Houses of the future – tradies beware

In my opinion, the term ‘digital disruption’ is much abused, however I will admit to being intrigued about Project Milestone, the world’s first commercial housing project based on 3D-concrete printing.

The project is a partnership between the City of Eindhoven, Eindhoven University of Technology, construction firm, Van Wijnen, and several other construction and investment firms. The plan is to build five 3D-printed concrete houses in Eindhoven, with the first house to be delivered to the first occupant as early as next year. The homes will meet all modern comfort requirements and will be sold by a real estate company, which is very pleasing to hear indeed.

What is 3D printing

Despite the way Hollywood sometimes presents 3D printing, it is not a mega-machine that spits out Xerox-like prosthetic ears or heart implants or even small houses. In truth, 3D printing involves the production of physical objects such as the side of a house layer-by-layer by an computer-controlled machine.

The benefits of 3D housing

There are several benefits to building houses using a 3D printer including lower costs, speedier construction times, durability, new shapes and improved sustainability.

Starting with cost and speed, science and technology publication, New Atlas reported that several 3D printer firms claim they’ll reduce printing time to 24 hours and building costs to $4,000. Wow, try getting your local tradie to match that speed and fee?

On the issue of strength and durability, 3D printing has advanced so far that the concrete-based houses are capable of withstanding hurricanes and even major earthquake, according to one report I read.

The use of 3D printing is enabling new shapes, and design possibilities as architects can now work with curved lines rather than the usual straight lines we use in most homes today.

Finally, in acknowledgment of the need to use more sustainable building materials and practices, 3D printers can work with environmentally-friendly elements, while also reducing much of the industrial waste leftover by contemporary building methods. For example, DUS Architects, also from the Netherlands, printed a canal house room-by-room with a portable 3D printer. The granules used for printing consist of 80% vegetable flaxseed oil.

While 3D printing for building and construction is still in its infancy, eventually it will become more commonplace. How it translates beyond entry-level properties will also take time. For now, 3D printers should prove very useful for creating more affordable housing where its needed around the world.