Oak Ridge National Laboratory/Dept. of Energy

“I think for the scale of the proposal, they’re able to have many different aspects in great detail. An utterly compelling submission.” — juror Erin Besler

For most Americans, the two biggest expenses are their house and car. The same goes for the environment: The residential and automotive sectors are two of the biggest energy users in the U.S., in manufacturing, assembly, and operation.

Carlos Jones

So far, most efforts to reduce Americans’ energy consumption have focused on these two market sectors separately. But starting a few years ago, a collaboration between Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), asked: What if a house and a car, instead of being individual energy-consumption challenges, could be integrated into the same solution?

Carlos Jones

Together, the team developed the Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy (AMIE) prototype—“additive” because it relies on 3D printing, and “integrated” because the components share energy sources. The first half of the project is a freestanding one-room house built from 3D-printed components, complete with a kitchen, living space, toilet, and Murphy bed. Instead of printing the entire house at once, the team printed it in pieces, which they then assembled in a parking lot. Additive printing obviates the need for window or door frames, and myriad other parts that normally go into even smaller structures, significantly reducing construction cost and waste.


The house draws energy from a solar array integrated into the roof. Alongside sits a black, boxy car also made largely from 3D-printed parts, which runs partly on natural gas but also uses bidirectional wireless energy transfer to draw idle power from the house—and to feed energy from either its battery or its on-board, natural-gas-powered generator back into the house when the car is not in use.

The triumvirate isn’t about to put the house or car on the market, but as proofs of concept, they’re invaluable. “3D printing gave us the capacity to design on the fly, and to do research on the fly,” says Roderick Jackson, the group leader for building envelope systems research at ORNL.

courtesy SOM

You’re not likely to see AMIE in your neighborhood any time soon, but the team hopes that its concepts filter quickly into the construction industry. “AMIE is not one silver bullet, but a constellation of fireworks,” Jackson says. He and his colleagues are optimistic that 3D printing is the next big thing in the construction industry, not just because it’s more sustainable, but because of its efficiencies over conventional building methods. Because AMIE’s elements are printed, they can integrate a variety of functions—structure, insulation, storage, moisture barrier—into a single piece. This, SOM’s Andrew Obendorf, AIA, points out, is “zero waste, in an industry that wastes 30 percent of what it uses.”

courtesy SOM

Project Credits
Project: Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy (AMIE) 1.0
Client: Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)
Design Firm: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), Chicago . Phil Enquist, FAIA, (partner-in-charge of urban design and planning); Brian Lee, FAIA (design partner); Tanvi Parikh (project manager); Andrew Obendorf, AIA (senior design architect); Leif Eikevik, AIA (technical architect); Maged Guerguis (design architect); Rodrigo Buelvas (interior design architect); Lucas Tryggestad, AIA (senior technical director); Benton Johnson (structural engineer)
Project Team: ORNL, Oak Ridge, Tenn. . Roderick Jackson (group leader); Melissa Lapsa, LaTonya Jordan, Randall Lind, Pete Lloyd, Lonnie Love, Kim Askey, Jerald Atchley, Kaushik Biswas, Heather Buckberry, Scott Curran, Anthony Gehl, Johney Green, David Nuttall, Brian Post, John Rowe, Sara Shoemaker, Martin Keller, Edward Vineyard, Jimmie Wade, Robert Wagner, Steve Whitted, Donald Erdman III, Brittany Piercy, Robert Ihle, Mark Buckner, Steven Campbell, Paul Chambon, Madhu Chinthavali, Philip Irminger, Karen Nolen, Ben Ollis, Omer Onar, Burak Ozpineci, Larry Seiber, Mitch Smith, Michael Starke, Zhiqiang Wang, Cliff White, Randy Wiles, Bailu Xiao, Brandy Milun, Maxwell Bertram, Dean Deter, Norberto Domingo, Jennifer Hill; University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Architecture and Design, Knoxville, Tenn. . Scott Poole, FAIA (dean and professor); James Rose, AIA (senior lecturer, adjunct assistant professor, director of Institute for Smart Structures)
Academic Research Partner: University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Architecture and Design
M/E/P/Structural Engineering: SOM
Design, System Engineering, and Additive Manufacturing: ORNL
Construction and Assembly: Clayton Homes Fabricator: ORNL and Tru Design
Exterior Finishing: Tru Design
Funding: U.S. Department of Energy; Governor’s Chair for High Performance Energy Practices in Urban Environments (Energy + Urbanism)