Tiny Houses

There was a huge earthquake in India and lakhs – hundreds of thousands – were homeless. Reading the report upset Sami. People were begging for clean water, food and shelter, and with the monsoon approaching they were likely to be washed out.

One of Guru Baba’s projects was disaster relief. Though Sami was now working as the 3D Unit’s manager rather than Guru Baba’s assistant, he was still on the books as a volunteer. He received a call at lunchtime.

“Hello Sami. My name is Raja. We haven’t met, but Guru Baba asked me to call you. I am his new assistant. He said you could help us with disaster relief.”

Sami put down his NFC sandwich. Whoever thought of putting fried chicken between bread was a genius. Northern Fried Chicken was so good, and to think that his previous girlfriend had wanted him to share her vegan raw food diet. No way, chook!

“Yes, of course. What can I do for you?”

“I am not sure really. Guru Baba wondered how your trials were going with large-format 3D printers. He said you were looking at modular construction systems.”

Ah! Thought Sami. He’s on the ball, still. Always thinking ahead and beyond. “I haven’t made much progress yet. There’s been a rush of prototyping projects this summer for fall production and Christmas sale. I may have time next week to continue trials.”

Sami knew people were in trouble. He wasn’t saying he couldn’t do anything, he was saying he couldn’t do anything right now. “Are you suggesting we make stuff here and ship it over? That would be really expensive, and take a month or more.”

“Hang on, let me ask him. I’ll call you back.”

He called again in five minutes. “Guru Baba says he doesn’t want production, he only wants prototyping. He wants you to provide low-tech blueprints for the printer and perform experiments on efficient material usage. Find the cheapest materials and stretch them. Can you please look into that?”

Sami said, “Okay, I’ll take a look. I’ll report back soon.”

The large format 3D printer appeared complex, but beyond the CPU, it was simple mechanically. It was just a machine layering materials and leaving gaps, paralleling the way that nature built landscapes, creating them with volcanoes and floods and fine-tuning with wind and rivers.

Sami wondered if nature, or the 3D printer, could rebuild lives.

Jamz poked his head in at four pm. He was unofficial leader of the rag pickers working the trash after school. “Hello Sami, I just thought I’d say hi!”

Sami wasn’t in the mood for chat. “Sorry Jamz, I have an urgent task now. No time to talk.”

“Can I help you with it?”

“I don’t think so. It’s for disaster relief in India. I need to think it through.”

“That’s the problem with adults. They want to think about things rather than do them immediately. Why don’t you tell me what you need and I’ll help you.”

Sami was surprised by his manner but said okay. He explained the task.

Jamz said, “It’s simple really. Make flexible blueprints so people can use whatever materials are available – metal, plastic or wood – for the structure. Leave the CPU to the kids. They’re savvy with technology and have smaller hands. They’ll do a much better job than adults. They can be actors, rather than burdens, in regenerating their own lives.”

They spent the evening making architectural models of simple structures. It was a practical, open ended way to explore ideas. They studied volumes and appearances, and toyed with components, calculations, and dynamic reflections.

“Let’s follow the way of the bee,” said Jamz. He devised a honeycombed wall structure allowing one cubic metre of cement to create a room with an internal volume of thirty cubic metres, enough for a family to survive. They modelled a room which could be shown by NGOs to government agencies for fundraising, obtaining permits, even sales.

Cement is just crushed rock and lime. It could provide the interface between virtual and real worlds, those of disasters on the news and providing comfort for the afflicted.

With 3D printers, it was simply a case of pushing a button and sending plans, which could be translated into action.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: