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Imagine pulling up to an empty lot with a CNC-controlled ShopBot router, a rubber mallet, and a pile of 600 sheets of plywood. Add in some unskilled labor and a few days, and you could end up with a livable, permanent structure. Ok, you will need to add electricity, plumbing, and lighting, but thanks to Larry Sass‘s construction technique, precise interlocking notches and grooves keep the house together tightly without the need for screws or nails. Even the furniture can be built in to the design!

A prototype house was assembled for a MoMA show this summer in New York City.

larry-sass-shopbot-house.jpg

Here’s more information on the project website. Also, previously, this related Maker Faire presentaion: Digitally Fabricated Housing: Build a house with a computer, a ShopBot, and a rubber mallet (Austin, 2008)


  • rmadams

    Anyone with a 4×8 shopbot want to comment on how long cutting those 600 sheets would take? It certainly sounds like a cool idea, though…

  • John Maushammer

    They had two machines going and said “30-60 sheets a day, depending on how complex the parts are and how much sawdust needs to be generated.” I’m not sure how many hours/day they were operating, though.

  • Colecoman1982

    I love to see alternative building methods like this. My other favorites are the shipping container houses and the “earthships” (though I like the technology of the earthships more than the style of most of them). My only problem has always been the issue of local building code and whether any of these techniques will pass muster. In many of the more developed parts of the US the building code can be quite complex. It is possible to apply for variances/exceptions, but it is often very hard and prone to, sometimes irrational, rejections. I would love to see the people that develop these concepts put a little time into researching whether their idea would work with common building codes or whether it would require changes to the law.

  • gyziger

    This is a really cool idea, my only concern is how the wood would handle warping and how it would effect the structural integrity of the building as a whole. Would it even be a factor? I can’t see this system being used for a house meant to last a very long time.

  • Einstein

    A very good idea and pretty well thought out but… I see some major flaws.
    1. Thief with butter knfe can access any portion of your home, even underneath it.
    2. Wood FLOATS, yeah lets rebuild New Orleans (which is prone to flood and constant dampness) with floating plywood homes.
    3. These would be about as wind resistant as a a cardboard box.
    4. Judging by the overly simple design I would assume they would shift. Im not seeing concentrated tension points.

    .s.s.s.While I am prone to seeing flaws in items, I do respect the persons effort and purpose. I think on all projects there needs to be the extremely practical naysayer and the overly educated idealist with blinders on. That way they can keep each other in check.

  • Gavin

    Is the narrator a computer generated voice? Text-to-Speech?

  • Wilson!

    @gyziger: plywood is very dimensionally stable due to the orientation of the grain in each laminate layer. Plywood warps much less than traditional lumber.

    @Einstein: “thief with butter knfe” [sic] – did you not hear him say it was assembled with a rubber mallet “and a glue gun”? I’m assuming he means construction adhesive – it’d be hard to pry that apart with a crowbar, much less a butter knife. Marine plywood could be used for construction if moisture is a concern. Maybe you hadn’t realized, most houses are made of wood – just not plywood. So they’d float, too. And how is this design any more/less wind resistant than a stick-built frame house of the same dimensions? It’s still a rectangular solid. Wind resistance comes from tying the materials together, and to the foundation as well.

    My main concern about it is the cost – is it more economical to Shop-Bot a house out of plywood over dimensional lumber? Or is it simply a neat design exercise??

  • Abe

    That’s just what the world needs – weak, fire-prone housing. It would be a much better alternative to use this system for forming earthen walls or even concrete. Wood is no good.