Rather than thinking of 3D printing as the latest manufacturing technique that will eventually trump all others, some believe it is more important to truly understand what 3D printing can do that can’t already be done and leverage that as its greatest potential. The team at Buzz Technology Limited, a London-based research and development company, that you may remember from our coverage of their Kickstarter campaign, wanted to consider what was offered by 3D printing to the building of houses. Rather than imagine it as a way to simply replace the materials in the house with ones that were made with additive processes, they decided to reimagine the very notion of home building.
“Up until now, most of the solutions put forward for 3D printed houses use the technology to replicate the way we build now,” the company stated. “For the last 18 months, a team of engineers, materials scientists and roboticists at Buzz Technology Limited have been working on a mass producible 3D printed housing solution that really leverages the benefits of 3D printing.”
The houses will be mass produced, an idea in home building that has been the recipient of a significant amount of attention and is alternately loved and hated, because of what it has promised to produce (universal housing, sustainable construction, and beautiful design) and what it has actually produced (mobile homes, shoddy construction, and monotony). This time, however, Buzz Technology believes that it is bringing something new and better to the table.
The mass produced housing they envision is created using materials that are free and plentiful, uses local labor, and is still profitable. Sounds like a lot to hope for, but they have more than just optimism, they also have some brilliant ideas. Primary among the tools of their approach is the use of free and plentiful raw materials such as river bed mineral clays and sand from the sea beds. The houses themselves would be manufactured on ships or in waterside facilities and then towed into shore for installation.
Senake Atureliya, the CEO of Buzz Technology, explained the labor portion of this new housing construction approach:
“With large and expensive products such as housing, the advantages of low labor costs are far outweighed by the risk and cost of transportation. That means that this is a great opportunity for local construction companies. In addition, we wanted to achieve a good balance between creating social benefit (reducing the cost of housing to address the inequality issue) and recovering some of our $&D costs to date. With this in mind, we have just pursued a UK Patent application, so the door really is wide open to those who want to use the technology.”
The houses would be printed complete with the buoyancy tanks required to allow it to be towed through water and would even include some ‘printed-in’ furnishings. To make this feasible, the team at Buzz Technology has re-engineered the entire house so that it can withstand the towing, bumping, and rolling it would experience during creation, transportation, and installation. As a result, the house uses about 60% more material than a traditional home, but as that material is free, or nearly so, the impact is not as great as it sounds.
“…The tech represents a great opportunity for US based companies to produce a product that would create economic growth and because it’s using many of it’s benefits, should generate a wider interest in 3D printing,” Atureliya told 3DPrint.com. “The construction process uses all natural materials (sea bed sand or river bed mineral clay) and 100% sustainable energy (tidal). To some extent, the solution also represents a way to protect most families biggest investment against climate change impacts. Unlike conventional buildings, they can be relocated away from drought, flooding or zones with suffering from other adverse weather conditions – or just moved to a better location if desired.”“We are already talking to some eco home groups and architects, but are still looking for potential customers, joint venture partners and investors for a pilot project,” he added.
A final advantage that Buzz Technology proffers as part of the 3D printed home package is the opportunity that homeowners would have to take their home with them when they move. A house is an enormous investment and fewer people have the luxury of living in the same location for enough years to make the purchase truly return on its investment. With these 3D printed houses, their transportation is already a part of their design, meaning that people might just be able to pack up their belongings and then put them all right back in the same place again once the house is moved.
We may not see a fleet of these houses rolling on to the market in the near future, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see this become a more standard way of addressing disaster housing relief initially and eventually becoming increasingly refined for the needs of our neo-nomadic generation.
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