AMS Spring 2023

3D Printed Homes Could Be an Efficient Low-Income Housing Solution

6K SmarTech

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[Image by mebner1 from Pixabay]

3D printing — or additive manufacturing as it’s also known — is used for a lot of different things from conceptual and prototype design to traditional manufacturing and even construction. In fact, entire buildings have been fabricated using commercial grade printers. The technology is being upgraded to work with a variety of raw materials from concrete to wood.

So, it’s not at all a leap to propose the idea of 3D printed housing, specifically as a low-cost solution. With materials in hand, it’s a relatively fast and budget-friendly way to develop structures, which can do wonders in third-world environments and low-income areas.

That’s exactly the idea behind Yves Béhar’s new project, the “world’s first” 3D printed community. A lot of 3D printed construction has been nothing more than renderings and we’re very skeptical about any 3D printing housing project. 3D printed construction is turning out to be a market for dreamers and con men, but we’re keeping an open mind and hope that this established designer actually makes this project happen. 

Low-Income Housing for Latin America

Yves Béhar’s design studio Fuseproject has teamed up with New Story and ICON to develop affordable yet high-quality housing for low-income families. Originally, the idea was to put together suitable housing for families living on less than $200 a month. They’ve now adapted their project to accommodate farmers and palm weavers in Latin America. The exact location of the fortunate community has not been disclosed, however.

The 3D printed homes will be developed sometime later this year, and will collectively provide a haven for an active, budding community as opposed to individual families. That means the team will work together with residents to choose a suitable plot of land, and the homes will be developed in bulk.

In terms of design, every residence will occupy a 120-square-meter lot with interiors comprising 55 square meters or roughly 592 square feet. Each home will include a covered outdoor kitchen and dining room, as well as nearby gardens and land to support chickens.

The abodes will be constructed out of concrete, with varying color tints to choose from. The roof of each home is curved to help buffer against rain and strong winds, while the framing and structure will be reinforced to withstand seismic events.

Along the top walls, perforated concrete blocks will allow for steady airflow to create for natural ventilation. The interior will also be designed to accommodate optimized airflow for better cooling and comfort.

Additional features include curved interior walls with built-in seating, ledges and storage. Also, the surface of the walls and floors are easy to clean to help prevent mold buildup due to strong humidity.

What Does This Mean for Low-Income Construction?

3d printed house

[Image: 3DPrinthuset]

There’s no way to say for sure the long-term effect this will have on low-income development projects and related communities, Yves Béhar’s project hasn’t even been completed yet. It’s entirely possible these homes won’t stand up to the climate and environmental events as promised. However, we can refer to the potential of 3D printed housing in other areas of the world.

One company, for example, named WASP, or World’s Advanced Saving Project, has developed a 3D printer that can make homes out of mud. It builds shelter much like a potter wasp builds its nest, layering it like clay pottery. The printer can be configured to work with a variety of additional materials including plastic and ceramic.

This is welcome news, considering the World Resource Institute’s recent report that over 1.2 billion people lack access to affordable housing. The rise of functional yet highly-affordable additive manufacturing processes could be just the solution we need as a society to end such problems.

It will take a while yet, but the technology can be outfitted to work with a variety of materials suitable in varying environments and climates. The project from Yves Béhar and crew is just one example of concrete being used in new ways, while WASP’s printer could be used in more impoverished areas where conventional materials are unavailable.

As a whole, 3D printed homes will hopefully be a viable solution for low-income communities the world over. It will be interesting to see where the Latin American community goes from here. Hopefully, there’s a follow-up after the homes are actually developed, which reveals how the residents are faring and what additional benefits the low-income housing offered them.

[Photo by Charlie Deets on Unsplash]

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