American architecture studio Hannah has built an eco-friendly off-the-grid cabin in Upstate New York using a combination of 3D printed concrete and infested ash wood. The small structure, called Ashen Cabin, demonstrates the potential of using both types of materials to produce sustainable structures.
Some of the most compelling examples of 3D printed projects combine traditional materials and techniques with digital fabrication. The Ashen Cabin is one of those. The eco-focused project showcases how diseased or infested wood (in this case wood infested by the emerald ash borer beetle) can be repurposed in combination with 3D printed concrete to build an off-grid dwelling.
The small house is perched on an angular, stilt-like base made from 3D printed concrete. The concrete material also features elsewhere in the cabin’s construction, including in the tall chimney that rises up along one of the house’s corners. The rest of the house’s exterior is clad in irregular wooden panels, and has windows framed in plywood.
The wooden panels are themselves as interesting as the 3D printed base and chimney: they are made from infested ash wood, which is typically challenging to use in construction because of its awkward shapes. Usually, infested ash trees are left to decompose or are burnt, which results in carbon dioxide emissions. By using the irregularly shaped wood, the Ashen House has a double ecological purpose: it repurposes the wood which would otherwise be wasted and it binds the CO2 emissions to the earth.
The wood cladding was created using a robotic arm with a brand saw attachment. From a design perspective, the wavy wood panels add some interest, curving to emphasize architectural features like the door or windows. Hannah says that over time, the wooden boards will also start to grey, blending in more with the 3D printed concrete foundation.
Inside the house, the floor is tiled with 3D printed concrete; the geometric layers of the floor and fireplace add texture add character to the Ashen House. Hannah describes the effect, saying: “The project aims to reveal 3D printing’s idiosyncratic tectonic language by exploring how the layering of concrete, the relentless 3D deposition of extruded lines of material, and the act of corbelling can suggest new strategies for building.”
Not only did 3D printing add visual interest to the structure, but it also enabled a higher degree of production efficiency. That is, by using 3D printed concrete, the Hannah team avoided using concrete molds, which resulted in less material consumption. “By using 3D printing, we eliminate the use of wasteful formwork and can deposit concrete smartly and only where structurally necessary, reducing its use considerably while also maintaining a building’s integrity,” explained Leslie Lok, a co-founder of Hannah and one of the project’s leaders.
The Ashen House is insulated with foam and heated using the built-in fireplace. The off-the-grid home has no power or running water, but the architecture team did integrate a small camping sink made from coiled concrete. A 3D printed concrete bench inside the home provides seating as well as storage, and a plywood bench-like structure extends into a bed at night time.
The sustainable Ashen House project was realized by NY-based Hannah in collaboration with students from Cornell University.