While the concept of 3D printing has existed since 1945, its use in construction is just recently catching on. In fact, the first 3D-printed house in the US was built in early 2022, more than seven decades after the idea was born. (Source)
Despite being a new player in construction, many housebuilders constantly regard 3D printed houses as the next most efficient and affordable housing option. 3D printed houses have arguably shown significant potential in construction, but can they also contribute to maintaining the ecological balance?
So, are 3D printed houses sustainable enough for home building? Building 3D printed houses reduce logistic processes and produce less waste, thus making it a viable and sustainable construction option. It also makes construction a lot faster saving more energy and resources. Additionally, 3D printing can transform plastic into a durable construction material enhancing its association with sustainable housing.
Major Factors Making 3d Printed Structures Sustainable
There are various ways of how 3D-printed houses can help in sustainable construction. Below, we go through all these benefits one by one in more detail.
– Reduces logistic processes and construction waste
3D printing is an on-site process and doesn’t require a lot of logistic processes. This makes transporting materials less necessary. Transporting different construction materials makes use of different transportation means that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
Damaged materials are often discarded contributing to more construction waste. With 3D printing, material damage and waste can be avoided.
– Faster construction
3D printing makes it possible to save time in different time-consuming construction steps such as designing. With 3D printing, all these tasks can be designated to the architect and a few more people. The 3D printing technology can help in simulation processes and modeling so the structural integrity is well-preserved and executed.
The integration of 3D printing in building houses can reduce the overall house construction time by up to 50%.
A 3D printer can build the walls of a house for only two days while traditional construction can take several weeks and months to finish the same task. (Source)
– Makes use of recycled plastic
Plastic remains to be one of the most serious environmental problems in the world. Unrecycled plastic can release harmful chemicals to the soil, water, and the entire ecosystem.
Instead of throwing away plastics, 3D printing can transform them into durable and long-lasting materials for the home.
One particular 3D printing company that makes use of this method is Azure Printed Homes. This company repurposes plastic as a construction material. (Source)
More than 60% of their print material comes from recycled plastic used in making plastic bottles and food packaging.
– Can potentially limit the usage of cement
Cement is a very durable material however it can cause adverse effects to the environment, particularly to the topsoil.
Although 3D printers today use 3D printing concrete, the use of mud for 3D printing of houses is now gaining more and more attention. In fact, a 3D-printed house built entirely from mud has already been built in July 2020 through the project called TECLA. (Source)
For more on this, check out our post titled Can You Make a 3D Printed House out Of Clay?