Saturday, December 3, 2011

Wood - Nature's Stroke of Genius

A great video about wood from our friends in Denmark. I wish I could find (and promote) a similar video promoting the use of wood in North America. Odd that one doesn't exist given how large of a role wood has played in the economies of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.

The team over at Go Wood is promoting this video on their website

Go Wood: "The World's Most Environmentally-Friendly Raw Material"

And here is Michael Green speaking about using wood in tall buildings at TEDx in Vancouver.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Alchemy Architects Video on Prefab's Potential

I have always liked the work of Alchemy Architects and just discovered this video which is very popular on youtube with over 280,000 views.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Manufacturing Growth - The Future of the American Economy

A great new report has been released by The Breakthrough Institute. The full report is available here and very much worth reading as a guide for how we can achieve smart, green growth by integrating advanced manufacturing technologies with software to create scalable green building systems.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Robots - The Future of Building?

The Fabricate 2011 Conference, hosted by the UCL Bartlett School of Architecture, showcased the installation 'Stratifications' by Gramazio & Kohler, Architecture and Digital Fabrication, ETH Zurich. 'Stratifications' uses a multiple-axis robot on a caterpillar base to perform real-time construction, combining digital design and methods in fabrication that are not possible with traditional manual building methods. This is the first time that this approach to building has been seen in the UK. Designed and realised by Gramazio & Kohler, Architecture and Digital Fabrication, ETH Zurich (in cooperation with Bachmann Engineering AG, Zofingen) Further information: UCL Bartlett: Gramazio & Kohler: Ruairi Glynn: Bob Sheil:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Tedd Benson on the Open-Built Strategy

One of the building industry's leading innovators, Tedd Benson of Bensonwood, speaks about his work with Open-Built and about innovation (and the lack of it) in the industry.

Tedd discusses his open-built system at length and how this system is derivative of Andrea Palladio's work in the 16th century.

Because he views the world from a builder/fabricator perspective, he defines building information modeling as pre-building a structures digitally (as opposed to a more common view of BIM as being a particular cad authoring application) and then fabricating them using CNC. I share his opinion (and frustration) that all other industries have been using an integrated design-optimize-fabricate-assemble process yet it remains largely unknown in the building sector.

Tedd uses a lot of European technologies including Cadwork design/manufacturing software and purchased one of the first Hundegger CNC lines to be used in the U.S.

He is working with researchers at MIT on the Open Prototype Initiative but does state at minute 4:25 of the video "I stopped doing research in this country in the late 1980s. Really in fact, to be honest with you, there is not much good going on in America in building technology."

Quite a statement from one of the leading innovators in residential construction.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

IKEA and Digital Fabrication

A great example of integrated project delivery, rapid prototyping/3D printing, and fabrication information modeling combined with optimized design and extremely automated fabrication.

Extremely Small Modular - 10 units in each 40 foot container

While it makes for extremely affordable housing, I can't imagine many people would choose to share a shipping container with 9 other living units. From Beijing
Full article on the Modular Home Coach website.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Digital Fabrication in Architecture - Singapore

Singpore is booming and leading innovation in many areas including building information modeling, virtual reality, mixed reality, etc. Here is a blog on Digital Fabrication in Architecture from the team at the National University of Singapore.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Premature Scaling? Number one cause of Startup Failure

Take the money and run (a company)?

Startup Genome released the report. Registration required to download a copy or you can read about it elsewhere at websites like this one.

Taking money too early makes life difficult for any business, but even more so for cleantech. There haven't been many successful cleantech exits for VCs and given how negative some investors are on the sector, one must be very careful indeed. Check out the Don of the Paypal Mafia, Peter Thiel, on VC investing in cleantech.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Prefab Myth, Hype and Reality - 15 page document

Pre.Fab: Myth, Hype Reality

Friday, September 16, 2011

Manufactured Architecture in a Manufactured Landscape

UCL Bartlett School of Architecture staff and alumni have created a steel shelter that explores the shifting relationship between the natural and the artificial. Architectural sixteen*(makers) collaborated with German steel manufacturer Stahlbogen GmbH to make the shelter for visitors to Kielder Water and Forest Park in Northumberland.

