Keeping up with evolving news at the intersection of architecture and technology can be difficult. But don’t be afraid, dear reader—One Have you heard new tech mini roundups on biohomes, virtual space tours, and AI taste-making to inform your practice and add to your “fun fact” cocktail hour conversation Rolodex:
University of Maine unveils first 3D house made from fully recyclable, bio-based materials
Like many other states and cities, Maine is facing an affordable housing crisis. 3D printed homes often require less time and less labor to build on site, and could provide a solution to the challenging housing shortage. In that spirit, late last year, researchers at the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center (ASCC) celebrated the completion of the BioHome3D, the first 3D-printed home made using bio-based materials.
The 600-square-foot prototype’s 3D-printed roof is made from wood fiber and bio-resin, while the insulation is 100 percent wood. The floors and walls are also 3D printed. It was built using locally sourced materials to reduce reliance on a global supply chain that has experienced many shocks and crises since 2020.
BioHome3D was printed off-site in four modules; on-site assembly took only half a day.
“Many technologies are being developed for 3D printing houses, but unlike BioHome3D, most are printed using concrete. However, only concrete walls are printed on top of traditionally poured concrete foundations. Traditional wood frames or wooden trusses are used to complete the roof,” ASCC Executive Director Dr Habib Dagher said in a release. “Unlike existing technologies, the entire BioHome3D is printed, including the floor, walls and roof. The biomaterials used are 100% recyclable, so our great-grandchildren can fully recycle the BioHome3D.”
Future versions of the house can be customized to meet the owner’s space and energy needs. Currently, ASCC is monitoring how homes are performing during Maine’s bitterly cold winter. These data will be used to inform future iterations of BioHome3D.
Buildworld uses sentiment analysis tool to list the ugliest buildings in the world
Using sentiment analysis tool HuggingFace, a team at building materials and product retailer Buildworld compiled a list of the ugliest buildings in the world. The team started with a list of buildings generally considered “ugly” in the UK and US, and ran the building names through HuggingFace, a machine learning platform trained to detect both positive and negative tones about a topic or idea. The platform uses tweets to analyze what has been said about the buildings online. In this case, the ugliest honor depends on the percentage of negative sentiment towards the building.
The machine has spoken and determined that the worst is the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh, pictured above, architect Enrique Miralles’ postmodern building with 42.07% of the analyzed tweets criticizing its design. In the US, the J. Edgar Hoover Building aka FBI Headquarters was found to be the worst with 37.84% of tweets criticizing its design. The Brutalist Boston City Hall building came in second. Chicago’s Thomson Center and Watergate also made the top 10 in the US.
More information on the experiment and a full list of ugly buildings can be found here.
New Discovery of Durability of Ancient Roman Concrete
A team of researchers from MIT, Harvard, and laboratories in Italy and Switzerland has discovered some secrets about a tried-and-true building material and method almost as old as time: concrete.Their findings are published in the journal scientific progress Earlier this month, we provided evidence of the material’s durability and self-healing properties.
Ancient concrete was previously thought to derive its strength from pozzolanic materials such as volcanic ash, but the “lime debris” — tiny white minerals — found in the samples is likely the source of the material’s durability. Previously, scientists thought the lime flakes were a speck left by improper mixing techniques, but researchers are now reviewing that conclusion.
Further study of the lime chips determined they were made of calcium carbonate. Spectroscopic examination of the spots allowed the team of researchers to deduce that they were mixed into the concrete at very high temperatures, and it is this process and step that underpins the concrete’s durability.
With this discovery, ancient buildings and statues with cracks could be repaired or re-integrated, extending the lifespan of the structures and reducing the need for cement production, which can adversely affect the environment. It also opens up opportunities for new construction, namely 3D printed construction, which is gaining popularity as an alternative construction material and method.
A national homebuilder is doing home tours in the Metaverse
KB Home is inviting potential customers to don an avatar and virtually explore its model home. The homebuilding firm has created a showroom on the Decentraland platform for buyers to tour modern, Spanish, farmhouse and Craftsman style homes. A virtual host is on hand to answer questions about the home, the building process and customization options.
“KB Home has a long history of groundbreaking innovation. Today, we create opportunity with an eye toward the future so the next generation of homebuyers can experience the new KB Home community virtually,” said Jeffrey Mezger, KB Home Chairman, President and CEO, in a statement said at a press conference. “We know that consumers are increasingly immersed and spending more time in virtual spaces. KB Home’s metaverse community is dedicated to discovery and creation, and provides home buyers with an engaging environment to explore what really sets us apart. place – innovative design, personalization and partnerships.”
The Los Angeles-based firm partnered with Metaverse Group to design and build Decentraland KB Home nirvana.
The United Nations turns the protection of the ozone layer into an online game
This week, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Ozone Secretariat launched the latest version of a simulator designed to help young people understand how global and local policy interventions can be used to protect our precious, life-sustaining environment and ecosystems.
The Apollo version of the Reset Earth Impact Simulator game allows students to choose from four possible policy directions affecting the ozone layer. Apollo, a feisty blue-haired avatar, pictured above, and her robotic sidekick set up a scene as she introduces students to the Montreal Protocol, the multilateral agreement that regulates ozone-depleting substances (ODS).
“By providing innovative learning tools for young people, we hope to inspire them to become the scientists and policy makers who will advocate for environmental protection in the future,” said Meg Seki, Executive Secretary of the Ozone Secretariat.