Wednesday, November 12, 2014

My Digitally Fabricated World

By Donald Olsen

Issue 6- Fabricating my Thesis – Friction Fit Housing

So last time I explained most of the elements of my thesis project and left it saying this article would try and best explain friction fit housing. To start friction fit housing is an interesting concept that dates back farther than most would think about. Let’s begin with the simplest friction fit building, the log cabin. Log cabin utilize a very similar building style in that most of the logs are cut at the ends to resemble the classic toy the Lincoln log. At full scale log cabins at one time were fit together, jointed at the ends and then the gaps would be sealed with a number of methods such as mud or clay. Unlike its frontier day counterpart the modern day friction fit house uses similar concepts to become a complete house, just without the mud. The modern day version uses a CNC to precisely cut and number each piece so that the house can easily be put together by someone who has no previous building knowledge, very similar to giant puzzle. The benefits of friction fittings is that they require little to no hardware to assemble, which also means that they also require little to no tools.

The best example of a friction fit house completed recently is a project called Housing for New Orleans done as part of a display at the MOMA in New York called Fabricating the Modern Dwelling. The project was developed by Lawrence Sass, professor at MIT, who said that the greatest challenges and benefits of this project were the testing of new design software’s, building physical models, testing and re-testing said models, and demonstrating the potential of digitally fabricated structures. Unlike what you might be thinking about a single housing unit that fits together like a puzzle, the Housing for New Orleans project not only functions but is really brings the aesthetics of a classic New Orleans shotgun house. This project similar to the ones talked about last week all starts in the digital format. The digital design process utilized needed to do a number of different things for the design team; it needed to ensure that all the parts would eventually fit together, it needed to account for all material thickness, it needed to subdivide all the surfaces on the entire structure to create all the pieces that would eventually come together to complete the structure, and it needed to prove it could work. One of the keys things in that list is the subdivision of surfaces. The MIT team used a series of algorithms to both subdivide and weave the connect points across the surfaces of the structure. The purpose of the weaving was to create strength by weaving the pieces. As an example of what this entailed I liken it to building with Legos. If you take a handful of pieces and simply stack them end to end on top of each other they don’t have near the strength as the same pieces stacked in a staggered pattern. Likewise the weaving of the plywood surfaces enable the structure that has no screws or nails holding it together to gain its strength from the way the pieces fit together.

From the images above you can get a greater sense of what the connections looks like and how they fit together. Friction connected houses are interesting because of their simple yet complex nature, the precision of design and their adaptability. For all these reasons I felt that this topic greatly lent itself and would benefit my thesis proposal. Next time I’ll spend some time talking about Solar Decathlon houses, what they do and how they perform, and how my thesis seeks to achieve similar goals.    

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