The real estate sector is accountable for more than 20% of carbon emissions, which must be significantly reduced to avoid further destabilizing our climate and to meet the challenges of future demographic change. The combination of 3D printing and synthetic biology might create a more sustainable industry.
The indirect impact of 3D printing is even bigger. It could enable personalized, local fabrication of goods, reducing emission-intense transportation and the construction of logistics hubs as well as industrial properties, which are responsible for soil-sealing.
The impact of 3D printing on sustainability will be exponentially enhanced as soon as bio-polymers can be used for large-scale projects. Synthetic biology will enable the creation of sustainable bio-plastics, which could be used for construction or manufacturing. In the long-term future, we might see the growth of connected infrastructure with synthetic, bio-engineered, photo-synthesizing surfaces in the built environment producing regenerative energy, structures that heal or materials storing and transmitting data.
Building a house by hand can be both time-consuming and expensive. Some homebuilders have chosen to automate part of the construction instead.
A new Ukrainian homebuilding startup called PassivDom uses a 3D printing robot that can print parts for tiny houses. The machine can print the walls, roof, and floor of PassivDom’s 410-square-foot model in about eight hours. The windows, doors, plumbing, and electrical systems are then added by a human worker.
When complete, the homes are autonomous and mobile, meaning they don’t need to connect to external electrical and plumbing systems. Solar energy is stored in a battery connected to the houses, and water is collected and filtered from humidity in the air (or you can pour water into the system yourself). The houses also feature independent sewage systems.
Since the startup launched in spring 2017, it has received more than 8,000 preorders in the United States for its homes, which start at $64,000. The first 100 ones was deliver in January 2018.
“We should have opportunities to live in nature away from civilization, but have comfortable conditions of a traditional house,” designer Maria Sorokina said. “This technology can allow us to live in the woods, on mountains, or on the shore — far away from people and infrastructure.”
To make a PassivDom home, the team maps out the plan for the 3D printer in its factories in Ukraine and California. Layer by layer, the seven-axel robot prints the roof, floor, and 20-centimeter-thick walls, which are made of carbon fibers, polyurethane, resins, basalt fibers, and fiberglass.
Doors, windows, appliances, an alarm system, solar panels, and the septic, electrical, healing, cooling systems are then added.
Depending on the model, the whole process can take under 24 hours. The design and production of larger houses with more specifications and finishes, can take up to a month. If a house is pre-made, it can be shipped the next day.
PassivDom is not the only company using 3D printing to build homes. The San Francisco-based housing startup Apis Cor, Dus Architects in Amsterdam, as well as Branch Technology from Chattanooga, Tennessee, say they can construct homes in mere days or weeks.
The startup believes 3D printing is a cheaper, more efficient way to build homes that it can sell at a (relatively) affordable price. “Over 100 million people do not have a roof over their heads,” Sorokina said. “It is necessary to build more affordable houses.”