Dutch City Creates First Habitable 3D Printed Houses

These days, it’s as if my childhood fantasies are all coming true — surprisingly enough, through architecture. I’ve always wanted to go to a school straight out of a fairytale: sprawling woods, fireflies, and all. I also remember being so captivated by paper dolls, wishing I was one so I could wear their printed dresses and pet their printed puppies and live in their colorful printed houses. Certainly that, too, doesn’t seem far-fetched anymore as a construction company launches an important project that will create 3D printed houses that are actually habitable.

Dutch company Van Wijnen calls the endeavor Project Milestone and it is being executed in an area near the city of Eindhoven.

Currently, there are five houses in total, each with a unique shape and size that shows off the flexibility of the cutting-edge tech. Since the printer is essentially a giant concrete nozzle that moves along a two-dimensional track high up in the air, architects are able to design homes in pretty much any shape they like.

How is the construction done, you ask? First, the pieces of the house are printed off-site then brought to the area for assembly. That’s pretty much it. The team, however, hopes they will be able to bring the printer on-site soon for more convenient adjustments. This entire process results in a far smaller timeframe than the usual building structure, which takes months and months.

The simplified assembly isn’t the only advantage 3D printing has to offer over conventional building methods. The process requires less workers, keeping costs down and accidents to a minimum. Further, the amount of cement, and transportation required are kept to a bare minimum, reducing the environmental impact.

Of course, improvements on structural integrity and environmental impact are continuously being researched. With the 3D technology behind printed houses still developing, we can’t really expect new villages or cities to suddenly sprout up from the ground (or the printer). But one thing is for sure, this is a game-changer for architecture.

And well, maybe, another: let’s just say kids like me who grew up on paper dolls and other kids who grew up playing The Sims will be very elated.

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Man Builds Free Prosthetics For Kids

We all know prosthetics don’t make for an affordable buy. They start at roughly $1,500 for animals, which means devices for humans are expectedly high-priced. To ease the physical and financial burden on young amputees, Stephen Davis builds them prosthetics — for free!

“We build them in a range of colors, whatever the child needs,” Designs he’s created have included Iron Man, Lego, and Spider-Man themes. He’s even built glow-in-the-dark arms.

When Davis posted online about the lack of options for people who needed prosthetics, an e-NABLE volunteer named Drew Murray saw his frustrations and together, they ended up building Team UnLimbited. The team uses a 3D printer to create the free prosthetics.

While the loss of a limb is definitely not cool, these funky prosthetic limbs sure seem to be. Davis, born without a left hand, covers the costs of printing himself, along with donations received by Team UnLimbited. He expects nothing in return (except maybe a sobbing parent).

“Our arms are specifically designed to stand out [and] show off a child’s personality,” Stephen [said] . . . They are also made to be easily usable and lightweight.

Did I mention his prosthetic template is free to use online? He may be modest, but Davis is nothing short of a miracle worker.

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Why the Leaning Tower of Pisa is Incredibly Resilient

As travellers, we often forget to educate ourselves about the places we visit beyond the usual trivia. Our sources often include the tour guide mumbling facts every time the bus stops or last-minute Google searches before the tour starts. This is why a high-quality map detailing the origins of all the country names in the world should be interesting and helpful to all of us who are even the least bit keen to travel. Well, it should be fascinating to read up on stuff like this even before or without actually travelling, right?

Today’s wave of info has to do with romance, the pope, empires and emperors, pizza and pasta. I’m kidding. But close enough. If you were ever an 8-year-old who obsessively read about the architecture of the world in children’s encyclopedia (like me) or if you ever spent your honeymoon in Italy (unlike me, I’m single), of course you must have heard about the Leaning Tower of Pisa and its secrets — secrets that have finally been unlocked by a team of engineers.

[They] finally solved the mystery of how the seemingly unstable Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy has managed to stay standing for more than six hundred years, even in a seismically active region. A team led by Roma Tre University concluded that the tower’s height of 183 feet, the soft soil in which it stands, and the structural strength of the its marble all contribute to its remarkable resilience. This phenomenon is known as dynamic soil-structure interaction (DSSI).

The Leaning Tower of Pisa began construction in the 12th century. Even then, engineers seemed to understand how the soil mix of the area contributed to the leaning, which reportedly started when the third storey was being built. This truth has again been recently uncovered.