A 2011 RIBA award winner.

A good video showing the potential of architect-fabricator collaboration.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Future of the Building Industry - 5 Videos from the CEO of HOK

This is a great series by Patrick MacLeamy, CEO of HOK. In the series he describes the gradual separation of architects and builders -- and the idea of integrated project delivery (IPD) as an idea whose time has come again.

I couldn't embed the second video because this feature was disables on Youtube. you can find it by going to the following link:
Video Two:

Super Greenies - Influencers who can afford green.

Scarborough Research released this free report on wealthy consumers who choose green. It makes for very good reading for those selling green products and services.

Interestingly, the heaviest concentration is on the West Coast - our home territory. I only wish numbers for Vancouver, BC were also included.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Japanese Precut Timber Construction - Digital Fabrication

Precut - Modern Japanese Timber Construction from BAKOKO on Vimeo.

The Arch Daily website included this great video in an article on a beach house prefabricated and then assembled in one day. Great to see another example demonstrating the potential of digital fabrication.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Portland, Oregon and IBM announce Smarter City Interactive Model

IBM and Portland, Oregon announced the 3D city model of Portland. This leverages Portland's reputation as a leading green city and with integrated smart grid/smart city and digital urban planning and city management.

An encouraging development. More media coverage here from the Wall Street Journal, ComputerWorld, and the Digital Manufacturing Report.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

San Francisco Exploratorium’s New Home to Become Largest U.S. Net-Zero Energy Museum

The new Exploratorium is finally coming to life. Mignon O'Young of the GABreport posted a great update on the project on July 7.

The project is very ambitious on many fronts and is located on the busy Embarcadero next to the Tcho chocolate factory (look forward to exploring some chocolate before and/or after visiting the new location).

Rick Feldman of EHDD architecture is the project manager and has been involved with the Exploratorium team for ten years.

The new building is scheduled to open in 2013 and you can explore progress here.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

3D Printing and the Emerging American Century

Manufacturing Growth (and jobs!) in the U.S. This report from The Breakthrough Institute makes a very good case for advanced manufacturing as an information technology-based solution for job creation in the manufacturing sector.

If we combine the massive disruption software is causing in many industries, "Why Software is Eating the World" by Marc Andreessen, with digital fabrication, the future looks very bright indeed for the U.S. economy.

A thought-provoking article from the Forbes blog on how America is ideally positioned to capitalize on the emerging 3D printing trend.

A good update to the February 2011 cover article in the Economist Magazine, "Print Me a Stradivarius: How a new manufacturing technology will change the world."

The article by Pascal Emmanuel Gobry on "The Next Trillion Dollar Industry: 3D Printing" also created a lot of buzz. It also refers to Contour Crafting as possibly the most ambitious 3D printing company. Maybe. But I don't want to live in a concrete house (nor a toxic plastic one). And I can't imagine a a more environmentally friendly building material than wood. Even with the rapid innovation in materials science combined with nano-scale printing, wood simply has too many environmental benefits, is renewable, and trees are, by definition, great for the environment - and planet.

And a YouTube Video showing additive printing research using concrete to "materialize" architecture.

Scott Summit speaking on the future of 3D printing at Singularity U.

Additional recent articles supporting the opportunities and efficiencies of a strong domestic manufacturing sector include, "Manufacturing Just for You," "Innovation Depends on a Robust Manufacturing Sector," and "Why Manufacturing Matters," - all from the July issue of the MIT Technology Review.

And now the NewScientist website on "3D Printing: Second Industrial Revolution is Under Way."

