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  • Writer's pictureJoia Preciosa

Are 3D Printed Houses The Future Of Home Building?

Updated: Apr 1

According to the information conveyed by the media, 3D printed houses offer a quick and effective solution to the housing crisis.

But what is it really?

What is the ecological impact for this new construction technique?

3D printing construction helps to appreciate the value of 3D printing techniques over conventional construction techniques.

Indeed, the construction itself takes a few days with 3D printing, compared to months with other traditional techniques.


How is a 3D house built?

The building is first digitally designed using specialized digital software. A machine then makes it possible to print structures in an automated way on the site.

A nozzle or a robotic arm pours layer by layer a paste composed of mortar, concrete, plastic, mud on the site following the indications of a digital drawing in order to erect the frame. Some projects are also carried out with natural materials such as bamboo, wood and natural stone waste.

At first glance, the idea seems interesting, it would allow you to choose a predefined model online and agree on a date to print or build your house on any viable site, quickly and at low cost.

Does this new technology really offer these advantages ?

The only apparent advantage is the speed of production, to meet housing needs.

A computerized robotic precast wall building machine can produce all of a house's walls, complete with insulation, electrical cables and windows, in hours, which can be shipped as easily as a bag of cement to a site and assembled quickly.

3D printing saves production time on the frame (if we compare it to a classic construction, and not with prefabricated in the factory).

Another interesting aspect is that these houses for the majority do not need labor, masons and plasterers which reduces the costs of the builders and therefore creates fewer jobs.

The negative points of a construction project of a 3D printed house :

-Costly initial investments: the price of a 3D printer is around $49,000 for small models, more than $125,000 for large ones.

-A lack of certification: the construction is governed by laws. Thus, only a handful of construction permits have been issued in recent years for 3D houses, in special experimental cases, and in selected areas.

-The potential loss of local jobs: 3D printing requires little labor for the frame. A potential social problem, especially in less affluent areas with high unemployment.

- Designs may be limited due to printer size and complexity.

-3D printed houses can be vulnerable to environmental factors such as rain, wind and cold temperatures, which could damage them over time.

The positives of a 3D printed house construction project :

-3D printing also makes it possible to build houses with unique designs, complex walls and curved shapes at the same price as a straight wall.

-The speed of construction which is undeniably faster than a traditional construction.

- 3D printing uses fewer materials, reducing the overall environmental impact of the build.

-Offer unlimited possibilities to designers in terms of design.

-It can produce intricate designs that were not possible with traditional building techniques.

-Sustainability: Thanks to its ability to use recycled materials, 3D printing has the potential to reduce waste.

South Africa suffers from a severe lack of urban housing, nearly two million dwellings, to respond to this the engineering and science department of the University of Johannesburg has built the first 3D printed concrete house in less than 24 hours.

This is the first step in a series that will be implemented by the government.

©Bennie Khanyizira

The first school built using 3D printing is in the Salima district of Malawi.

The walls were built in just 18 hours instead of several days in the case of a traditional construction.

In Kenya, cement company Holcim has completed its largest 3D-printed affordable housing project to date through 14Trees, its joint venture with CDC Group.

The 3D printing of the 10 housing units of the “Mvule Gardens” project in Kenya was made possible using TectorPrint, Holcim's 3D printing technique, produced in Kenya for the first time.

The project's sustainability profile has also received an EDGE Advanced Sustainable Design Certification by the IFC, the World Bank's Development Finance Institution, which recognizes resource efficient buildings with the potential to be zero carbon.

This is the first time that a 3D printed housing project has obtained this certification.

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