Igloos Built Using 3D-Printed Salt Are Lightweight and Eco-Friendly
Sustainable architecture made out of locally harvested minerals from the San Francisco Bay
Design agency Emerging Objects of Oakland aims to bring good ideas to life through 3D printing — which is exactly how they printed the world’s first Igloo of salt.
The company, founded by Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello, uses additive manufacturing techniques and local materials to produce smarter and withstanding architecture. The Saltygloo, a luminous pavillion of sea salt, is one of their experiments with innovation at the crux.
To build the free standing structure, salt is locally harvested from 109-year-old salt cystallisation ponds in Redwood City which is said to produce 500,000 tons of sea salt each year. A powder-based 3D printer allows for the unique production: layers of salt bond with a salt and glue substance (“salty glue”) that is waterproof, sturdy, and transparent. In combination, the printed materials produce individual and lightweight panels.
Modeled after the Inuit’s winter home in both concept and design, the shelled pavillion is connected together by 336 randomly aggregated panels. The elements are uniquely bound with lightweight aluminum rods to reflect the way in which salt naturally occurs and support the large-scale structure. The translucent material allows light to filter in and illuminate the space, changing with the natural light of the day.
The dome was a successful attempt to create 3D printed architecture that can be seen as sustainable, smarter, and environmentally conscious. Salt blocks have a long history in the construction of architecture, but the Saltygloo reimagines the use of the naturally abundant element in a way that is inexpensive compared to commercial materials.
Following the success of Saltygloo, Emerging Objects graduated from experiment to project with plans for the 3D-Printed House 1.0 designed for the Beijing-based Jin Hai Lake Resort. The Saltygloo acted as the project’s prototype and will make up the house’s private bedrooms, bathrooms, and dining areas. It’s construction will be created using a 3D printer farm rather than the 3D powder-printer to allow the designers to build in just one year.
Emerging Objects’ good ideas are real, and changing the history of salty architecture as we know it.