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Voxel Cabin grows food, reuses water, makes energy from waste

With the goal of building a cabin without relying on materials from the outside world, those at Valldaura Labs accessed their backyard forest and personal milling equipment (both traditional and CNC), as well as their knowledge of biogas energy and water capture systems.

With just 40 white pine trees selectively harvested from the surrounding Collserola forest, students, researchers and a few experts at IAAC built their “Voxel” cabin during a period of quarantine in the mountains above Barcelona.

After selecting the trees to cut to improve the health of the forest, the team used chainsaws to fell them and cut them in situ. They were then sent to carpentry to be planed and finally compressed into cross-laminated timber (CLT) which served as both structure and interior cladding. Offcuts of wood were shaped using parametric design tools to provide exterior cladding that maximizes shading and cooling.

These offcuts were burnt using the traditional Japanese method of Shou Sugi Ban, or Yakisugi, to preserve and protect the wood. The home was built without the use of metal screws – in an effort to remain as local as possible-, and instead by using a classic doweling technique to press the boards together with these wooden nails.

A voxel is a “pixel with volume”; this applies to the building itself with its stacked interlocking boxes that begin with a rooftop garden that filters and purifies rainwater (with plants that remove contaminants via phytofiltration) to be used inside the home. The tessellated construction continues inside the home with a stepped ceiling and stepped furniture ladder that leads up to the lofted bed.

Even the furniture is modular and changeable; wooden dowels allow one to interchange furniture pieces and build up and interchange tables, chairs, clothes racks, and shelving.