The Roma Tre University researchers further developed previous studies by analyzing structural and seismic data records over time, the material composition of the tower (and its physical, chemical, and mechanical properties), as well as the rock and soil itself in the area. Their findings say that frequent and powerful earthquakes in the city didn’t damage the Leaning Tower of Pisa because of the insulation caused by the DDSI.

“Ironically, the very same soil that caused the leaning instability and brought the Tower to the verge of collapse, can be credited for helping it survive these seismic events,” said University of Bristol researcher George Mylonakis in a statement.

If people are equal to buildings or structures, then I suppose this is the perfect time to say: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, eh?

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3D-Printed House Is Affordable And Easy To Build

Who needs retail therapy when you have 3D printing? From furniture to electronics, the process has surpassed its own limits in just a few years. Now that brain tissue and functioning ears are part of 3D-printing catalogues, why not up the grandeur? Thanks to startup ICON, it’s totally possible to zap a 650 square foot home into existence in just under 24 hours.

“We have been building homes for communities in Haiti, El Salvador, and Bolivia,” [says] Alexandria Lafci, co-founder of New Story.

“It’s much cheaper than the typical American home,” [founder Jason] Ballard says.

ICON spends a modest $10,000 printing a single home, and aims to lower costs down to $4,000. The Austin-based group will initially bring houses into El Salvador and eventually the Americas. The modern huts will slash labor costs and produce minimal waste.

“(ICON) believes, as do I, that 3D printing is going to be a method for all kinds of housing,” [co-founder Alexandria Lafci] says.

If ICON can come up with affordable space habitats, I’d be the first off the planet.

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Super Wood Can Be A Natural Steel Replacement

So far in engineering realms, only Dyneema has given steel materials a run for their money. Now integrated into an everyday backpack, Dyneema is pushing researchers to develop more industrial-strength products. With sustainable options on the rise, wood is the first to make its way up the ladder. Owing it entirely to science, a newly developed “super wood” is 10 times stronger than its normal counterpart.

“It is as strong as steel, but six times lighter. It takes 10 times more energy to fracture than natural wood. It can even be bent and moulded at the beginning of the process.”

The magic behind it is a simple treatment and heated compression process. Super wood will likely wriggle its way into buildings and even vehicles, as the material is practically bulletproof.

“It is particularly exciting to note that the method is versatile for various species of wood and fairly easy to implement,” says engineering scientist Huajian Gao.

The affordable process that requires no more than various liquids and most any type of wood is truly inventive. I wouldn’t mind an indestructible rocker in my living room to save on furniture expenses.

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Renovate Your Home To Suit A Sustainable Lifestyle

There is a preconceived notion that eco-homes must be built from the ground up, much like the HouseZero project. While it may be convenient, adapting a more sustainable lifestyle can be achieved within a standard home. In fact, it is oftentimes cost-efficient, as working by piecemeal allows homeowners to budget. But where do you start?

Knowing how your home functions is a great starting point. Assess how much energy you consume in a month. This can be as easy as consulting an online calculator or even your electricity bill. Who knows? The numbers may be enough to motivate you. But before diving headfirst into solar panel catalogues, figure out the essentials.

Make small changes. Replace your lightbulbs. Old-fashioned incandescent lightbulbs may be cheap and charming, but they are by no means long-lasting. LED lightbulbs are a great alternative, as they are less wasteful and last 35 times longer. Move things around — and not just for Feng Shui’s sake. Placing your refrigerator in a shaded area is actually more energy-efficient, as it works harder to keep cool under the sun. Go for organic sheets and wool blankets, as producing them doesn’t require insecticide.

Establishing new habits will prepare you for real deal remodeling. It’s time to repurpose and replace. Determine the best time for serious refurbishing. If most things are still perfectly functional, give your extreme makeover some time. Going green may seem like the perfect opportunity to splurge on furniture, but choosing to upcycle or trade them in is a lot more economical. Use eco-paint on your walls. These are free of damaging volatile organic compounds. Replace timber flooring with bamboo, as they give off zero emissions and are quickly replenished.

It may not seem so, but bathrooms are easily the most environmentally damaging spaces in a household. Install new utilities. Specifically, go for low-flow toilets and shower heads. Flushing accounts for some 30% of total indoor water use. While purchasing a new bathroom necessities may cost you a buck, low-flow technology can save 160,000 liters of water a year. If you’re a tub junkie like I am, use your bath sparingly.

