3D-printed houses

Figure 1. ICON’s 3D printed house and the Vulcan II printer

The human population has undergone rapid growth in just the last century, progressing knowledge beyond what could have been dreamed of in the past through many changes. One of the most notable of these architectural changes is the access to 3D printing, allowing for objects to be ‘printed’ three dimensionally as the name suggests. While predominantly used for models, research is being done with this technology that may open society up to a new world in terms of construction abilities.

At first this technique was used to create small scale models, but over time it has improved so much that house printing has become a reality. Recently, American construction company ICON and non-profit group New Story built a 650-square-foot homes 3D portion in just under a day for much cheaper than the standard housing price[1], this price and speedy build are both products of the cut in construction costs that would have otherwise come with the manual labour of building. The partnerships aim is to use this efficient skill to tackle the global housing crisis in poorer communities like El Salvador, in hopes of creating better situations for people who’s housing situation has been affected by social or environmental disasters.

Due to how promising it seems, NASA also decided to explore 3D structural printings uses by experimenting with the technology in a more extreme sense. They held a competition to develop a habitat for space exploration to Mars[2], with 3D printing allowing for the possibility of building spaces without human interaction and thus taking a step closer to life on Mars (and eventually other planets) being feasible. However, on a more local scale the same technique can be used to build houses in remote areas where constant logistic access may be difficult, allowing a larger span of communities to receive access to housing.

Not only has printing houses become a time-saving and cost-effective strategy, it also makes structures more accurate by eliminating some human error. With at least 70% of Australian east coast buildings built after 2003 containing defects[3], building quality is a big issue which could be improved through reducing the human factor of construction by implementing computers in their place, as they can't do anything other than what they are programmed to.Yet if a computer is programmed to do something incorrectly, that will inevitably lead to a defective structure, so even with this technique human error can still be present.

Although, not everything about the house printing industry is positive, like with most forms of technology to make tasks easier comes the possible loss of jobs[4]. Contractors and tradesmen in construction might no longer be needed for their current skills as the printer would replace them by composing and connecting walls, roofs and other structural components. But such a thing has become inevitable in societies many workforces today, so it should not be seen as a reason to completely abandon their techniques and instead be seen as taking a step towards populations advancement, as even though machinery will be doing the manual labour people are still needed to operate and monitor them.

3D printing has opened up a new world full of advantages for future designers, as its computer generated structures allow the creation of new compositions for architects and gives them the ability to develop their work even further. With its ability to reduce costs, building time and increase reliability in design precision, this approach in construction may prove itself to be very beneficial for years to come and has the likelihood to develop even further. So, there is no doubt that if experiments in 3D house printing are taking place now, then it’s possible for such a thing to be a common method in the near future.

  1. “New Story and ICON Unveil the First Permitted 3D-Printed Home.” Iconbuild.com. Accessed September 21, 2019. https://www.iconbuild.com/updates/this-house-can-be-3d-printed-for-cheap.
  2. “STMD: Centennial Challenge.” Nasa.gov. Accessed September 21, 2019. https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/spacetech/centennial_challenges/3DPHab/index.html.
  3. “A legacy of defects.” Abc.net.au. Accessed September 25, 2019. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-08-18/how-bad-could-the-apartment-building-crisis-be-in-your-state/11413122 .
  4. “How will 3D printing impact the construction industry?” softtech.com. Accessed September 25, 2019. https://softtech.com/resources/will-3d-printing-impact-construction-industry/ .