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"E-mailable" House Snaps Together Without Nails (clemson.edu) 127

MikeChino writes: Your next house could snap together like a jigsaw puzzle without the use of any power tools. Clemson University students designed and built Indigo Pine, a carbon-neutral house that exists largely as a set of digital files that can be e-mailed to a wood shop anywhere in the world, CNC cut, and then assembled on-site in a matter of days. “Indigo Pine has global application,” says the Clemson team. “Because the house exists largely as a set of digital files, the plans can be sent anywhere in the world, constructed using local materials, adapted to the site, and influenced by local culture.”
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"E-mailable" House Snaps Together Without Nails

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    And you'd think anyone with access to a laser cutter would have access to nails.

    • by unrtst ( 777550 )

      And you'd think anyone with access to a laser cutter would have access to nails.

      This seems better stated than most of the other rants that got upmodded.

      It also seems trivial and obvious to continue that thought... the basic building supplies available world wide can be easily adapted to simple housing plans (for example, see the places that Habitat For Humanity builds... they're real houses with simple plans that ordinary folk can build out of inexpensive off the shelf materials).

      How the hell is CNC milling all the parts more efficient than slapping together some 2x4's and/or cement bl

      • And 50% of building is in site prep, foundation and utilities, so someone attempting to build this will end up with nothing more than a shed if you don't have utilities.

        • Looks like part of the design is solar power. I'm not sure how you CNC a solar panel out of plywood but I'd certainly be interested in knowing.
      • "How the hell is CNC milling all the parts more efficient than slapping together some 2x4's and/or cement blocks?" Simple. As the word "CNC" means, the entire structure, minus insulation, walls, etc. would be cut so precisely that it would be similar to lego style construction. IE, no waste whatsoever unless by man himself. Looking at the modern day construction practices where there is tons of waste and in general environmental problems such as; cracks for insect invasion, lack of proper insulation etc.,
        • by dwywit ( 1109409 )

          See if you can find some episodes of a British TV show called "Grand designs"

          A moderately pompous but well meaning and personable architect travels around the UK visiting building sites and recording the process of construction. Not ordinary housing, but people who've picked unusual projects - medieval barn restoration, cut-into-the-hillside dwellings, mansions on small plots, etc.

          A number of them feature plans that are designed to take advantage of high-tech pre-fab techniques. The plans are emailed to a c

    • You don't even need nails, take a look at traditional Japanese woodworking, https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
  • It's a cool project. Probably good for mass production, though plywood tends to be about 2-3x as expensive per board-foot, so there would need to be a lot of efficiency built in to match the raw material cost.

    Also, it will be very difficult to customize.

    • Also I'm guessing difficult to keep attached to the ground in high winds. I wouldn't want to be in this in any kind of adverse weather conditions.

      • Oh, that's easy. It's not like the foundations will be made of plywood. You can tie things down with a minimum number of simple anchors (or complex ones, if you absolutely have to avoid bolts).

        Using a bunch of plywood does mean having to be smart with shear wall connections, though. Without nails, there are no stressed-skin anchors or plate to web shear transfer mechanisms (field glue doesn't count). Which is, of course, bolsters my point about the inability to modify/customize the houses. The more highly e

  • Nice work, but it's pretty clear from the article that only the structural bits go together without fasteners (mostly). All of the interior finishes, doors, windows, etc. all clearly use conventional screws/nails. Not surprising, but not really the 'snap-together' house that the headline indicates, unless you plan to live in a bare structure open to the elements.

    • I'd rather my house had snap on interior bits, and conventional screws/nails in the exterior.
  • I'm pretty sure if your local lumber yard has a CNC machine they probably also sell hammers and nails.
  • Standard blueprints can already be e-mailed.

    I would say the majority of existing homeowners did not use a single power tool to build their house either.

    Will this meet building codes.

    I see dimensional lumber in some of those photos.

    Surely every potential homeowner / builder will have a cnc machine.

