3D Printed Planter Bricks
April 6, 2013 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
Now you can print and plant a brick.
Planter Bricks are 3D printed concrete masonry units that double as vessels for growing plants and vegetation.
Created by Emerging Objects, a design and research subsidiary of Rael San Fratello Architects specializing in 3D printed objects for the built environment, the bricks are “printed” with a direct digital manufacturing and rapid 3D prototyping technology, a relatively new process that enables the production of pieces that would otherwise be impossible to create by hand or require expensive machinery to produce or reproduce.
The resulting 3D printed bricks vary in size and shape: some are angular, some curvaceous, many have different sized cavities. Assembled together they create a uniquely composed wall of plants.
During construction, the bricks can be assembled in a load bearing cavity wall, installed as a traditional masonry curtain wall on a steel or concrete frame, combined with traditional bricks in new walls, or retrofitted for existing walls.
Indentations in the bricks accept water much like weep holes, while a network of drip irrigation lines built into the cavity of the masonry wall irrigate the plants, the water pumped up from below or gravity fed from a cistern or water collection device on the roof.
Edible plants and fragrant herbs with shallow root systems such as rosemary can be harvested through openings in the wall.
As the manufacturing process requires no dies or molds, products can be mass-customized rather than mass-produced, taking advantage of the flexibility and speed computer-aided manufacturing affords and, since 3D printing minimizes waste, it is also an environmentally conscious manufacturing method.
In addition to looking great, Planter Bricks provide a number of benefits. The plants buffer sound, help filter surrounding air, and through evapotranspiration and pollution conversion, they also aid in mediating the building’s microclimate temperature which contributes a bit to countering the urban heat island effect.