“Creating a symbiotic relationship between the building and nature.”
Why the Lotus? – From the beginning, Team WashU has been questioning how to achieve the most energy efficient design. We found our answer to be in Nature. Our design philosophy is a marriage of the most innovative technology with Nature. This project is an application of 3D printing technology with the most significant flower in the Chinese culture – the Lotus – to achieve highly sustainable results in the design, construction, and footprint outcome.
It is vital to reconsider a symbiotic relationship between the building and nature. Traditionally the building has had a negative effect on the environment: high levels of CO2 emissions, waste, exploitation of materials, and enormous energy usage. Team WashU focused on how to reduce waste generated on the construction site, lessen CO2 emitted during the process, and save materials. One key way to achieve this is by reducing and ultimately phasing out the CO2 emissions produced by the building sector – through the transformation of building design, construction, and operation.
This is the reason why Team WashU chose to use 3D printing technology as the backbone of the project. This technology saves energy by: eliminating steps in production, using substantially less material, enabling the reuse of by-products, and producing lighter products. Remanufacturing parts through advanced additive manufacturing and surface treatment processes, can return end-of-life products to as-new condition, with one product using only 2−25% of the energy required to make a new one.
The production process includes the printing of a surface mold and fabrication of a cellular mesh. Then, the cellular mesh is assembled into the surface mold and insulation is poured inside. Finally, concrete is cast into the mold, and after it dries, the product can be demolded. The most important outcome from this process is that the mold can be recycled more than 100 times. This influences material usage and cost. The chart below demonstrates how much money can be saved by using 3D printing technology.
Although the initial price of a 3D printed mold is much higher than a typical wood mold, a wooden mold can only be re-used twice, but a 3D printed mold can be used a minimum of 100 times. When we take this recyclable time into consideration, the price is reversed after 5 reuses. So, imagine that a 3D printed mold is used 100 times, the difference between the two methods is tremendous. Team WashU also decided to 3D print all the furniture in the Lotus House, in order to fully commit to the sustainable method of design.
The Lotus House will be controlled by Google Nest Smart Home technology, with a developed application by our student engineers. This simple machine will be connected to all the house appliances, cameras and door systems in order to easily control the environment inside of the Lotus House.
The Lotus House is 650 sf design which focuses around human circulation. Team WashU wanted to maximize the flexibility, by creating a center core which allows for various functions and spaces around it to stretch and flow throughout the house. By creating a large open space in the center of the house, this courtyard functions as a dining space which can be changed by opening sliding doors. This space is dragged into the kitchen, living area, bedroom area and study room. The center of the house is focused around the most important function of the house- a gathering space for people, where they can eat. This courtyard space then flows into the rest of the house. We want to create an open environment, which allows for natural human mobility, and promotes a healthy feng shui.
The plan is organized around the core, which is the dining room. In Chinese culture, the dining room the most important space for the whole family for it functions as an area for collective gathering; therefore, it is the most public and intriguing space in a house. With a circular organization, the centralized dining hall is also connected with the rest of the programs/rooms visually and physically. The organic lotus form provides subdivisions with the curved walls. Moreover, the 3D printed furniture pieces are all inbuilt and highly customized, allowing for every room to be more clearly characterized and defined. The circular plan is also a suggestion of the most common daily sequential living: coming home, setting down bags, preparing food, sharing and communicating with others in the central dining room, and relaxing in the living room, in finally, in the bedroom. The programs are organized in certain way to define how people lives inside the house.