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Building Made Better: They See The Future of Your House: Plastic

2 minute read
Anita Hamilton

The house of tomorrow will be made of soda bottles–that’s how we best know the substance called PET, or polyethylene terephthalate. But architects Stephen Kieran and James Timberlake see a much different use for the plastic: embedded with flat circuitry that will enable walls to store heat, generate electricity and double as giant, flat-panel displays. Their iteration, called SmartWrap, could also make the building process faster and cheaper than ever.

The smarts in SmartWrap come from flat circuitry called OLEDs (organic light-emitting diodes), which are tattooed onto the plastic by an ink-jet printer and can function either as a light source or a computer display. When used on an exterior wall, OLEDs could transform the look of your house in seconds. “You could have a blue house one day and a green house the next day,” says Timberlake. “You could have a camouflage pattern or political signage.” Insulation is provided by gel-filled pockets between two layers of SmartWrap; power can be supplied by solar cells and stored in thin-film batteries, which are also printed on.

Timberlake says SmartWrap evolved from the realization that “even though there has been an explosion of new materials and processes, only a small number of architects apply them.” Because SmartWrap can be produced in bulk and individualized for any building, its inventors hope it will be more widely adopted by builders seeking a lightweight, flexible material.

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