Product Development Lab (PD Test Lab)
  •   Pieter Stoutjesdijk TheNewMakers
  •   Tillmann Klein Delft University of Technology
  •   Marcel Bilow Delft University of Technology
  •   Jos Lichtenberg Eindhoven University of Technology
  •   Jeroen van Veen Delft University of Technology
  •   Nick van der Knaap Octatube


The file to factory approach is investigated within the Product Development Test Lab, with the first entirely digitally produced building as a demonstrator and test lab on the campus of TU Delft. The project responds to the growing demand for sustainable and affordable housing; aiming to build houses with bio-based materials, efficiently produced with digital production technologies while reducing the failure costs on the building site. The full-scale prototype serves as a platform, ready to explore new methods of building sector related product design. The cycle of designing, testing, evaluating, redesigning, and retesting serves as research lead, enabling the designers to work quickly and make improvements on the go.

PD Test Lab

While architects and engineers work already entirely digitally to create our build environment, contractors and artisans on the building site still rely mostly on printed paper plans. This practice bears the risk of failure costs. With a growing demand for more sustainable and affordable housing, it seems to be about time to start the digital revolution in this sector as well. With the help of computer-controlled machines such as a CNC router, we can fabricate building components directly based on the design of the architects. The digitally created files are sent to a router that cuts parts out of wooden or natural fibre boards with high accuracy and speed. All details form a system of pre-engineered solutions that creates a database of building blocks, lowers costs, and increases quality. Within the Product Development Lab project, the file to factory approach is investigated in the form of the first entirely digitally produced house as a demonstrator on the campus of the Faculty of Architecture. The project is embedded in the graduation education program and offers a unique environment to explore the possibilities but also restrains of this approach.

PD Test Lab

Project goals

Therefore, in this PD Test Lab project we do not use expensive technologies to make even more costly architecture, but use the potential of these technologies to create high quality, low energy consumption affordable buildings that respond to our difficult challenge towards an energy neutral future. We would like to increase the quality of the building process and the building itself. The question is how this method or process can contribute to an economic and ecological advantage for the building sector. The project is financed by the 4TU Bouw initiative with the aim to develope a platform that explores the applications of building industry related product development. The house itself is a test already. It will even be used to test more concepts.

PD Test Lab

Building system

Currently, CNC milling already has great potential to create entirely digitally produced building structures with integrated friction-fit connections, as shown in professor Larry Sass’s (MIT) CNC house at MOMA and the open-source Wikihouse project. Pieter Stoutjesdijk developed this principle further with ECOnnect in Delft, using 600mm wide disassemblable integrated building components and making optimal use of the third axis on a CNC router to create 2.5D connections. Boards from agricultural waste and wood serve as the primary building material. Therefore, the structures roughly store their weight in carbon emissions. Through the file-to-factory process, the components have the potential to be mass-customised globally before being produced locally. The precision of the digital production process allows for fast and easy assembly and disassembly through integrated connections and airtight construction details. While the use of standardised building components accepts the reuse of the components like Lego blocks, the building itself allows a high amount of flexibility over time. Due to the use of environmentally friendly materials, the blocks itself can be easily disassembled after its lifetime and fed back into the ecological cycle.

PD Test Lab

About the booth

The booth presented at the TIME SPACE EXISTENCE exposition during the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale illustrates how parts connect to form a house playfully. From the right point of view it presents a house, randomly looked at it only shows a handful of components hovering in mid-air.

PD Test Lab

Project team

Pieter Stoutjesdijk, Tillmann Klein, Marcel Bilow, Jos Lichtenberg, Jeroen van Veen, Nick van der Knaap