Now to apply more of these technologies to the building industry and capitalize on integrated additive and subtractive fabrication for factories that are, in essence, 3D house printers. Where on-demand fabrication of mass-customized homes meets web-based, real-time, design.

And National Geographic coverage helped this video get to over 4 million views. Watch a 3D crescent wrench get printed below.

The future of building is already here, we just need to integrate the best technologies and keep building. We are already well on our way using "subtractive" printing with wood and steel instead of "additive" with powders and composites. Below is a video showing how we use manufacturing/design software to design for cnc fabrication.

and we then use a Hundegger (or other) line to cut the timbers. Example below, and more video examples here.

AFTER you turn your sound down watch this video of the Metropol Parasol in Seville, Spain to see a very large building fabricated using cam/cnc.

Monday, June 27, 2011

$7.2 billion for a new Bay Bridge - and controversy about fabrication and outsourcing

The New York Times is helping stoke the flames of controversy with another article on fabrication. The headline itself serves to heat the flames, "Bridge Comes to San Francisco with a Made-in-China label."

Indeed, fabrication is more efficient. Who gets the contract?

There are many steel fabricators in the U.S., more than 2,500 according the American Institute of Steel Construction.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Growing a Cleantech Business - Washington Clean Technology Alliance Event - June 17th

The Washington Clean Technology Alliance organized an event in Bellevue, Washington on June 17th. More information and registration is available here.

The following sessions are included:

The Washington Clean Technology Alliance with the Cleantech Open present a half day meeting focused on growing cleantech businesses. Includes box lunch.

I. Transforming our Legacy Industries:
-Sustainable Aviation Fuel Network
-Foss' Hybrid Tugboat Initiative

II. Changing the World: Entrepreneurial Case Studies
-Solar Energy: Infinia
-Cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico: Herb Pearse, CEO, EcoTec
-Smart Grid: Chad Maglaque, CEO, Clarian, winner of the GE Ecomagination Challenge

III. Presentation of the Cleantech Open Semi-Finalists including elevator pit by the new class of 2011

IV. The Post-Fukushima Era: Is Nuclear Power a Safe, Green Power Source? Dr. Ken Nash of Washington State University and a panel of respondents including Jim Harding (Harding Consulting) and Pat Schweiger (TerraPower).

The semi-finalists for the Cleantech Open will also be announced. It will be a great opportunity to learn more about the local cleantech community and to learn more about innovation and "hot" topics.

We will be there
. Say hello and let's discuss green building.

Update: We are one of the semi-finalist.

Squeezing Costs, Builders Take a New Look at Prefab

The New York Times published another article on Prefab on June 14.

The Modules at Templetown, a prefab student housing complex in Philadelphia.

The article focuses primarily on the economics of prefab in the commercial sector but doesn't cover residential, even thought many of the same process efficiencies apply. It also doesn't dive into how fabrication is a greener way to build - although that topic is frequently debated elsewhere, and often with very little reference to supportive data.

The 34-story Atlantic Tower project in Brooklyn covered in a previous article is briefly mentioned. Great to see ongoing discussion focused on cost-savings - and even perspectives on how efficiency and change are perceived as threatening by some in the industry. The Mcgraw-Hill SmartMarket Report published on May 11 on Prefabrication and Modularization: Increasing Productivity in the Construction Industry, is based on survery data of people in the industry and makes very clear how quickly fabrication is growing and how desired it is by nearly all sectors.

As a building company we focus on actually building and demonstrating that fabrication is good business and an enabling technology for the industry. The proof is in the buildings we construct.

For those fighting the inevitable, I highly recommend watching this video of a 15-story hotel being assembled in China in two days. The builder of the Atlantic Tower became fascinated by it and is now pushing fabrication in the U.S. Thought-provoking indeed. Watch it below.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Ecocities: The future of green development?

The online discussion about large-scale ecocities continues to grow and with more images and videos being released from ongoing projects like Masdar in Abu Dhabi and New Songdo City in South Korea, we can only expect more controversy on the viability of green development at an urban scale.

