You can print houses.
People are 3D printing houses, full size villas, micro homes and even apartment buildings.
Whilst the construction industry has remained fundamentally unchanged over time. The introduction of 3D printing technology into the construction industry could have some seismic effects on construction costs and productivity.
What might this mean for the future of construction? How could this affect affordable housing? But most of all, what are the projects and who are the people leading the charge?
In 2014 the 3D printing of houses was still a concept that had a lot of people very skeptical, to say the least. And then one Chinese company, called WinSun, went ahead and did something that almost everyone assumed was a hoax (and may well have been). They printed a series of 10 houses in the space of 24 hours. Suddenly, everyone raised their heads and went, ‘oh – what? You can do that?’
Since then a number of other companies have entered the field including the US company New Story who recently did some groundbreaking work, printing a fully habitable home on-site in a small lot in Austin at an estimated cost of $10,000.
After doing some extensive research we thought it worth mentioning that there are a number of unsubstantiated but still worrying allegations from 2015 claiming that WinSun stole the technology from Contour Crafting, and also faked results of their ten 3D printed houses in a day project. However, whether these allegations are true or not, WinSun have led the way with 3D printing and forced other companies in the world to take note, pushing the development of 3D house printing technology forward at top speed.
What’s the point of these 3D printing projects?
There are a lot of reasons to be excited by these technological advancements. Here are just a few:
#1 More eco-friendly to build.
Some of the developed machines can utilise locally available materials which both reduces the eco-footprint of the machine and makes them more functional in environments where some materials may not be readily available.
Others, like the WinSun tech, reuses scrap material from construction sites meaning less overall waste.
Whether or not WinSun were telling the truth about printing 10 houses in 24 hours the concept of fast building using 3D printing has been proven independently by several other companies – perhaps driven by the high bench-mark set by the Chinese company (more about this later in the article).
#3 More Affordable.
Cheap materials and incredibly quick build times means you can cut costs of these builds by half – or even more. Plus the adaptability of 3D printing machines means you don’t have to continually churn out exactly the same product to get that low price point.
As you’ll see later another Chinese company produced a 3D printed villa which surpassed expectations when put through seismic tests.
11 of the most fascinating 3D printed home projects
#1 New Story
- Where: El Salvador
- Size: 650-square-foot homes
- Year of Construction: Ongoing
Let’s start with the American organization, New Story. New Story printed their prototype, fully inhabitable and dare we say rather stylish home on site using their Vulcan 3D concrete printer. It was built in under 48 hours.
They’re aiming to bring affordable housing in 3rd world countries using this technology and are starting their project by building a community of 100 homes in El Salvador. New Story is a non-profit organization building affordable and secure houses for vulnerable communities.
Thanks to its partnership with ICON, a construction company based in Austin, Texas, and their Vulcan 3D concrete printer they now have the potential to provide quality homes for some of the most vulnerable people around the world. Each house is expected to cost around $6,000.
If you’d like to contribute to New Story’s efforts to eliminate homelessness, you can donate on their website.
- Where: Dübendorf, Switzerland
- Size: 200 square meters
- Year of Construction: 2019
- Involved Architects: ETH Zurich and industrial partners
DFAB HOUSE is an incredible architectural achievement. Using mainly digital processes in both the design and build, professors at ETH Zurich in cooperation with industrial partners created an incredible multi-storey structure.
Its goal was largely experimental pushing the boundaries of what was possible with the current technology and exploring possibilities. The ultimate aim is to take the lessons learnt in its construction and make planning and construction of new buildings more efficient and sustainable by utilising technology fully.
- Where: Italy
- Size: 12-square-meters
- Year of Construction: 2018
- Involved Architects: Alberto Chiusoli, WASP
Gaia is the ancient Greek word for Earth, and in Greek mythology Gaia was the mother goddess who presided over the Earth.
True to the name WASP are aiming to go back to the earth with their technology. Project Gaia is a 3D printed model which was built using the Crane WASP technology. It used natural materials from the local environ, employing soil and natural waste from the rice production chain to form its walls.
The eco-sustainable model is a perfect approach to building low-cost houses. Additionally, their design avoids the need for heating or air conditioning systems throughout the year.
- Where: China
- Size: 400-square meters
- Year of construction: 2016
- Involved Architects: HuaShang Tengda
The Chinese company HuaShang Tengda created a 3D printed, two-storey villa. The entire thing was printed on-site and remarkably took only 45 days to complete!
They first erected the buildings frame and then used their custom 3D printer to print the concrete over the top.
It is built from high grade concrete and has thick walls which makes it immensely strong. Seismic testing estimates found that the 3D printed villa should be capable of withstanding a level eight earthquake on the Richter scale!
- Where: Massa Lombarda, North Italy
- Size: several hundreds of square meters
- Year of construction: N/A
- Involved Architects: WASP
Another project by WASP. The Village of Shamballa will be the first village completely created by a 3D printer. WASP will set up one of its giant BigDelta 3D printers to build one house after the other on-site.
The 12-meter high BigDelta has to be moved to the next site once a 3D printed house is finished. The 3D printed houses are made from mud or clay and plant fibers for reinforcement. Wasp decided to use material that is locally available instead of concrete because of the low environmental footprint and because of the high insulating properties.
