Around the World in 3D Printed Buildings

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As the world embraces innovation and technological advancements, the realm of construction is undergoing a revolutionary transformation. 3D printing, a technology once confined to smaller-scale objects, has now expanded its horizons to something as substantial and impactful as building homes and structures. This leap forward is not just a triumph of technology but also a beacon of hope for addressing various social, economic, and environmental challenges. From Detroit to Dubai, from educational institutions in Madagascar to affordable housing in Kenya, the global landscape of architecture and construction is being redefined by the power of 3D printing. This article delves into a series of remarkable projects from around the world, each showcasing the unique capabilities and potential of 3D printed buildings. These structures are more than just walls and roofs; they are testaments to human ingenuity, sustainable practices, and a vision for a better future.

North America

Detroit, Michigan

Company/Designer: Developed by non-profit Citizen Robotics, designed by architect Bryan Cook.

Year Constructed: 2023

Printer: Refurbed automotive 3D Printer

Notable Facts: First 3D printed home in Michigan, used to train young people on additive construction.

Part proof of concept, part workforce development project, this quaint cottage in Detroit’s Lakeview neighborhood is the culmination of three years of planning and hard work by the team at Citizen Robotics. Designed to match the vibe of the neighborhood and appear traditional from the curb, the house is currently on the market and will hopefully soon house some lucky Detroiters. The project could inspire more non-profits to look at 3D printing as way to address community needs.

Redding, CA

Company/Designer: Emergent 3D, Access Home, Don Ajamian Construction

Printer: COBOD BOD2 construction 3D printer

Year Constructed: 2022

Notable Facts & Features: Wildfire resistant, subsidized home for family in need.

Dubbed the “The Wildfire Resolution house,” its builders tout this home as fire- and disaster-resilient. The home is offered to eligible residents cost free in exchange for park hosting duties.

Tallahassee, Florida

Company/Designer: Precision Building & Renovating and Gulf Coast Additive Manufacturing & Design

Printer: COBOD BOD2 construction 3D printer

Year Constructed: 2022

Notable Facts: First 3D printed house in Florida. Listed for $250,000 in November 2022, sold in December 2022.

Described as a “bunker” due it its sturdy construction of concrete and steel, this home also uses a mixture of concrete and soap as its insulation. Its builders hope this project will spearhead the construction of more 3D printed homes in African-American neighborhoods.

Wellington, Florida

Company/Designer: Printed Farms

Printer: COBOD BOD2 construction 3D printer

Year Constructed: 2023

Notable Facts & Features: World’s largest 3D printed building.

In 2023, Printed Farms and COBOD set a new record with the construction of the world’s largest 3D printed building in Wellington, Florida. This luxury horse barn, covering a vast area of 10,105 square feet, is designed to withstand extreme weather conditions, including hurricanes and tropical storms. Its innovative design, featuring 3D printed walls for natural cooling, showcases the remarkable potential of additive manufacturing in construction.

Camp Swift, Texas

The exterior of what was, at one time, North America’s largest 3D printed structure. Image courtesy of ICON.

Company/Designer: ICON and Texas Military Department (TMD)

Printer: ICON’s Vulcan construction system

Year Constructed: 2021

Notable Facts & Features: At one time, the largest 3D printed structure in North America, military barracks.

ICON, in partnership with the Texas Military Department, achieved a significant milestone in additive construction with what was, in 2021, the completion of the largest 3D printed structure in North America. Located at the Camp Swift Training Center in Bastrop, Texas, this groundbreaking project encompasses over 3,800 square feet and is designed to house up to 72 military personnel during their training. The barracks were constructed using ICON’s advanced Vulcan construction system and proprietary Lavacrete material, showcasing the potential of 3D printing in creating large-scale, resilient, and energy-efficient structures.

NASA Johnson Space Center, Texas

A 3D printed structure simulating the possibilities of a Martian habitat. Image courtesy of ICON.

Company/Designer: ICON and Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)

Printer: ICON’s Vulcan concrete 3D printing system

Year Constructed: 2021

Notable Facts & Features: Mars Dune Alpha, a realistic 3D printed Martian habitat.

ICON, a leader in additive construction technology, has partnered with architecture firm BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group to create a groundbreaking 3D printed habitat, Mars Dune Alpha, at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Texas. This project, under a subcontract with Jacobs for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, aims to simulate a realistic Martian habitat to support long-term exploration science missions in outer space. Mars Dune Alpha, spanning 1,700 square feet, is designed to test the viability of living on Mars and will aid in preparing humans for future space missions. The structure’s innovative design features private crew quarters, medical, work, and food-growing stations, with an emphasis on privacy and adaptability to ensure crew members’ well-being. This project represents a significant stride in space exploration and the potential of 3D printing technology in creating sustainable habitats beyond Earth.

Southern California

Company/Designer: Mighty Buildings

Printer: Mighty Buildings’ proprietary 3D printing technology

Year Constructed: 2022

Notable Facts & Features: World’s first Zero Net Energy (ZNE) 3D printed home.

Mighty Buildings has achieved a significant milestone in sustainable construction by completing the world’s first Zero Net Energy (ZNE) 3D printed home in Southern California. This innovative home goes beyond carbon neutrality, producing more energy than used in its manufacture and distribution. The construction process achieves minimal waste, and the house incorporates renewable energy sources, including solar panels integrated into the roof and batteries for solar storage. This project represents a critical step forward in additive construction, showcasing the potential for 3D printing technology in creating environmentally sustainable and energy-efficient housing solutions. This pioneering ZNE home is part of a planned community of over 40 3D printed units, highlighting Mighty Buildings’ commitment to expanding sustainable housing options through advanced construction methods.

