Is a 3D Printed House Safe? The Good, The Bad & What One Must Know


As 3D printing technology has considerably advanced and becomes viable in many areas, it has provided a great deal of alternatives in life. Perhaps, one of the most noticeable rising alternatives is the application of 3D printing in constructing homes.

An idea that has recently become a reality, people are now able to buy and reside in a 3D printed house. April 30, 2021, marks the date of the first occupants of a 3D printed house in Europe, a Dutch couple, in Eindhoven. (Source)

These new landmarks in 3D printing development are exciting to hear about, but certain issues do arise to question their practicality. Questions such as whether if it is safe to live in a 3D printed house? Or how exactly is a 3D printed home better than the one constructed traditionally?

3D printed houses are claimed to be a safer alternative than traditionally built houses. One that is stronger and more durable than traditionally built homes. They are planned and intended to endure natural disasters and harsh weather conditions. Though as of yet, no long-term safety standards have been established for assessing 3D printed architecture for residential use.

3D Printing Is Here To Stay

Also check out our article Can I Build My Own 3D Printed House? Hidden Costs & Prices of Construction 3D Printers !.

And if you are concerned about structural safety, check out : Do 3D Printed Houses Use Rebar?

You can also read on the structural safety of 3D Printed Houses in Is a 3D Printed Home Structurally Safe?

Is It Safe To Live In a 3D Printed House?

Back in 2014, a Chinese 3D printing architecture firm called Winsun made the headlines of 3D printing 10 habitable homes in a day. The same company went on to 3D print a functioning 6-Story Apartment Building. (Sources: 1, 2)

As of 2020, Winsun claims to have built 15 houses in Xianning city, all with showers, air conditioning, toilets, and insulation. Because of 3D printing, the construction cost and time have significantly been cut down.

But what about the safety measures? Well, the company claims that “…the constructions are at least twice as strong as concrete constructions” and the materials used are eco-friendly. (Source)

Icon is another company, based in America, that aims to provide revolutionary technology for homebuilding via 3D printing. They are associated with several projects, one of which was successfully released as America’s first 3D printed homes for sale.

For safety and durability, Icon claims their material is “stronger and longer-lasting than traditional building materials” and that it makes “safer, more resilient homes that are designed to withstand fire, flood, wind and other natural disasters.” (Source)

What does this mean? Companies claim their product is the greatest all the time. As for this particular case, it might be too quick to judge. 3D printed homes are still a somewhat new commodity that has yet to see the test of time.

Aside from the physical and aesthetic appearances of the houses, the practicality of the houses has not yet been fully tested. There are still standard regulations that need to be set for 3D printed architecture to properly evaluate their functionality.

For more on Earthquakes and 3d printed structures, check out our post titled “Can 3D Printed House Withstand Earthquakes? Design and Foundation Limitations” . Also, check our Are 3D Printed Houses Hurricane Proof? & Are 3D printed houses fireproof?

3D Printed Homes Vs. Traditionally Constructed Homes

WASP 3D printer crane (Source: Flickr)

What is the need to 3D print a home anyway? How ‘alternative’ and ‘advanced’ 3D printing technology really is when it comes to constructing homes?

The benefits of 3D printing construction from traditional methods are few but significant. The speed, waste reduction, eco-sustainable, creative freedom, and a decrease in human error are all factors that paint 3D printing as the better approach.

Reduced Construction Time

3D printing has already shown its zeal in manufacturing products faster, even when it comes to producing homes. Transforming the usual months-to-years-time taken in traditional construction to 3D printing in a matter of weeks to days is a huge leap in the time saved.

WinSun’s project of printing 10 homes in a single day is a great example that highlights the speed of 3D printing houses. No manual labor also cuts down on the construction time which gets stretched due to labor breaks, holidays, unfavorable conditions for work, etc.

Waste Reduction

3D printing as an additive technology is already a leading point in reducing excess unused materials. When it comes to construction, the 3D printer can place the concrete-ink mixture only where it is necessary. This way there is nearly no leftover material that goes to waste.

Eco-sustainable

Some 3D-printed homes are being made from recyclable materials such as sand and construction rubble, which is environmentally friendly. To learn more on how 3D printing can be environmentally friendly, read our article: Is 3D Printing Environmentally Friendly?

3D printing homes, instead of regular construction also reduces the level of carbon emissions. For instance, the Prvok project in the Czech Republic claims a 20% reduction of carbon emissions during the 48hour build.