It’s also important to seek locally sourced materials and tradesmen. Sure, you have entire freedom to be on the lookout for the best of the best. However, going local is not only economically beneficial, but saves on transportation costs. Plus, it’s likely things will be underway a lot quicker.

Like any renovation procedure, it’s best to consult with other builders. Unless you are skilled by any practical means, you’ll probably need all the help you can get. If this is the case, make sure your builders recycle and reduce waste. Guarantee that whatever materials you are discarding don’t end up in a landfill. Many construction groups are open to organizing proper disposal procedures.

Most importantly, monitor your habits as a consumer. You could build a perfectly eco-friendly home, but forget to be prudent with your energy consumption. Solar panels don’t necessarily give you license to remain plugged-in 24/7. Home may be the best place to relax, but it’s also where we should learn to be mindful. After all, how green you are in public should be how green you are behind closed doors.

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Bamboo Building Can Withstand Natural Disasters

If consumers can go green, so can infrastructure. So far we’ve seen the emergence of vertical gardens and power-generating houses. Now the trend is hitting schools across the globe. This bamboo building in Panyaden International School in Thailand doesn’t only have a zero-carbon footprint — it can also withstand natural disasters.

Designed by Chiangmai Life Construction, the Bamboo Sports Hall features a modern organic design that draws inspiration from the lotus flower. The large multipurpose facility was built to withstand local natural forces including high-speed winds and earthquakes, and it boasts a zero-carbon footprint.

The facility is huge, to say the least, at 782 square meters large. It is modeled after a lotus, in honor of the school’s Buddhist values. It can accommodate up to 300 students and includes varying sports provisions.

“The bamboo used absorbed carbon to a much higher extent than the carbon emitted during treatment, transport and construction.”

The use of bamboo partners well with Panyaden’s “Green School” mission. The material has a lifespan of at least 50 years.

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Artist Builds Parthenon Out Of Books

Some artists boast unusual styles–take the pixel painter who creates portraits out of virtually anything. Others, like Michelangelo, are famous for their grandeur. Artist Marta Minujin is definitely (and literally) making it big, having built a Parthenon using 100,000 books.

Minujín… didn’t just erect that 45-foot-tall structure anywhere. Rather, she chose to build it in the town of Kassel, Germany — and more specifically a plaza called Friedrichsplatz. It was there that, in 1933, members of the Nazi Party burned approximately 2,000 books.

During the “Campaign Against the Un-German Spirit,”… Nazis attempted to do away with any… works… they saw as “un-German” or having corruptive Jewish or “decadent” qualities. During this campaign, the Nazis burned thousands of works of literature that they deemed degenerate or subversive.

Not only did Minujin take months to build the Parthenon–she had to identify 170 banned and censored books. Now that’s symbolism for you. Minujin had also constructed a book-thenon in the 80s following the fall of the military junta in Argentina.

By building these Parthenons, Minujín says she seeks to highlight one thing: that the open exchange of ideas — not their suppression — is the key to building a stable democratic state.

Minujin’s art is a true testament to literature. And who knows? We may run into another Parthenon in the near future.

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Teach Kids To Program With These Tech Toys

I find that the world’s most difficult task is getting my niece to put down her smartphone. Enticing her with a book is impossible. Kicking a ball in my sister’s backyard is no longer something she finds interesting. If we can’t get kids to experience the ‘real world’, Tech Toys has come up with a different solution. The Kitronik MOVE mini and Piper Computer Kit are bring the “learn by building” concept to a whole new level.

The Kitronik MOVE mini for BBC micro:bit is an autonomous (or remote controlled), two-wheeled robot that provides an introduction to basic programming and robotics.

In English, the Kitronik MOVE mini is an entry-level lesson on robotics. Kids can follow a standard code or choose to write their own.

The Piper build starts with a Top Secret message giving you a mission to save the world… The sturdy wooden case is really fun and the screen, Raspberry PI, battery, speaker and circuitboard all connect easily.

The Piper integrates storytelling technology and, to put it simply, looks really cool.

Children’s gadgets are far from what they used to be. They are no longer just a means of entertainment, but a method of learning.

While both products target children, I can’t say I’m not looking to get my hands on both!

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