    My mail client does not have the receive plywood feature. Can i upgrade?

  • An ikea threw up (Score:5, Informative)

    by silas_moeckel ( 234313 ) <silas@dsminc-cor ... com minus distro> on Tuesday October 13, 2015 @08:37AM (#50716629) Homepage

    And made this house.

    No bolts? Thats a huge porch roof that needs to be secured lets the next hurricane rip it off. Sure you could go old school and use post and beam style but you still have to tie it down to the foundation.

    Speaking of the foundation it looks like many small concrete blocks hopefully over slab on grade. It's not big enough to use as a service crawlspace I hope there is never a plumbing or vermin issue. There will be a vermin issue as it's a magnet for rodents and such. Again how they planning on fastening it to the ground so it does not blow away without bolts. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and floods happen even in some hippy dippy microhouse.

    Combo PV and hot water, it generally makes sense you're effectively cooling the PV panels and using the waste heat.

    My mid 70's passive solar house did most of this and did it better, a basement floor drain doubles as outside air natural convection will cool the house and it preheats outside air in the winter. My 1954 well architected home did the math for correct overhangs and orientation to deal with solar gain without throwing ugly boxes around the windows. Correct plantings do wonders leaves for shade in summer not so much in winter.

    • There are lots of ways to anchor without bolts. A hook and clasp embedded in the concrete through a hole in a primary vertical element would work, as would several wedge retained mortise/tenon options. There are hundreds of years of timber joints to pull from (not that they are the most cost effective compared to a modern hold-down).

      Their advantage is the possibility of deep members - much deeper than framing lumber. Their drawback is lateral/flexural/torsional stability problems, especially with few ways t

      • That massive sail aka carport and porch roof would need something to hold it down, looking closely at the pictures it looks like traditional standoffs to the vertical supports those would have nails/bolts. From the looks of it it uses a lot of 2x lumber and some fairly long lengths at that.

        Overall it looks like the whole things is just on blocks in a parking lot. Making this be a practical structure that meets code is safe to live in etc etc would require a lot of fasteners or a lot of effort to try and a

  • I'm tired of seeing these things done by people in the south and sunny California where you don't need good insulation. Lots of BS about outdoor living spaces etc. Lets do the Solar Decathlon in Fargo North Dakota in February and see how these piles of lumber actually stack up. There's already a well defined system of building using SIP panels that provide significant improvement to the insulation value of the house system. They work well in hot and cold climates and are built form CNC cut panels that slot
    • Clemson is in South Carolina... They don't get snow often, but the houses are well insulated to save on cooling costs for sure.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        For heating and cooling, the delta is the overriding factor in efficiency. The difference between uncomfortable and comfortable for hot weather is probably a max of 40 degrees, though most often about half that. i.e. 75 inside vs 115 outside. For heating on the other hand. If it is near freezing, you're looking at minimum of 40 degrees, and possibly double that. Cooling is way easier than heating.

        • Bullshit. Cooling requires a complicated air conditioning system with a condenser, evaporator, heat sink, cooling fans, and refrigerant lines running about. Heating requires fire or a hot piece of metal. It costs a heck of a lot less in natural gas to heat a house 40 degrees above ambient than it does to cool a house using the AC using electricity 40 degrees below ambient.

          • by Mal-2 ( 675116 )

            Not only that, but most home HVAC systems aren't capable of cooling a house to 40 degrees below ambient. 20 is more typical, and you can improve on that some with good insulation and recirculation, but the heat flowing from the environment into the cooler house is still going to increase proportionally to the temperature difference. Heating, as you pointed out, costs much less in direct terms (though it requires burning a carbon-based fuel) because it doesn't have to move heat and dump it somewhere else, it

        • Cooling is way easier than heating.

          That explains why humans had Aircon millions of years before they discovered fire...

