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© Courtesy of Fablab

Do-it-yourself construction

by Nathan Gray at 02/11/2012 19:16

Another proposal for energy-efficient buildings lies within a broader project exhibited at last week’s Open Innovations exhibition at the exposition center near Moskva City.

FabLab is an “international movement in digital fabrication” numbering 135 facilities worldwide, according to Sherry Lassiter, the founder and program manager at the Center for Bits and Atoms at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“The selection of tools and processes available allows you to make almost anything, so you can make furniture, houses, and all the way over to making communications devices,” she said. “It’s an amazing collaborative community, very grassroots, with an open-source perspective.”

Part of the application of the project, arising from the Barcelona FabLab, has been entries in the biennial solar house design competition the Solar Decathlon, which have, according to lab director Tomas Diez, fulfilled the requirements for actual living spaces more successfully than other previous competitors.

“We realized that most of the competition up until now was mainly about boxes, like, you know, these huge boxes filled with solar panels were more about technology,” he said, adding that the decathlon’s aim was developing houses that could completely supply their own energy.

The FabLab, on the other hand, looked to focus on the design of the house itself and the means of production, rather than the technology. Its answer was a semi-circular, somewhat egg-shaped design, determined by the location of the house on the planet and the exposure to sunlight the house would have throughout the year.

A second design, constructed in Barcelona as a demonstrator for a Smart City exhibition, is, Diez said, more suited to an urban environment due to its more angular and modular shape, allowing it to be used in a high-density area by extension or by stacking.

The successful production of energy by both houses, well in excess of what was needed, could allow them to send electricity to a national supply, supporting the vision of Jeremy Rifkin in his book “The Third Industrial Revolution” of decentralized energy production, Diez said.

The designs, which are freely available online, would have to be adapted for use in Russia due to the difference in climate, said Vladimir Kuznetsov, manager of the first Russian FabLab, but “it’s the brightest project born in the FabLabs all over the world: it’s beautiful, it’s big, it’s high-tech.”

The Barcelona lab has an advantage when it comes to architecture: a location at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, contributing to its specialty. Moscow’s lab, based at the Moscow Institute of Steel and Alloys, or MISIS, has yet to find its specialty, having opened six months ago.

Kuznetsov, however, has his hopes. The entire exhibit – the lab’s first completed project – was created over the course of eight weeks, he said, and consisted mostly of a central geodesic dome about 10 meters across, which was partially inspired by the work in Barcelona.

As for the adaptability of the Barcelona blueprints, Kuznetsov argues that a similar project may be some time off for Moscow, but not too long.

“I love big things, I love to make things very big, so probably next year we will try to make a real house, a Fab Russian house,” he said.

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