I discovered this recent working paper on the topic by researchers at Harvard Business School which profiles some of the best-known projects. Unfortunately none of them are in North America.

The Swedes are so forward thinking that they recognize the potential of eco cities as an export product and service. Greentechmedia has an article on this strategy. The featured district is the Stockholm Royal Seaport, a former brownfield industrial area now being transformed into a showcase eco community.

Technology companies like Cisco recognize the potential of integrating a smart grid with green development. Cisco CEO John Chambers is giving his smart grid team an "an almost unlimited budget" for development in projects like New Songdo City.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Augmented Reality and the building industry - Video from the AR Event last week

I gave a 15 minute presentation at the Augmented Reality Event in San Jose on AR in the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry. Despite speaking very rapidly and rushing through a deck of slides I was only able to initiate a conversation about emerging technologies and how they could impact a $5.6 trillion industy.

Below is a four minute video showing an example of some of the innovative research and technology under development.

D4AR - 4 dimensional augmented reality - Modeling from RAAMAC Lab on Vimeo.

This project is led by Mani Golparvar-Fard at Virginia Tech, Feniosky Pena-Mora at Columbia University, and Silvio Savarese at the University of Michigan. More information available here.

Charles Woodward from Finland's VTT also presented very compelling AR research and technology demos at the event. More information on his research here. A 10-page PDF with more info here.

Look for more AEC-related augmented reality innovation at the upcoming ISMAR conference in Basel, Switzerland October 26-29th and at the 11th International Conference on Construction Applications of Virtual Reality (CONVR), in Weimar, Germany on November 3-4th.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Monday, May 2, 2011

Onebuild - New Prefab Company in Oregon

Dale Sperling, formerly of UNICO properties, is profiled in today's Seattle Times. He purchased the assets of bankrupt Transform - "for 15 cents on the dollar" - of Bellingham and Mount Vernon, Washington and moved the CNC lines to Klamath Falls, Oregon. The company website is now up and Dale stated in the article that the first sale is expected by the end of May. More coverage here from the Daily Journal of Commerce.

Great to see another prefab entrepreneur in the Pacific Northwest promoting fabrication. I very much look forward to their success - we would like to purchase wall panels from them when they are ready.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Geek Architects in love - with robots - finally!

Installed in the UK at the Fabricate! conference which took place on April 15-16. More on Digital Manufacturing in Architecture from Lara Carim.

We have had a long-term and committed relationship with cnc robotics for years. Take a look at this video showing our process on a residential project we did in Tahoe (one of over 1,000 fabrication projects we have worked on in Europe and North America).

And for those intrigued with advanced (and very fast) cam/cnc I recommend watching the video below.

Update: and here is "Robots in Architecture" association.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Futuristic Japanese Smart House by Sekisui House

And when will Steve Jobs call so we can start work on the real iHome using even better technologies?

BIM adoption in Europe - McGraw Hill SmartMarket Report

Business Value of BIM

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Marcin Jakubowski: Open-sourced blueprints for civilization

This is absolutely great. Inspiration in less than 6 minutes. Now if Martin's Open Source Ecology group connects to the open architecture network for open source community building around the world things will really take off. Indeed, open sourcing the "global village construction set."

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Yes is More - B

Bjarke Ingels of Copenhagen-based group BIG tells us that yes is more, indeed. Great to see him also demonstrate that great design can also be green and that sustainable doesn't have to mean denial or living with less. Check out his Yes Is More book.

Demonstrating the potential of digital fabrication

A great video showing how technology enables innovative design. Additional project information from Gramazio and Kohler here.

The digital fabrication lab at ETH continues to inspire - and lead.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Passive House battle rages on

I was one of over 170 attendees at the annual passive house regional meeting in Olympia, Washington on March 18th. Martin Holladay of the widely respected green building advisor really kicked the conversation off in a provocative keynote address questioning the appropriateness of the popular European performance standard for the North American market.