    • Wouldn't a good option be to simply get a couple old shipping containers and do a little cutting and welding? You could use spray-on insulation and cover it in drywall. Would also be heavier and structurally much more sound than plywood. The stackable nature of containers means you could easily build a 2 story house, by building stairs and using 1 container for a hallway and 1 room and an adjoining container divided into 2-3 rooms. 4 old 40ft containers would get you 1200 sq ft and would cost 10-12k tot
      • The shipping container concept is just as much of a gimmick as this. The cost of housing is not in the frame, it is the foundations/site and the fittings, none of which are solved with contrivances such as these.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2015 @08:46AM (#50716673) Journal
    The basic construction is based on finished lumber. Lumber is actually a very expensive material. Wood is plentiful around the world. But most of them grow in stunted, twisted, gnarled forms without much of structural strength. Wood that can be finished into lumber comes from barely a dozen (or at most two dozen) species around the world. It tends to be very expensive.

    Most homes in developing countries are built using bricks, clay, or concrete and cement. Wood, glass, steel and aluminum are expensive and rare in most of the world.

    So why can't these digital files be adapted to clay, brick or cement construction?

    Fundamentally all the materials have enormous strength in compression. We knew we could pile brick on brick, dirt on dirt and build enormous, stable enduring structures 5 to 10 thousand years ago. But all of them are brittle and they have no real strength in tension. They have very little elasticity. For a design to "snap" together, you need a little bit of elasticity and some tensile strength. You can not "bend" a concrete beam a little, snap it into place and it would not "spring" back to assume old shape with old strength. Bent concrete is dead concrete.

    R & D on developing cheap housing for the developing nations is a very active area of research. Many universities around the world are working on it. But most solutions are dull, and do not lend themselves to flashy headlines. Back when I was in college, the very first rupee I earned in my life came from the Centre for Rural Development, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. We were working on natural gas from cow waste, cottage industries suitable for rural areas, efficient wood burning stoves, and cheaper construction techniques for mud huts. Internet has a role to play in rural development. But it is not going to be as simple as mailing a few files around the world.

    • "So why can't these digital files be adapted to clay, brick or cement construction?" Because building using rock, clay, brick or cement has long-established local traditions everywhere. Such files will bring you nothing.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Overzeetop ( 214511 )

      There's no reason that you couldn't have a masonry wall system and this kind of roof.

      Of course, they're using plywood, which is about 3x as expensive as structural lumber (on a boardfoot basis), and CNC milling - which is not really "developing country" stuff. This is new age construction for hipsters. You make your couple million then go "roughing it" in a 900SF house for a few years and blog about it until the money runs out and you get tired of no Starbucks. Then you go back with your "world experience"

    • If it didn't use wood they couldn't claim it was carbon neutral. Kind of silly IMHO. If a structure requires carbon but has a service life of 100 years I would say it was well spent....

    • Internet has a role to play in rural development. But it is not going to be as simple as mailing a few files around the world.

      But meh slacktivism! Can't I just click "Share" on Facebook and make the world a better place?

      Lumber is actually a very expensive material. Wood is plentiful around the world. But most of them grow in stunted, twisted, gnarled forms without much of structural strength.

      That caught my attention to, but this is the reason that HDF was invented. The idea of "Emailing a house" is stupid, just like we all knew it would be. But the idea of flat-packing and shipping a prefabricated structure is what should be investigated further. The biggest hurdle in producing cheap housing in underdeveloped areas is their lack or absence of infrastructure such as heavy machinery to process raw resour

      • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2015 @11:17AM (#50717775) Journal
        Shipping pre fabricated homes has a long history in the USA. Sears, Roebuck and Company used to sell homes in its catalog and ship them by rail and carts. Some of the homes built in 1890s are still standing.

        The basic problem in developing nations, especially in rural areas, is the lack of capital. Let me give a simple example: India has the largest cattle population in the world. Rural Indian villages, and many parts of its cities too are deluged with cow waste. Imagine how much the life will be better if we could contain the cow waste to remove the odor, separate the combustible gases for fuel, and the remaining bio matter to be used as fertilizer! Fuel and fertilizer alone would justify themselves based on cash flow and the odor elimination is a pure bonus!