Africa

Kilifi, Kenya

Company/Designer: 14Trees & Holcim

Printer: COBOD BOD2

Year Constructed: 2023

Notable Features: World’s largest 3D printed affordable housing complex.

With 90% of Kenya’s urban population renting their homes, the creators of Mvule Gardens hope to alleviate the crushing rents that eat up many Kenyan’s incomes. With the first ten of its homes constructed, the team behind this project is eyeing a 2030 completion date.

Fianarantsoa, Madagascar

Company/Designer: Thinking Huts, architects Bruno Silva and Yash Mehta

Printer: COBOD BOD2 construction 3D printer

Year Constructed: 2022

Notable Facts: Madagascar’s first 3D printed school.

Bougainvillea was printed in 18 hours and constructed over the course of three weeks. It is hoped this will be the first of many buildings to create a campus of schools to address Madagascar’s educational and literacy crises.

South America

Unspecified Location, Guatemala

Company/Designer: Progreso X, 3DCP Group

Printer: COBOD BOD2 construction 3D printer

Year Constructed: 2023

Notable facts & features: Printed in 26 hours over seven days.

Combining 3D printed walls and a palm leaf roof, this stylish cottage is a true fusion of ancient construction techniques and modern technology. The designers also believe that the flexibility of the materials used in the print will allow the building to withstand earthquakes.

Asia

Jiangsu Province, China

Company/Designer: WinSun

Printer: A proprietary, large scale construction printer developed by WinSun president Ma Yihe

Year Constructed: 2015

Notable Features: World’s first 3D printed apartment building. Printed using WinSun’s blend of cement, sand and fiber and a proprietary additive

Printed over six days for a cost of $161,000. At the time of construction, WinSun staked the claim to having the world’s tallest 3D printed building. Sadly, the company behind this project was embroiled in a controversy over patent theft around the same time this building was unveiled.

Bengaluru, India

Company/Designer: Larsen and Toubro, ITT Madras

Printer: COBOD BOD2 construction 3D printer

Year Constructed: 2023

Notable Facts & Features: Completed in 44 days.

Constructed for around $27,500, this building cost around 40% less than it would have using traditional construction methods. As an added bonus, a social media user who lived nearby noted that noise levels during the construction process were “the bare minimum.” Perhaps, we’ll soon see this used as a selling point for 3D printed construction.

Europe

Reims, France

Company/Designer: XtreeE, Emmanuel Coste

Printer: XtreeE printing system

Year Constructed: 2022

Notable Facts & Features: The five homes were constructed in 12 months.

In a departure from other 3D printed projects, these homes do not use 3D printed walls for areas such as the kitchen, bed and washrooms. Because of this, the project developers claim these five homes used 50% less concrete than if they had been constructed traditionally.

Nantes, France

Company/Designer: Yhnova Project

Printer: Batiprint3D

Year Constructed: 2018

Notable Facts & Features: The first 3D printed home in the world to be inhabited.

Printed over 54 hours, this home was designed to curve around the 100-year-old trees with which it shares the plot. In the future, more 3D printed projects might follow this lead and build around existing flora, rather than displacing it.

Massa Lombarda, Italy

View from above of the TECLA 3D printed house in Italy. View from above of the TECLA 3D printed house in Italy. Image courtesy of WASP/MCA.

Company/Designer: WASP (World’s Advanced Saving Project) and Mario Cucinella Architects (MCA)

Printer: Crane WASP

Year Constructed: 2021

Notable Facts & Features: Innovative eco-habitat, TECLA, constructed entirely from natural and recyclable materials.

In a groundbreaking development in sustainable living, WASP, in collaboration with Mario Cucinella Architects, 3D printed an innovative eco-habitat model called TECLA in Massa Lombarda, Italy. This project represented a significant leap in 3D printed construction, as it was created entirely from natural, reusable, and recyclable materials, adaptable to any climate. Utilizing the Crane WASP, the company’s advanced modular collaborative 3D printing system, the project showcased the synergistic potential of digital design and local raw materials in construction.

The Middle East

Dubai, UAE

Dubai Municipal Building

Company/Designer: Apis Cor, Yves Behar

Printer: Apis Cor’s “Frank”

Year Constructed: 2022

Notable Facts & Features: Erected entirely on-site

At two-stories and an impressive 6,900 square feet, this building was once considered the world’s largest 3D printed building. While it makes sense that a government building would end holding this title, one does hope that next super large 3D construction project is for something a bit more fun. 3D printed waterpark anybody?

The Office of the Future

Company/Designer: Killa Design, Gensler

Printer: Multiple, including WinSun’s proprietary printing unit

Year Constructed: 2018

Notable Facts & Features: The main components of the building were printed in 17 days.

Home of the Dubai Future Foundation, the “Office of the Future,” was designed to ” shift from the traditional form of work environments thus paving the way for stimulating innovation and communication within teams.” To facilitate this the complex features a courtyard, private meeting rooms and even a lounge. The worst places I ever worked all had lounges and foosball tables so I’m not sure how far that can really go to alleviating the problems of the traditional office environment, but it is certainly something to gawk at.

The journey through these groundbreaking 3D printed structures from across the globe brings us to a pivotal moment in the evolution of construction and architecture. Each project, whether it be the innovative homes in France that harmonize with nature, fire-resistant houses in California, or sustainable and cost-effective educational facilities in Madagascar, represents a step forward in the quest for sustainable, efficient, and inclusive building practices. These ventures are not just about constructing buildings; they are about reimagining our approach to creating spaces where people live, learn, and grow. As we look to the future, it is clear that 3D printing in construction is not just a fleeting trend but a potential shift towards a more sustainable, equitable, and innovative world.

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