AMS Spring 2023

Holcim and COBOD Build First 3D Printed House in Kenya

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Previously, 14Trees, a joint venture between cement giant Holcim and CDC Group, used a BOD2 3D printer from COBOD to make a demonstration house. As we reported earlier this week, the team wish to produce 52 affordable homes next year. Now, 14Trees has begun proving the feasibility of the project by 3D printing a two-bedroom home in Nairobi. This structure will be scaled to populate the Myule Gardens project located in Kilifi, a lovely coastal town above Mombassa in Kenya, populated by 100,000 people.

With the project, the partners hope to demonstrate the viability and affordability of 3D printing there, aiming to help tackle the affordable housing crisis by being quick, efficient and with a lower CO2 footprint. The Mvule Gardens project is part of the nation’s larger Green Heart of Kenya program, which aims to marry growth with sustainability.

The first 3D printed house in Kenya. Image courtesy of COBOD.

“We are excited to be building one of the world’s largest 3D printed affordable housing projects in Kenya,” Holcim CEO Jan Jenisch.

“After our initial success in Malawi with using 3D printing for making Africa’s first 3D printed buildings, we wanted to take the next step and to bring scale to what we are doing. The Nairobi house was made as a demonstration for the decision makers and paved the way for the project in Kilifi, where we will be doing 52 similar houses,” Francois Perrot, CEO of 14Trees stated.

“We are thrilled to see 14Trees putting scale to their projects. We believe we will see a massive learning taking place in this project, which we believe will further prove the economic potential of using 3D construction printing not at least due to the speed of execution. Many of our other customers are planning similar projects with scale, but 14Trees is likely to be the first to realize such,” said Henrik Lund-Nielsen, Founder & General Manager of COBOD.

The demonstration house was the first to be 3D printed in Kenya and is the first 3D printed home to achieve an IFC-EDGE Design Certificate, meant to represent sustainable and resource-efficient design. Having proven out the first building in the project, Mvule Gardens will begin construction in Q1 of 2022.

It’s nice to see large companies tackle big problems and I like that this seems to be a regular project for regular folks and not some pie in the sky initiative. So, I appreciate this along with the Eindhoven project by St Gobain. The prices of around $25,000 seem very reasonable, as well. But, is there really an affordable housing crisis and can 3D printing solve it? You can read Michael’s de-hyper here to get more perspective.

On the whole, we have several billion people who do not have adequate housing, sanitation, water, electricity, heating and income. These people also often have limited access to education and their issues are compounded by regional strife, crime, corruption and many more factors. Even if we can reduce the price of homes with a highly unbanked group of people that has no access to credit, there is no way to get these houses into the hands of many.

However, it would be an incredible thing if we could take some people on a path to having title to a place that does have good water and all other essential services. For that to happen, these people need to have credit, better jobs, and access to markets far from home. If an integrated solution could be found whereby trade, jobs, and credit could, together with 3D printing, take people to a better place of their own devising then this would be a significant step forward. But even if 3D printed homes were $1,000, they will need grids that provide electricity regularly, sewers, and many more things that we take for granted. I’m hopeful and optimistic that we can play a role but don’t think that we, in and of ourselves, will abracadabra-solve a “crisis” that is really a symptom of the broader problems of lack of opportunity and infrastructure that affects billions of people on the planet.

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