        How much would it cost? What kind of high tech process you need to do this? You need to dig a pit about 25 feet deep, 10 feet in diameter, fill it with cow waste, cover it with some kind of plastic sheet or a metal lid or even a brick dome. You need a central pivot and some paddles to stir it once or twice a day. A smaller diameter tube to extract stuff from the bottom without disturbing the layers on top. Takes about two weeks for the anaerobic bacteria to start working. You can collect odorless natural gas from the top, pull buckets of organic fertilizer from the bottom. Once it gets going this can handle a herd of about 20 cows. The farmer has excess natural gas to cook, to make added products like par-boiled rice, or distillation or popped grains or make country sugar... all of them need lots of fuel. Fertilizer is valuable. Costs less than 250$ to build this. Still not much of market penetration. I remember making presentations to villagers back in 1980s. They simply don't have 250$ to invest.

        Shipped prefabricated homes are developed nation solution. The lack of capital for to do even mind bogglingly simple things is just staggering.

        • I live in Minneapolis, and my house was built in 1902, and arrived via rails exactly how you described. Most of the houses on my block are from the same time as well.

    • If we use up all of our clay, we'll be in deep trouble.
    • Where there are forests lumber is cheap. Just about every house in Canada, probably in the northern half of the US, and most the northern part of Europe has a wood frame and underfloor. I can go to any large hardware store near me and there are rows of lumber available. If I want to build a deck or patio it's the cheapest option. Same for a fence. In Canada we don't use it for the outside of the houses because other options are less maintenance.

    • So why can't these digital files be adapted to clay, brick or cement construction?

      Because there is no need. If you have brick and mortar, and know how to lay them, you can create your own house without outside help (which is pretty much what the developing world already does now).
      This is a solution looking for a problem.

  • made with a 3D printer so when it is all done it is monolithic and practically able to withstand tornadoes and hurricanes https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
  • Do people know that you can also e-mail blue prints for standard houses too? Does that make the house "e-mailable?"

  • by SecurityGuy ( 217807 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2015 @09:33AM (#50716913)

    I don't know why, but outrageously stupid statements are becoming more and more common. No, this house doesn't "exist largely as a set of digital files". It exists largely as tons of wood. The *instructions* are digital files.

    • One of their links to the the "Wikihouse", an even more barf-tastic name. Neither this things or the Wikihouse actually go into any detail as to what holds them together, despite it being the most attention grabbing part of the click-bait. Usually that means it is a gimmick. "No nails!" might mean it uses screws only, "No bolts!" might mean only nails...

      90% website design, 10% house design. What could go wrong?

  • by pz ( 113803 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2015 @09:54AM (#50717113) Journal

    Anywhere it freezes in the winter (which covers a rather large swath of the world, but certainly not all of it), you need to establish the foundation below the soil frost depth or face your foundation heaving each winter and slowly but surely twisting your building into collapse. This building seems to have been designed for zones where the ground does not freeze.

    Also, what happens when the nice solar panels get covered in six feet of snow? Oh, right, not made for that application. And when the wind blows hard and tears off the nice deck / car park? Right, again, not made for that application, either.

    So, OK, they designed a house for temperate climates with moderate weather in a way that does not require nails or screws. An interesting design challenge, somewhat like, "let's see how fast the two of us can run in a three-legged race!" It's fun, you might learn something about design, but isn't really all that practical. Moreover, I see a lot of very expensive finish ply in those photos, so this design isn't intended for low-income housing.

  • Umm, yeah. I live in Nebraska. Here, we have these things called "tornados." They're super windy god-sized vacuum cleaners that rake across the landscape periodically.

    Do I really want a snap-together house the next time the tornado sirens start going?

