Ashen Cabin Is Constructed From 3D Printed Concrete and Waste Wood Materials

A repurposed robotic arm, 3D printer and trees killed by invasive insects come together to form Ashen Cabin.

Nathaniel Bahadursingh Nathaniel Bahadursingh

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A small practice by the name of HANNAH has completed Ashen Cabin, a dwelling built through unconventional manufacturing methods that can convert waste into useful materials. 

HANNAH is an experimental design practice that looks beyond traditional construction methods by using new and ordinary technology for material, spatial, and cultural experimentation.

The practice is led by Leslie Lok and Sasa Zivkovic, assistant professors of architecture at Cornell University. Their Ashen Cabin prototype is located in the forests of Ithaca, New York, not far from the school’s campus.

Ashen Cabin

According to The Architect’s Newspaper, “…the project was assembled in two parts, with the first phase consisting of nine interlocking, 3D-printed concrete segments forming the footing, cabin floor, chimney, and interior fixtures.”

By using 3D printing, each concrete component was printed without wasteful formwork and used only where structurally necessary. As a result, the use of carbon intensive concrete was reduced considerably while maintaining the building’s integrity.

Ashen Cabin

For the second phase, a six-axis robot arm found on eBay was repurposed to saw wood for the cabin’s façade. HANNAH’s Robotic Construction Laboratory (RCL) team (also headed by Zivkovic) took 3D scans of irregularly-shaped Ash trees that had been killed by invasive Emerald Ash Borer beetles. They then used the arm to slice logs of the trees into pre-shaped planks, which came together to enclose the cabin.

As stated by AN, “Typically, this type of wood would be wasted, as the non-standardized shapes render them useless for other construction purposes.” Furthermore, infested ash trees are often left to decompose or are burned for energy, two scenarios that release CO2 into the atmosphere. 

Ashen Cabin

Moving forward, HANNAH hopes that their building method can eventually be scaled up to bring “waste wood” into construction. The Architect’s Newspaper states, “While robotic fabrication is still a boutique manufacturing method, the repurposing of a robot arm already commonly used for assembling cars means that the potential to scale up is there.” 

A combination of digital design and fabrication technologies allow HANNAH’s Ashen Cabin to convert former waste products into productive materials. With a notably low environmental impact, this prototype constitutes a compelling precedent for sustainable architecture in the years to come.

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All images by Andy Chen, HANNAH