UC Berkeley professor helps build cabin using 3-D printer

Virginia San Fratello/Courtesy

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A UC Berkeley professor helped develop a full-sized cabin made from cement, sawdust and chardonnay tiles through the use of a 3-D printer.

Emerging Objects, a local manufacturing startup co-founded by UC Berkeley professor of architecture Ronald Rael and San Jose State University professor of design Virginia San Fratello, used a 3-D printing system to build the single-room cabin called the “Cabin of 3D Printed Curiosities.”

According to Emerging Objects, the 3-D printer used to create the cabin uses full-body clay to make fired ceramics that are nontoxic and can last hundreds of thousands of years. The furniture inside the cabin was printed using materials such as bio-plastic and nylon, according to San Fratello.

San Fratello said in an email that Emerging Objects has always been interested in making products for the environment using 3-D printers.

“We’ve always been interested in making functional, useful buildings, interiors and products for the built environment such as lighting and furniture using 3d printers and novel materials,” San Fratello said in an email.

The space uses artificial lighting with a Chroma Curl wall, which provides light for both the interior and exterior of the cabin. The cabin has a wall of living succulents that naturally grow in Northern California and a ceiling made of “seed stitch” ceramic tiles serving as a rainscreen.

According to Minna Toloui, education and engagement program manager at the Ecology Center in Berkeley, growing plants that are native to the state of California is one way to ensure that a living space is ecologically friendly.

“California native plants use very little water,” Toloui said.They also maintain the aesthetics of the yards.”

The Ecology Center is currently in the process of developing its own EcoHouse, a demonstration house established to show people how they can make their homes more energy-efficient to leave less of a carbon footprint.

Toloui said she is hoping Emerging Objects will use other ecologically friendly components for future products, which include a gray water system that diverts water in the home and filters and recycles it for later use, passive heating systems, solar panels and an electrification system, which is a cleaner way to produce electricity that does not involve natural gases.

San Fratello said the cabin can be used to address housing problems in the Bay Area on a small scale.

“What’s exciting about this for us, is that it opens the door for home owners, architects, designers, makers, tinkerers, etc to use the relaxed codes to experiment in their own backyards as we collectively try to address some of the housing problems at a micro scale,” San Fratello said in an email.

Contact Shelby Mayes at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @shelbymayesdc.