    • by jsepeta ( 412566 )

      No, but after the [tornado / hurricane / monsoon / forest fire / mudslide / earthquake], use snap-together housing to keep the victims of natural disasters indoors. After watching the FEMA-funded disasters built near my hometown in Indiana and shipped to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, we could probably benefit from simple designs for temporary shelters.

      • A portable shelter in the form of a 20ft or 40ft shipping container might be great because the infrastructure exists to move them around so easily. You could load a couple thousand on a ship to move them to the nearest port and then use a combination of trains and trucks to get them to where you need. Just need a few cranes at the site to take them off the truck and it's ready to go. Would have to be better than the trailers FEMA have before.

        • A portable shelter in the form of a 20ft or 40ft shipping container might be great because the infrastructure exists to move them around so easily. You could load a couple thousand on a ship to move them to the nearest port and then use a combination of trains and trucks to get them to where you need. Just need a few cranes at the site to take them off the truck and it's ready to go. Would have to be better than the trailers FEMA have before.

          Shipping containers require a lot of conversion work, as otherwise they're freezing in the winter and sweltering in the summer. They're better than nothing, but so's a decent tent.

  • Gee ... shipped anywhere they have CNC milling equipment AND plywood.

    Not really as useful to the rural poor and disaster areas as it sounds if you need all that infrastructure.

  • that's a porch? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Goldsmith ( 561202 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2015 @10:39AM (#50717529)

    Look at those long wood beams... perfect, very pretty, and also expensive! Is there a house behind it? Very little on the porch is covered on their website, and it doesn't show up on any of their "sustainability" materials. Meanwhile, it features in half of the pictures on the competition website.

    If they want to point out how they're using local materials and these new techniques, maybe get rid of that massive redwood "porch" that is neither local, inexpensive, nor innovative.

  • "exists largely as a set of digital files that can be e-mailed to a wood shop anywhere in the world"

    • I'd rather like to see an AI house designer. A little bit like advanced EDA as opposed to simple drafting. Tell it where you want to build and what, and it comes up with a design. Cheaper than an architect per house, but might need to be amortized over a lot of houses.
  • Every edutainment channel has at least one show about tiny houses. Most of them are showcasing how nice they look, while ignoring the utility, economic, and environmental shortcomings of "going tiny". When your tiny house generates 4 tons of garbage, you're doing environmentalism the wrong way.
  • This is interesting but wouldn't adult sized Legos be easier?
  • Traditional Japanese joinery forgoes nails for the most part, but even a traditional western house with nails can be put together without power tools... a saw and hammer makes it a bit more work that using power tools but certainly not any more work than a CNC kit house.
  • Seriously? Yeah, snap together house is cool, but making a big tech splash because you can fucking email it?

    Holy fuck sauce batman, get on the bat phone, someone figured out you can email blue prints to places for fabrication.

    And what the fuck is carbon neutral? The blue prints because you emailed them through the shit ton of electronics chewing on coal? Or the wood the shop uses to create it, from the trees they cut down with power tools, which used carbon based material to create, which consume gasoline o

  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2015 @12:49PM (#50718587)
    I think you could buy all materials, blueprints and instructions from Sears for like a thousand dollars, including shipping. Then add several hundred hours of sweat equity to construct it.

    A pretty high quality one still around is the Nixon birthhouse at his library in Yorba Linda. I think it has a Great Room, a couple of bedrooms and bathroom. I've seen others preserved in Western mining towns. Pre-manufactured homes eventually superceded these.
  • When you finish building the house, advertisements and porn suddenly start displaying all over the walls, ceilings, etc. Yep. Malware in the email.
  • the plans can be sent anywhere in the world, constructed using local materials...

    Cow farts and Bindweed?

  • On a deserted island out in the pacific where the military needs to stash "stuff" CNC ply constructions soldiers jigsaw together no electricity required win-win.

    Solar Decathalon competition optimized architecture for affordable environmentally sustainable energy contributing urban dwellings for human habitation - Loser.

  • You wouldn't download a house would you?

If I have not seen so far it is because I stood in giant's footsteps.