Read more here in a reconstruction of the presentation at the GBA website. And here is Michael Eliason of the Brute Force Collaborative Blog in his rebuttal. Treehugger chimed in as have many in the passive house community.

And now Graham Wright makes some great contributions on the Passive House Northwest website.

Still waiting for Wolfgang Feist himself to chime in.

Prefab Redux - another look at green prefab

From the Seattle Business Magazine April issue, "Prefab Redux"

Great to revisit the topic now that the hype has withered away. Such a shame that there is still so little discussion about how the majority of high-performance homes constructed to the strict passivhaus / passive house and Swiss Minergie performance standards are prefab. Then again, the Swiss, Germans, and Austrians are years ahead in integrating applied buildings science into the design-fabricate-construct process for high-performance building and even that is not generally recognized within the North American building community so of course there is little awareness about how they achieve and scale the process.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Practical BIM-to-CNC Workflow: Big Empowerment for the Small Firm

Jeff McGrew of Because We Can does a great job of introducing BIM to CNC work flows to architects in this short video.

In our video we show how the process and software work on a large-scale residential project

Here are photos of the fabrication, the on site assembly and the finished home in the Lake Tahoe region in California.

And finally, here is a short video showing a CNC Hundegger K2 in action

I also suggest joining the linkedin group "digital fabrication and design" for more related discussion with about 600 other members.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Report on global market for prefabricated housing

The full report cost $4500. A free summary is available here.

It would be a great read I am sure, but I do wonder about how they define prefab.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Friday, March 11, 2011

FABRICATE - 3D printing and computer-aided-manufacturing

Media coverage and events focused on fabrication continue to proliferate.
First up - On March 25-26th academic leaders and pioneering fabricators converge in Los Angeles for the SCI-arc conference on composites and digital fabrication. The event is free but prior registration is required.

Next up, the FABRICATE conference in London on April 15-16th. BLDGBLOG contributes some background and enthusiasm for the event.

The Economist put 3D printing on the front page of the February 10th issue with this compelling photo and title, "Print me a Stradivarius."

and subtitled, "How a new manufacturing technology will change the world" and an article stating that it may have as profound an impact on the world as the coming of the factory did.

And now for some fun. Watch a Japanese industrial robot picking cookies in this video.

A WiiLabyrinth with a KUKA youBot

Prefab - Revisiting the hype circa 2007

It is interesting to look back at lessons learned from the era when Michelle Kaufmann was discussing offers of $100 million, dozens of factories, and thousands of homes.

I suggest reading this "It isn't easy being green" April 2010 article from the New York Times. Then consider that "prefab" continues to become more efficient and capture a growing share of the market in Europe and Japan. Will the North Americans fall even further behind and attribute the lack of innovation to the weak housing market or will the efficiencies of prefab lead the rebuilding of the industry?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

ITCON Issue on Using Gaming Technologies in Architecture, Engineering, and Construction

The Journal of Information Technology in Construction (ITcon)published a special issue on gaming meets AEC. Almost 600 pages with 32 articles on the building industry and virtual reality, augmented reality, training, education, collaborative design, etc.

Having just returned from a week at the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, I am enthused to see academic recognition of the convergence of a very innovative industry (gaming) with one of the largest, but very change-resistant, trillion dollar industries - building.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Monday, January 24, 2011

Beyond BIM - It's not the end of the Road!

Great to see more discussion about Integrated Design and Delivery Solutions

Enough time has been wasted arguing about CAD authoring tools. Let's demonstrate what is possible by implementing the most advanced, efficient, and integrated building systems.

There are many recognized challenges and it certainly won't be easy getting academia and industry to collaborate, but given the potential and lessons learned in the 10 million Euro Manubuild project, countries that want to remain competitive in the AEC market must evolve.