A cabin made from beetle infested wood and concrete 3D printing

Leslie Lok and Sasa Zivkovic, both assistant professors of architecture at Cornell University in the US and co-principals of design firm HANNAH, designed a cabin made with concrete 3D printing and previously unusable ash wood, destroyed by the invasive Emerald Ash Borer beetle.

The Emerald Ash Borer beetle is an invasive species, thought to have been introduced into American forests in 2002. The creature threatens 8.7 billion trees across the country and nearly one in 10 ash trees in New York state.

Mature ash trees affected by the Ash Borer are not usable by conventional sawmills as a source of lumber for home constructions, in part because of their irregular geometries. Therefore, most infested trees were left to decompose or burned rather than used.

Now, HANNAH and a team of Cornell, using advancing technologies including robotics and 3D printed concrete, demonstrated the trees can be sed in architectural design and construction. They built a custom robotic platform for the sole purpose of processing irregular ash trees.

The platform 3D scans the pieces of wood and then cuts and processes it in thin slices. The robotic arm they use was purchased on eBay, which used to build cars for General Motors, and repurposed to saw and shape wood.

The researchers also developed a full-scale 3D printing system that requires no formwork and uses the absolute minimum amount of concrete necessary.

“We believe this prototype offers a new way to think about the future of home construction,” said Lok. “The cabin is a combination of our design research and thinking in response to the urgent condition of our natural environment and possible modes of intervention — and, it demonstrates our potentially replicable use of relatively new technologies that allow us to advance both formal and technological innovation in the [architecture] discipline.”

Photos: HANNAH / Andy Chen / Reuben Chen