Highgate set to get its first 3D-printed home
PUBLISHED: 10:45 24 April 2015 | UPDATED: 11:10 24 April 2015
At some point in the next few months, Highgate will boast its very first "3D-printed" home.
This will not be the plastic pre-fab sitting incongruously in one of the capital’s prettiest conservation areas that may have sprung to mind, however.
The house has been designed by Facit Homes, a new breed of homebuilders encompassing architecture, design, manufacture and environmental engineering in one stable.
Facit, who have been featured on Grand Designs and have been awarded a Government research grant, specialise in designing and building bespoke homes for individual clients.
Bruce Bell, managing director of Facit Homes explains their all-under-one-roof approach as the most efficient way to build precisely and with as little waste as possible, and is perhaps more accurately described as digitally manufactured.
He says: “The machine we use is kind of like an old-school plotter like architects had in the ‘80s where you put a pen in and it moves it around. A lot of people use 3D technology but we model everything in 3D, every single pipe, drain, duct, which means that it’s very well resolved as a piece of design. “It goes from that digital design, through a digitally controlled machine, to cut components so it’s gone straight from the computer to the actual thing. It stops people meddling with it. At no point is somebody getting out a set of drawings, looking at it going ‘Ooh, how does this go?’ getting a tape measure out, cutting a bit of wood. It’s a very streamlined process.
“Most of the products that we buy are made in a similar way. If you look at your phone or your car or your bike they’ve all gone through this exact same process.
“Look at your iPhone and at no point has somebody got a chisel out and started chopping it out of a block of metal, it’s never been touched by a human hand.”
If all this sounds a bit alien and high tech, Bell brings everything back to their clients, emphasising that no two of their homes look the same.
Each one is designed very specifically to the end users’ needs, helped along by the 3D design process, which enables clients to take a virtual walk through their future house and assess the placement of windows, doors, even taps.
“A lot of people ask if we’re like Huffhaus,” says Bell. “There are similarities there but those German companies have certain styles and building systems, which make all of their buildings look similar.
“When you look at urban, London you need to have the design flexibility and someone like Huffhaus just wouldn’t be able to create the house that we’re doing for Anya and Robin because you need to be able to respond to the site, the client, the planning conditions and not be constrained by those tools.
“Our way of working allows us to create exactly what the client wants but also manufacture it using that technological process so it’s got the quality aspects that you might expect from the German companies but it’s got flexibility that the client in the UK requires.”
The house currently in the pipeline is being designed for long-term Highgate residents Anya and Robin Nuttall and their three young sons.
“Anya and Robin wanted something quite traditional. It’s very much part of the streetscape, very much part of Highgate, it wouldn’t be right to do something super modern in that location,” says Bell. “We knew right from the outset that the house needed to have a contemporary vernacular feel. The hand drawn picture makes it look fairly soft but when you see it, it’ll be very very crisp, super immaculate and quite striking.”
The family were planning to upsize as they expanded but soon discovered that moving within the area would have led to a hefty stamp duty bill, while building a brand new house, rather than merely refurbishing, would also be exempt from VAT.
In addition, a brand new house could be built to be as energy efficient and environmentally friendly as possible, which is another aspect of housing that Facit specialise in.
building themselves something secure in terms of energy prices they’re quite happy to pay a bit of money up front now to build something that’s going to be warm and the energy bills are going to be basically zero with no fluctuation over the next 20 or 30 years.
Every house we build has a super-insulated structure, we’ve got 300ml of insulation throughout the entire roof, floor, wall and everything, it’s made to a really high standard of air tightness so that the heat doesn’t escape,
Every house we build has a few basic items: the super insulated structure; triple-glazed windows and a high level of air tightness; and the heat-recovery system, which retains the heat of the house and brings in fresh air,” says Bell. “Then, if we’ve got the site conditions to get that south-facing glazing and get the heat coming in then we’ll do it too.
“Each project we do we push the limits of our technology and our design systems and we’re making very rich and interesting homes.”