HANNAH has applied robotics to abundant waste wood from America's ash trees to create a sustainable building material.

cabin made from beetle infested wood in new york - self build homes - grand designs

Image: Andy Chen

US-based design studio HANNAH has found a way to avoid wasting huge quantities of beetle-infested timber from ash trees, using it to build a tiny cabin in upstate New York as a scaled down study of the material as part of sustainable construction methods. 

The infested ash trees, whose wood has been destroyed by the invasive Emerald Ash Borer beetle, usually can't be processed by timber mills due to the resulting irregularly shaped logs. This waste wood is then either left to decompose, or even burned, both adding to the overall carbon footprint of ash as a building material. 

cabin made from beetle infested wood in new york - self build homes - grand designs

Image: Andy Chen

The team used precision 3D scanning and a robotic arm equipped with a bandsaw to give the damaged ash wood a second lease of life. 

‘It’s a combination of our design research and thinking in response to the urgent condition of our natural environment and possible modes of intervention,’ says Leslie Lok, Hannah’s co-principal.

Read more: Off grid homes: 5 UK self builds for eco-friendly living

cabin made from beetle infested wood in new york - self build homes - grand designs

Image: Andy Chen

Ashen Cabin is clad in the cut ash wood, retaining its wavy lines and warped forms as elements of architectural interest, particularly around the black-painted plywood windows. 

The cabin sits on a base and stilts made by 3D printing concrete - a method that removes the need for formwork, which can be wasteful in its use of the material, as well as ensuring concrete is only used where structurally necessary, reducing the amount used and improving, to some degree, its environmental impact. 

cabin made from beetle infested wood in new york - self build homes - grand designs

Image: Andy Chen 

The use of the concrete is imperfect too, creating what HANNAH describes as 'tectonic articulations' in the material, which is also used for the chimney. When the ash weathers, it will grey, matching in with the concrete elements of the cabin for a more unified look. 


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