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  • Posts by DSB Construction

    Would you live in a house clinging to a cliff?

    A design for a home anchored to a sheer cliff face offers a striking vista. But what would it take to live in such a place, asks Jon Kelly.

    For sale: distinctive seaside property with spectacular coastal views. Would suit high-value buyer untroubled by vertigo. So far it only exists as a concept, but the design for the Cliff House by Modscape, an Australian firm that designs and builds prefabricated homes, is enough to give a lurch to the stomach of anyone uneasy with heights.

    Here’s the pitch – it features three bedrooms (two doubles, the other en-suite), a stylish living space, a carport, separate bathroom and (tantalisingly or nausea-inducingly, depending on your tolerance of sheer drops) an open-air spa and barbecue area on the bottom floor. Artfully minimalist interior décor focuses visitors’ attention on “transcendent views of the ocean”.

    According to the company’s website, the plans were drawn up after a couple approached the firm asking its designers to explore how to build a holiday home along “extreme parcels” of coast in Victoria.

    Inspired by the way barnacles cling to a ship’s hull, the design envisages that the house would be made up of five modules connected by a lift and secured to the cliff face using engineered steel pins.

    It might look precarious – and a hostage to coastal erosion – but there’s no reason why the design shouldn’t be structurally sound, says Maxwell Hutchinson, a former president of the Royal Institute of British Architects. Cantilever beams drilled into the rock could support the building just as crampons support a climber.

    While people assume homes must be built upwards from foundations in the ground, it’s equally possibly in theory for them to be suspended or hung, says Hutchinson. There’s a tradition of unconventional properties around the world including floating homes, underwater homes and even ice hotels.

    But, he warns, “all of these things are expensive because the construction industry hates anything unusual”. Any prospective owner of the Cliff House would need very deep pockets.

    And that wouldn’t be the only thing required of them, Hutchinson says. “It would have to be someone with a very, very strong stomach.”



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    LED technology used in Indonesia to monitor safety at construction sites

    A safety monitoring method called On-Site Visualization has been implemented in metro system construction sites in Jakarta, Indonesia as part of a Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) project. The technology was developed by Professor AKUTAGAWA Shinichi (Kobe University Graduate School of Engineering).

    On-Site Visualization (OSV), as its name suggests, is a real-time data processing technology used to check safety levels at construction sites. A device with built-in LEDs is attached to walls and pillars at the building site and measures any irregularities or tilting. The LEDs light up like traffic lights to indicate the danger level with different colors: blue for “no irregularities,” and yellow and red for “danger of collapse.” This clear method of representation is important in countries with low literacy rates.

    The JICA project, titled “Economic and Social Development Support in Developing Countries through Partnerships with the Private Sector” had participants from multiple private organizations in the OSV Consortium (an industry-academic collaborative group that promotes use of OSV technology). Professor Akutagawa oversaw the technology use. The teams monitored safety levels using OSV for a fixed period at three metro system building sites in the center of Jakarta (two stations in the city center and an elevated track in the south). Following this, they held a seminar presenting the results of the implementation. The project was evaluated highly by the head of construction at Jakarta MRT, who stated that “We can now expect higher standards of safety management.”

    In many developing countries, an increase in public works is accompanied by a sharp rise in the number of accidents, and there is a growing need for safety monitoring. “I want to build a human network that combines know-how from different fields to improve levels of safety and security” commented Professor Akutagawa.


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    3D Printing Houses are becoming something real

    Last year, the Italian 3D printer company WASP unveiled the world’s largest 3D printer. It’s a giant hexagonal tower 40 feet high and 20 feet wide. The size of the machine, which is called Big Delta, wasn’t an attempt to get into the Guinness book of world records—it was more an attempt to get to utopia (WASP stands for “World’s Advanced Saving Project”). The printer is made to build homes, in whatever far-flung places might need them, cheaply and of the material found there.

    “What we are doing is an experiment [that is] somewhat ‘extreme,’” says Maurizio Andreoli, WASP’s spokesman. “No one has ever printed earth and straw. With this first living module we want to prove, even to ourselves, that you can do it.”

    They are currently proving just that.

    In a commune called Massa Lombarda, in Italy’s province of Ravenna, they have begun building in their “Technological Village,” dubbed Shamballa. They now have produced a wall the height of an average-sized person.

    According to WASP, its extruder turns dirt and straw that are combined with a mixer and a motorized hoe into a “fiber-reinforced material like a composite.” The group claims, using its technology, “Two men can build a refuge in a week.” And that refuge needn’t be box-like, utilitarian, and boring. Walls can curve and undulate, homes can be free of corners, so the world’s neediest may end up in the most cutting edge architecture. The shanty towns of the future may be a bit funkier than their predecessors.

    Their current wall, a rising cylinder that looks as if it’s been stretched on a potter’s wheel, is made of two layers bolstered by wavy or zig-zagging lines inside. Beause it is hollow, it could be filled with insulation or some kind of ventilation system. But this first prototype won’t be for living in. WASP plans to tear it down and use the fibrous material for building new structures.

    WASP isn’t the only firm trying to print homes or homelike structures. Berkeley Khoshnevis’s Contour Crafting has been laying down walls for some time. And researchers at the Netherlands Eindhoven University have been printing some groovy structures with their concrete printer. But the people behind WASP may be the most idealistic. They don’t patent their inventions, and they invite anyone who wants to contribute to come help them build in Shamballa. They hope Big Delta will eventually be able to help create the 100,000 new homes a day that the UN has said will be needed throughout the world over the next 15 years.

    “Once the prototype is done, we are going to start a very intense studio work on other materials, but always in the direction of sustainability–environmentally and economically,” says Andreoli.


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