Can you print a house?

Unbelievably, 3D printing has been around since the 1980s when it was first demonstrated by US engineer Chuck Hall. Early on, there was a lot of excitement about how this technology could transform the construction industry as it could do away with the need for tradesmen, scaffolding, certain health and safety regulations and so on. The advancement has, however, been very slow and most objects created by 3D printing have remained relatively small in size. But this appears to be changing.

Dutch architect, DUS, is currently undergoing a 3D project to print a house in Amsterdam, which in its finished form, will be a 13 room canal house. The process consists of printing the interior and exterior walls at the same time with spaces left in between for electric wiring and pipes. These spaces are then filled in with concrete for insulation and reinforcement. Each room will be separate structural entities which are then placed on top of each other to form a house, with the proposed project expected to take three years to complete.

There was even more excitement within the industry when a Chinese construction firm recently announced that it had 3D printed 10 houses in less than 24 hours, at a cost of $4,800 each. The building was made using a giant 3D printer which is apparently 32 metres long, 10 metres wide and 6.6 metres high, using ‘ink’ from a mixture of high-grade cement and glass fibre.

We’re seeing the technology used by UK based firms too. Over the past year, architect firm Foster & Partners has become the second-biggest users of 3D printing in the world after Nike, announcing plans to print a domed moon-base for the European Space Agency.  Zaha Hadid’s architecture firm 3D printed a skyscraper project, which included 207 scale-model towers which ended up as a chess set.

There is some debate whether the Chinese houses genuinely win the race to build the world’s first 3D printed house because it was printed in various parts which were then assembled, rather than being printed as one single item. Either way, these advancements are pretty exciting and this could be just the start of a huge change for the construction world and properties as we know them.

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