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3D Printed Homes For A More Sustainable Future And Beyond

by | Mar 7, 2022 | Community, Sustainability, Utopia




During the past year, the price of construction materials has increased by 12.2 %, creating materials shortages, increasing construction costs, and delaying projects. On top of that, the construction sector is facing a labor shortage which adds more cost to construction projects.

Also soaring property prices are forcing people all over the world to abandon their dream of owning a house. And the impact of the pandemic has only worsened the housing crisis.

A survey carried out by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy (LILP) in 2019, reported that 90% of the 200 cities around the world were considered unaffordable to live in based on housing price and median income ratio. Adding to all this climate change.

Hence solutions are needed to tackle the housing problem and all its outside factors. You have probably heard about 3D printing which is gaining a lot of momentum year after year.

3D printing in the construction sector can address construction efficiency, sustainability and even labor and housing shortages. Here’s a look at how more interest in 3d printing can make the world more sustainable.

On-site in Beckum. Cobod’s BOD2 print double-skin layout wall in (Peri)

3D printing in construction sector

3D printing is a process of making three-dimensional objects layer by layer using computer-created files. It is a quite new building technique, especially in the construction sector. The aim is to improve efficiency and reduce the environmental impacts of the sector.

The innovative approach of 3D printing in the sector is combining traditional construction with digital manufacturing to some extent. 3D printing begins with a digital file of the design which needs to be produced.

Then a large robotic arm swivels around the area to put the material layer by layer to produce the input design. The layer printing process allows architects and builders to construct houses with a lot of flexibility in design. Hence this brings on a lot of possibilities when constructing a house.

Why 3D printing house is becoming important?

A 2021 report states that the global 3D construction market will grow by  91% between 2021 to 2028. Hence the rapid growth is due to the countless opportunities that 3D printing offers.

It offers possible solutions to the challenges constructors, engineers, architects as well as the world and policymakers are facing.  If implemented correctly it can provide affordable housing, shelter for disaster-hit areas and sustainable construction. And all this at a low cost.

Since it is done digitally, everything is calculated and only the actual volume of material is poured which reduces waste. The process is also much faster than traditional construction methods.

3D printing a house leaves space for doors and windows only and everything else is perfectly laid leaving no space between. This can help retain temperature which saves on heating and cooling costs. The structure is solid enough and resistant to climate.

fully finished grey 3d printed house
Image by Peri

Outfitted with solar panels, the house can be more eco-friendly. According to All3DP, innovation in concrete mixes and the sinking prices of concrete printers are driving down costs for printing houses all over the world.

The system also requires very few crew members on-site and increase construction speed are other reasons why 3D-printed buildings are on the rise. Mighty Buildings a construction company can print a unit in just 24 hours.

Printing at such speed could allow the creation of emergency shelters when needed and help meet the increasing demand for housing. With benefits such as reduced costs and timeframe. The cost of housing projects is expected to shrink.

Impact of 3D printed homes

3D-printed houses are resilient, cost-effective, and have well-built structures. It makes houses more affordable and is an effective tool to fight against homelessness and the effects of the climate crisis.

With 3D printing, construction time is cut down to days whereas traditional methods would have taken months or even years for projects to be completed.

A Chinese construction company called Winsun has recently completed the world’s largest 3D printed structure that is more than 500 meters long in the Suzhou area. The resultant revetment is strong, cost less and was able to follow the natural contours of the shoreline.

New research for 3D printing materials are being done which can significantly drive cost down. Also with low wastage associated with the precision laying of material, the cost can down even down.

Unskilled labor cost is eliminated as only skilled laborers are required in a handful amount. In 2014 the same Chinese company Winsun has broken a record by printing 10 houses in one day. Each house costs around $4,800 to build.

3d printing machine for printed house
the BOD2 print head that can move along three axes (Peri)

Another huge advantage that 3D-printed architecture can provide is a more sustainable way of building. Some specialists are even exploring natural and local materials for construction as an alternative to concrete.

Not to mention that concrete has a heavy carbon footprint. WASP and Mario Cucinella Architects are companies that are testing alternatives to concrete for 3D printing.

Also, many people around the world are facing massive housing shortages and often find that they don’t earn enough money to own a house. In those cases, 3D printing buildings could be a game-changing option that reduces costs and speeds up construction.

For now, 3D-printed buildings are still viewed as niche possibilities. It is becoming more popular but not yet mainstream.

Future of 3D printing House

3D printing is slowly positioning itself as the outstanding future of homebuilding. It promises cheaper, more durable and diversely designed housing options that can be built from the ground in a matter of days.

SQ4D is a company that has developed an Autonomous Robotic Construction System (ARCS) to show how in the future, homes will be built faster and for less expense. Recently a 1,900-square-foot home was constructed in 48 hours over eight days and only required $6,000 in materials.

Dubai which is a construction superpower has launched in 2016 the world’s most ambitious policy to promote 3D Printing. Where it commits to have at least 25% of all its new buildings be constructed using 3D-printed techniques by 2025. Another big initiative is KSA’s commitment to creating 1.5 million new private-sector homes by 2030.

As mentioned before, there’s an ongoing push to reduce the dependence on concrete since it has a large carbon footprint. Thus, people are interested in exploring alternative materials that offer the same durability for building projects but with more sustainability.

ICON is a US-based developer of advanced construction technologies and is working with NASA to create the first simulated Mars habitat. If or when life became possible on Mars, being able to utilize local resources is important for projects that are literally out of this world. It will be essential to utilize local materials to fabricate structures. 3D construction could be the main technology to build these structures.

Another futuristic idea is that people can rent 3D printers for home construction. Apis Cor is a company that has envisioned a time when people who are building their homes can rent a 3D printer from a rental supplier for their project.

It’s still in the prototype stage but making it possible to use rented equipment for 3D printing projects could be a major step for the industry. However, the machines must be easy to use with limited or no training.

Real-time rendering and visualization technology are also elevating the design of 3d printing houses. Both technologies combined offer architects and stakeholders a fast and efficient way to review designs in a more realistic environment and quickly see projects come to life.

It provides the ability to analyze lighting options, where shadows appear at certain times of the day and compare different types of materials either on-screen or via virtual reality.

Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects (EYRC) and Mighty Buildings are two companies collaborating to design and print a single-family home. 3D printing and real-time rendering are there to assist professionals to go beyond boundaries.

Hence this can help find solutions to today’s challenges and also prepare for tomorrow’s challenges. And now is the perfect time to start harnessing them and enjoying the benefits they bring.

Although some of the ideas here are still in the early stages, they’ll still encourage people to think differently about construction opportunities presented by 3D printing.

3D printing doesn’t suit every project equally well but it is proving its worth and bringing creative ideas to the world.

While it may well seem another decade before 3D printed houses can be commercialized or people can hire 3D printing contractors the same way as a conventional construction contractor.

However, based on prior and current projections, the development process may mature sooner than later.