For more on this, check out our post “Are 3D Printed Houses / Structures Sustainable?

Creative Freedom

AMIE 3D-printed house (Source: Flickr)

One of the best things is that 3D printing gives you more opportunities to design complex and intricate designs. For example, the exotic geometry of the AMIE 3D-printed building is something that might not be easily achievable via traditional construction.

This possibility in creative freedom in constructing houses is achievable because of the printer’s flexibility to create interesting structures out of concrete, metal, or thermoplastic.

Decreased Human Error

Wherever machine replaces human, there is a significant drop in the errors made during manufacturing. Tired laborers, injuries on construction sites, human mistakes, etc. are removed entirely by automated, precise fabrication by the 3D printer.

Issues With 3D Printed Homes

Investment in 3D printed homes is the recent work towards solving house shortage problems or providing shelter for the homeless. But this investment is not entirely free of its own problems.

Probably one of the biggest problems is the regulation of 3D printed construction. There are no building codes or standard procedures that can yet allow 3D-printed homes to be approved for residential use.

The government must establish standards concerning the electrical, plumbing, structural integrity, and public safety laws. Before this is determined, it is difficult to make 3D-printed homes viable.

An article from Architizer says about Winsun: “Winsun refuses to allow observers to see their printing device, and none of the buildings seem to be occupied.” So, it is still skeptical on how functional 3D printed homes really are at this stage in time. (Source)

Another issue is the lack of professionals. Since 3D printing is relatively new to architecture, there are very few architects and engineers that are specialized in 3D printed residential buildings.

The designing method also needs some getting used to. Since traditional blueprints are incompatible with 3D printers, the design process must be adapted accordingly.

Another issue is the limitation of material types used for construction. So far, concrete and plastic are being used for 3D printed houses. It is not yet possible to use the printer to manufacture wood or steel segments. But that will probably be worked on in the future.

For more on this topic Check out our post Problems with 3d Printed Houses Listed

How Long Would a 3D Printed House Last?

Traditional concrete buildings are intended to last around 100 years however, on average, they usually survive up to 50 to 60 years. Of course, some only last up to 20 to 30 years based on poor maintenance and material used. (Source)

The concrete-based mixes used in 3D printed houses should guarantee that the structures will last for at least 50 to 60 years. The structure may last even longer if it is well maintained and continuously occupied. We did our extensive study in How Long Do 3D Printed Homes Last? Materials Used, Durability & Lifespan to cover all the possible questions you might have.

There are houses that are printed for temporary residence which are designed to last for only a short amount of time. Such as the isolation homes built by Winsun to accommodate quarantined people. Since these are intended for short-term usage, it cannot be expected of them to last as long as a permanent abode.

The addition of wood alongside 3D printed concrete may reduce the lifespan of the house. Since timber-framed houses last around 20 to 35 years, the wood components can compromise the integrity of the 3D printed house.

Some Examples Of 3D Printed Homes

  • Tecla – Designed by an Italian architect, Tecla is a 3D-printed house made entirely out of clay. WASP is the 3D printing company that provided the technology for this build. For more on this, check out our post “Can You Make a 3D Printed House out Of Clay?
  • Duo B – Situated in San Diego is a project by Mighty Buildings. It is designed for long-term living as a one- or two-bedroom space.
  • PassivDom – This house is designed to be environment-friendly and energy-efficient. It runs on solar energy and has “zero carbon emission.”
  • 3D printed houses in Mexico – New Story and ICON partnered up together to create a 3D printed neighborhood for low-income rural families. The houses are made from a concrete mixture called Lavacrete.
  • House in Moscow – Apis Cor finished its first 3D-printed house near Moscow back in 2017, in 24 hours. Made of concrete, the house has thermal insulation and is relatively affordable.

Conclusion

At this point in time, there is no sufficient evidence to declare that 3D-printed homes are safe to reside in permanently. Despite every company’s claims, it cannot be said for sure until standard safety codes are made for 3D printed residences, that should be followed for approval.

However, 3D printing has advanced dramatically, and it still has yet to develop even further. Recently it is being put to good use; 3D printing homes for the homeless, for use in disaster relief campaigns or just as a cheaper, time-saving and eco-friendly alternative.

Preh

A writer and student who is excited to see the 3D printing world evolve and bring the information you crave for it.

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