3-D printers can make airplanes and their parts, food and more — why not entire buildings? A professor at the University of Southern California aims to print out whole houses, using layers of concrete and adding plumbing, electrical wiring and other guts as it moves upward.
This week on the National Geographic Channel, the answer to that eternal question (providing "eternal" means "since 2009 when the movie came out"): Can we really build a house like the one from Pixar's Up, able to float by balloon power alone?
When it comes to practicality, geodesic domes are a contractor's worst nightmare. Where can you get windows that conform to hexagonal panels? Where should you install the pipes? Would a chimney look out of place? In spite of all these questions, we spent a good portion of the 1970s and '80s touting geodesic structures as the next big suburban fad.
The trend began, of course, after R. Buckminster Fuller received a patent for his geodesic domes in 1954. Although Fuller's idea wasn't entirely original, he is credited for formulating the structure's mathematics. Initially commissioned by the military and by specialized companies, Fuller's geodesic domes went on to become a viable solution to the postwar housing crisis. While most families continued buying conventional houses, fans of the geodesic dome spent several decades promoting it as a super strong, easy-to-build vacation home. If a second home were too expensive, you could always pitch stylish mini domes on your lawn.
Going by our archives, the only thing more hyped-up than flying cars and humanoid robot assistants were cool futuristic homes -- homes that could converge their walls to create new rooms, that could adapt to any environment, and that could play with your children while you took an afternoon nap. In terms of functionality, houses of today haven't changed much over the past fifty years. We still use good old brick, marble and cement as building materials. We still turn the microwave and TV on by our ourselves. For the most part, we still do our own chores. So what happened?
Older homes have a certain charm, but they’re notoriously inefficient — they’re drafty, under-insulated, and equipped with old, energy-guzzling appliances. In an effort to study potential improvements, British researchers are building an “energy house” inside a special three-story shell that can generate rain, snow, wind and varying humidity levels.