POD Buildings

POD Building PDF

RSA Design Directions proposal: A Changing World (Patchwork World model)

POD Building Research


This system is aimed at anybody needing to produce new buildings of any type, anywhere in the world. It aims to be highly flexible and adaptable to local needs and resources, while drawing on a common worldwide wealth of expertise and experience. All of the technologies involved in this system are already in existence, although they are generally at quite a young stage of development. It is envisaged that by 2025 these technologies will have developed to the point where this system would be a practical way of working.

The system consists of:

  • a large user-built on-line library of virtual buildings, accessible over the internet
  • locally situated rapid manufacturing centres
  • locally available materials
The Library

Publicly accessible database of virtual buildings, designed using BIM processes. The core content of this database would be available as an Open Content resource: anybody could create and upload a design and virtual buildings on the database could be downloaded, added to and adapted. A process of continuous peer review through ratings, product reviews and online discussion would ensure quality. People from all over the world could share knowledge about what buildings work well with different climates, terrains and materials. Not everything on the database need necessarily be free – the same technology and communication channels could be used for private enterprise, alongside the open content.

Building Information Modelling:

“Building information modeling covers geometry, spatial relationships, geographic information, quantities and properties of building components (for example manufacturers' details). BIM can be used to demonstrate the entire building life cycle including the processes of construction and facility operation. Quantities and shared properties of materials can easily be extracted. Scopes of work can be isolated and defined. Systems, assemblies, and sequences are able to be shown in a relative scale with the entire facility or group of facilities.
BIM is able to achieve such improvements by modeling representations of the actual parts and pieces being used to build a building. This is a substantial shift from the traditional computer aided drafting method of drawing with vector file based lines that combine to represent objects.”


Rapid Manufacturing Centres

Locally situated, ideally built together with recycling facilities. Building models are sent here from the library and the parts are “printed out” close to where they are needed, using local materials. The Rapid Manufacturing technology should itself be modular, so that it can be adapted to use a wide range of locally available materials – anything from sand-based aggregates to recycled plastics. Local communities could install whatever “printing modules” were appropriate to the materials they had available.


Locally available materials such as wood pulp / biomass pulp, recycled plastics and paper, sand, earth or stone based composites. Wherever practical, recycled materials would be chosen over newly extracted resources. There would be some trade of materials between localities. I need to research whether it would be better to transport printed parts or raw materials between communities.

Advantages of POD Building

  • Pooling of expertise – helping everybody find building solutions for their local conditions.
  • Massive reduction in transportation of materials.
  • Uses recycled materials wherever possible.
  • Technological flexibility – the same machinery can be used to print a huge range of buildings
  • Design flexibility – designs can be adapted for individual and local needs, e.g. modular housing, built in disability aids, incorporation of locally crafted elements (wooden floor, stone fireplace)
  • End-of-life – Modular building means that parts can be moved around and re-used in an existing build. Parts at the end of their life can be fed straight back into the rapid manufacturing units for recycling.
  • Rapid emergency response – in the case of a natural disaster, nearby rapid manufacturing centres could be turned over to printing emergency shelters – cheap, temporary dwellings that can be produced fast using a minimum of materials

What this design does not do

  • Planning – there would still need to be a system of local planning laws in place. People could not just be allowed to build whatever they wanted wherever they wanted.
  • Materials – the system would not just use recycled materials – some extraction of local natural resources would be necessary. Intelligent decisions would have to be made about the pros and cons of using new, but local, resources V's bringing in recycled materials or parts from other places.

Research needed:

  • What are the problems with current building practices? Which of these problems does this system seek to solve?
  • Open Content frameworks - what current solutions have been developed, and how well do they work in practice. What are the advantages and drawbacks of working this way? How can this model ensure financial viability for designers?
  • BIM technology - what is the current state-of-play, and where might it be in 2025? What are the issues surrounding data storage and transmission (will growth in computer power keep pace with file and database size?)
  • Rapid Manufacturing technology - what is the current state-of-play, and where might it be in 2025? What are the environmental, practical and economic issues around the use of different materials and processes? (need to look at water and power use especially). What advances could be made in adapting Rapid Manufacturing techniques to locally abundant resources?

POD Building Research


I have found it very difficult knowing how to research this project. It was one of those ideas that just pop into your head fully formed, and as it deals with future scenarios and future technologies I have been very unclear about the sort of research I should be doing. Added to this, it is almost completely irrelevant to my main project idea and subject area. The only possible link I can find is a fascination with connecting things together. I feel I would have done a much better job with researching this project if I had had some input from one of the environment design students. As it is, I don't think I have done much more than restate the idea a couple of times in different ways.

Having said all that, I do believe this is a good idea. It has generated quite a bit of (informal) interest from various people involved with implementing BIM, and a couple of my fellow students have expressed an interest in doing something further with it. I have released the pdf booklet of the concept under a Creative Commons license, meaning that others are now free to take the idea further, perhaps making money from it, as long as they credit me for the work I have done and agree to share their own research in a similar manner. This has proved to be a bit of a double-edged sword: it's a good way of getting the idea out there, and I think the open content part of the system is vitally important to it working at all, but a certain amount of interest in the idea has evaporated as people find out that this is not something they can hide and develop in secret.

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