficult to stay warm and dry, especially on winter nights.
Governments, nonprofit organizations, and individuals who are batting homelessness have been working recently to produce tiny shelters to help those without homes. Local efforts have been launched in communities across the United States, from Portland, Oregon to Madison, Wisconsin to Greensboro, North Carolina to California. Many who are participating in these efforts believe that the best approach to dealing with homelessness is to take a “housing first” approach to address the immediate needs of homeless individuals and families.
Addams created a GoFundMe page to raise money to support the project so that he and volunteers could continue to produce the shelters. They are well on their way to meeting their goal of raising $5,000.
Addams said that he expects the first Homeless Hut to be completed by the middle of December. Rather than sell it, he plans to give the portable shelter to a local homeless person in need.
British artist Alex Chennick, who is known for his works of art that create optical illusions, created a temporary installation called “A pound of flesh for 50p (The Melting House),” a life-sized, two-story house constructed of wax bricks in a Georgian style. The house in London was slowly melted until all that remained was a pile of wax on the ground.
Over the past year, Chinneck worked with chemists, manufacturers, and engineers to create visually convincing wax bricks that would melt. The house was built at the end of September from 8,000 bricks cast in paraffin wax within beds of terracotta sand. That method gave each brick individuality, while also giving the bricks that made up the structure a consistent color.
The house was melted by Chinneck and his team manually with a handheld torch that is commonly used in the roofing trade. That gave Chinneck control over the appearance of the house and how long it would take for it to melt.
As the bricks melted and the wax dripped down, the shape of the temporary building began to warp, until it became completely unrecognizable. It was designed to be melted over a period of a month until all that remained were the roof tiles, brass door number, and mailbox.
The house was built at 40 Southwark Street in southeast London behind railings on a barren piece of land. It resembles the scale and design of a candle-making factory that stood on the same site two centuries ago.
The temporary house was constructed for the Bankside Merge Festival 2014 held in central London. The festival encourages artists to create works inspired by the history and culture of the Bankside section of London.