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Construction Science Fiction: Renovation Is New Life

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Maurice Patrick Jamison V sat on the steps of his house. It had been a long legal battle, but now it was his and he was determined to make it his home. The house was built ten years before the Civil War and originally sat on 640 acres. Over the years, parcels of the land had been sold until only five acres and the house were left.

Big and rambling, the house had been the talk of the state. The original structure had been added onto ten times, at least that Maurice had been able to trace. Adding the kitchen to the main house was one of the biggest changes, followed by indoor plumbing and electricity.

To look at the house now, it was hard to see the beauty and splendor it had in its prime. But Maurice had seen glimpses into the majesty of the house in its marble floors, curved banisters, leaded glass windows and delicately carved woodwork. All of these things now were hard to find due to time, neglect, paint and shoddy repair work. Still, Maurice held out hope it could be restored.

The silence was interrupted by the sound of a vehicle coming up the gravel driveway. It was Lenny Braxton, owner of Braxton and Sons Contractors. Lenny was in his mid-60s and tall with strong calloused hands that effectively swallowed Maurice’s when they shook hands. The two walked up to the front porch, and Maurice indicated they should sit on the steps. As Lenny sat, the step groaned and sagged.

They talked for several minutes about the general state of the house and the steps that would be required to make it ready for renovation. Lenny pointed to the top of the house and asked Maurice if he knew when the last roof was put on. Maurice shook his head and said, “I have no idea when the roof was last worked on, but it is just one problem. The foundation, plumbing and electrical also are in bad shape. Let’s go in.”

Inside, the cobwebs glistened as the sun shone through the windows. In the middle of the foyer, Maurice had set out plans for the house. He was an architect, like his grandfather and father.

Lenny pulled on his glasses and began examining the drawings and holograms while asking questions. He straightened up and pulled off his glasses.

“Son, how do you plan on getting all these materials?” he asked Maurice. “You told me earlier that you would be supplying the bulk of the materials for the project. Yet the plans you have for this old house include materials we can’t get around here.”

Maurice smiled and motioned for Lenny to follow him. Their footsteps echoed as they walked through the house. Maurice stepped into the library: its three walls were covered with shelves to the top of the 10-foot ceiling, but on the fourth wall there was a painting of the house. The artwork showed the house in its prime—brightly painted, sun shining off the polished glass windows, rattan furniture on the wraparound porch and the yard beautifully landscaped.


“Wow! It was quite a place,” Lenny whistled. “And it will be again,” Maurice responded.

They continued their way through the house and out the back door. Maurice walked to one of the barns and opened the doors. There sat a construction replicator. The latest model, it could handle just about any type of construction stock from stone and wood to metal and glass. Lenny smiled and began his inspection of the equipment and supplies. He came around the machine and said, “I think we can replicate the needed materials just fine.”

So with that pronouncement and another eight hours of discussion of plans, schedules, and property inspection, Lenny and Maurice shook hands and agreed to start work the next week. In the meantime, Lenny would send Maurice measurements and information about the materials they needed to get the project started.

Maurice spent the night in the house too excited to sleep. The next morning, the hologram from Lenny was waiting with instructions for the materials that needed to be replicated. Taking the communication receiver and a cup of coffee, Maurice went to the barn to start the replication process.

It was simple enough to get started, but each piece would take time to be created. Lenny’s list was mainly for stones and lumber. The stones needed to match the foundation stones currently in place. Maurice had expected this and had already ordered the stone stock.

The stone stock was a resin that contained coloring, stone particles and dust. Each stock block required a lift to move it, but Maurice estimated that he would get the amount of foundation stone required from three blocks. It would take the replicator about six hours to process each block.

Maurice maneuvered the stock block into the channel, entered the dimensions needed for each stone, put a piece of the foundation stone in the scanning tray and flipped the switch. The machine made a slight humming sound and a blue light began scanning the sample foundation stone. The scanning process took just over five minutes to complete.

During this process, a 3-D image was created of the sample stone, including the color, surface imperfections, density, hardness and overall shape. The machine would use this information to form the stock into blocks matching the dimensions that Maurice entered into the system.

There was a beep, and Maurice reviewed the scanned image and information. He confirmed it was correct and touched the enter key. The stock began moving down the channel to a bin where it would be melted, shaped, colored, cut and harrdened. It would eventually come out about 10 feet from the starting point as a foundation block that matched the existing stones.

Maurice spent the day watching the stock slowly transform into the foundation stones. As the stones were completed, he would pick them up and stack them in the corner of the barn. At the end of the day, Maurice had the foundation stones ready to go.

Maurice ate dinner, went to bed and slept well. The alarm went off at 5:30am, but Maurice was already up and attempting to take a shower. The water pressure in the old house was really bad, but the solar-heated water supply was new and there was lots of hot water for his sore arms and back.

While breakfast cooked, Maurice checked for the next materials list from Lenny. Maurice reported the foundation stones were ready. Today’s work would be to start on some of the lumber that would be needed.

As Maurice opened the barn doors, the smell of stone dust was in the air and there sat the large pile of foundation stones created yesterday. Maurice smiled and got the lumber stock loaded. He entered the various dimensions and quantity of each, and debated whether to go ahead and have the replicated lumber pre-finished. He decided against it since the entire house would need to be painted. He took the lumber sample and placed it in the scanner.

Once scanned, the lumber stock, which was a resin similar to the stone stock but had pieces of oak wood in it, began the journey down the channel to become oak planks to rebuild the outside of the house. The old house was made of oak that had been hauled from New England.

So the week passed. Each morning, Lenny sent over his order for materials and Maurice spent the day creating them.

When Lenny arrived a week later, the barn with the replicator was full. Lenny and his crew began their work. They carefully shored up the foundation, removed soil and eventually replaced broken foundation stones.

Lenny and Maurice began looking at what finish work would need to be done. They removed some of the carved trim, marble flooring, a leaded glass pane and other trim items to be replicated. The replicator matched the wood grain and carving exactly. The marble and glass was so good you couldn’t tell the original from the replicated.

After three months, Lenny and Maurice climbed the steps to the freshly-painted porch and sat on the sturdy steps. “I’m going to have a welcome back party for the house,” Maurice said. “I would like for you and your crew to come.” Lenny smiled and said they would be honored to attend.

Maurice walked through the renovated house and thought he heard a sigh as he climbed the steps. He turned around to enjoy the view—the glistening marble floor, the leaded glass windows sparkling in the sun and the curved banister so smooth that no one could resist sliding down.

Maurice certainly could not. He slid down the banister and landed with a thump on the floor of his home.

 

Elaine Higginbotham
 
Lewis Higginbotham
Elaine and Lewis Higginbotham live in Stevens Point, Wis. She is an administrative assistant at general contractor Ellis Stone Construction Co., supporting its project managers and marketing. He is an insurance company database administrator with more than 30 years of experience in the information services field and skill in such construction areas as carpentry, roofing, plumbling, electrical and concrete work.

To see all of the stories in ENR's Imagining Construction's Future science fiction collection, click here.

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