- Where: Da Yang Mountain, China
- Size: Covers 500-square meters
- Year of construction: 2016
- Involved Architects: WinSun
Th company WinSun 3D printed a public restroom area. The completed 3D printed structure has a modern vibe that’s driven and focused on the distinct 3D concrete look.
Amenities include a restroom for men and women, as well as special facilities designated for children and handicapped individuals. The restroom area is surrounded by yellow and green 3D printed leaf sculptures, giving the bathroom a natural aesthetic. The entire project was completed in just one month.
#7 Apis Cor
- Where: Russia
- Size: 38 square meters
- Year of construction: 2016
- Involved Architects: Apis Cor & PIK
This 3D printed house sits about 60 miles south of Moscow, and was one of the most popular 3D printing-related projects of 2017. What makes Apis Cor’s project unique is that all of the main components are fabricated on site with concrete material. This type of mobility reduces the cost of transportation and assembly. On top of that, the total 3D printing time amounted to just 24 hours.
After the printing Apis Core finished the building with heating insulation that was created on site as well as a finish of plaster and yellow paint. The interior of this 3D printed house has a contemporary style with wooden flooring and is furnished with appliances from Samsung.
The final result is a small and cosy residential home. According to Apis Cor, this 3D printed house cost just $10,134 to fully create.
- Where: Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
- Size: 240-square meters
- Year of construction: 2016
- Involved Architects: WinSun, Gensler, structural work by Thornton Tomasetti and Syska Hennessy.
This 3D printed office was designed by Gensler for the United Arab Emirates National Committee as the headquarters for the Dubai Futures Foundation. It is a fully functional building featuring electricity, water, telecommunications, and air-conditioning systems.
The office primarily serves as a meeting space for parties and can be hired out. The building was 3D printed by WinSun in their factory in Shanghai, and shipped over in parts. The entire thing to 17 days to print and a further 2 days to be assembled on-site.
Ultimately it was estimated that the project cut costs by over 50% and reduced construction waste by an estimated 30-60%
It is considered the catalyst behind the construction 3D printing revolution happening in Dubai.
- Where: Oak Ridge, Tennessee
- Size: 38 x 12 x 13 – foot building attached to hybrid vehicle
- Year of construction: 2015
- Involved Architects: Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill
Okay this project really tickled us. It is frankly just a really cool concept which we think could be the start of something much more integrally revolutionary than just an upgrade in construction techniques.
This one-of-a-kind project consists of more than just a 3D printed house. The Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy (AMIE) Demonstration was created by the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Their aim was to attach a solar-powered building to a hybrid electric vehicle, creating an integrated energy system.
The solar panelled 3D printed home feeds energy to the vehicle during the day, and the 3D printed vehicle shares energy with the home at night.
Both the mobile home and car were manufactured by ORNL’s BAAM 3D printer out of carbon fiber-reinforced polymer material. Developed with Cincinnati Inc., this large-scale 3D printer is capable of printing objects as large as 20 x 12 x 6 feet in size.
The solar-powered building was designed by the architecture firm Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill and assembled by Clayton Homes.
We love this project because of the way it integrates the idea of renewable energy and sustainability with the cost effectiveness that is gained with utilising new technology.
#10 Curve Appeal
- Where: Chattanooga, Tennessee
- Size: 600-800-square feet
- Year of Construction: Work in progress. This project was originally planned for 2017.
- Involved Architects: WATG’s Urban Architecture Studio and Branch Technology
In June 2016, the “Curve Appeal” design was awarded first prize in The Freeform Home Design Challenge, a contest hosted by the Chattanooga startup Branch Technology. This conceptual 3D printed house won first prize in The Freeform Home Design Challenge. This was a contest hosted by the Chattanooga startup Branch Technology. The Prize for this competition was $8,000 and more importantly they would build design!
Curve Appeal is a demonstration project intended to showcase the full potential of Cellular Fabrication, the combination of freeform 3D printing and conventional construction materials to create functional composite building components.
Curve Appeal is designed as a fully functional home, but will be utilized for demonstration purposes and ongoing research. With 136 parts, engineered by SOM’s Chicago team of sophisticated structural engineers, it will be as robust as it is beautiful. The project is currently in production and will be constructed on the campus of Chattanooga State Community College in Chattanooga.
- Where: Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Size: 1,110 square meters
- Year of construction: 3D printer launched in June 2016. House still waiting for realization.
- Involved Architects: Dutch architect Janjaap Ruijssenaars and D-Shape
The final item on our list makes it on as a symbol of the never ending progress that technology brings.
This building replicates a Moebius Strip and was inspired by renowned German mathematicians August Moebius and Johann Listing. A Moebius strip is a single sided 3D shape which incorporates a half twist. It helps simulate a fourth dimension and mathematically speaking is quite an intriguing concept…
Janjaap Ruijssenaars plans to use the giant construction 3D printer developed by the Italian firm D-Shape, founded by Enrico Dini. The construction will be printed off-site and then assembled on-site. The project is currently yet to be completed but is under way.
There are some exciting projects and 3D printing technology could very likely revolutionize the way in which we do major construction, dramatically reducing time and costs.
At the moment it’s all very high profile and conceptual, but we are most excited to see the effects this has on the housing markets around the globe when this becomes a viable option for everyday construction.