Good day folks, good to be back here. Today we will conclude our analysis of 3D-printed houses, a conversation we started last week. Just as a quick recap, last week we mentioned that 3D-printed houses are made the same way any other 3D-printed object is made: A material (like concrete or plastic) is extruded through a nozzle that can move in three dimensions to print an object. But in the case of homes, the printer needs to be a bit larger and a bit hardier, given that it needs to operate outdoors on varied terrain. So yes, you can print your house, literally!
Today we will examine its applicability in the African terrain as well as the pros and cons in its implementation.
PILOT IN MALAWI
Business Insider reports that Malawi’s burgeoning backlog, which, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) would take an estimated 70 years to clear with conventional building methods, can be solved in under a decade through the use of 3D printing technology. This is the aim of 14Trees, a joint venture between Swiss-based building material manufacturer, LafargeHolcim, and the UK’s development finance institution, CDC Group.
Using locally produced printable cement, concrete and mortar materials created by LafargeHolcim’s research and development department, 14Trees creates solid, multiroom structures in a fraction of the time required by traditional construction firms. The first prototype house, printed in Malawi’s capital of Lilongwe, was completed in 12 hours compared to the four days it would’ve taken a conventional building crew.
The Vulcan 3D printer, which was recently named as one the world’s greatest inventions by TIME magazine, is the preferred tool when printing houses and other liveable structures. Standing almost four metres tall and eight metres wide, this printer has the ability to churn out 7 inches of building material every second.
Any conventional build requires transportation of materials to site, labour etc. to execute the work but with 3D printed houses, cost of labour hire and transportation are significantly reduced or totally eliminated as the machine shores up a chunk of work and ensures a tidy and clean build without a lot of wastage. This si good news especially for the affordable housing movement as it has been proven that some of these houses can be built for as low as $4,000
There are different delivery times from under 12 hours to 48 hours, so clearly the turnaround time depends on your unique circumstance. Icon, the American construction startup, for example is reported to have developed a technology that can build a 650 sq. ft. one storey 3D printed in just 24 hours.
Infinite Design Possibilities
Another big plus for 3D printed houses is their “malleability”. You are afforded the opportunity to be creative with your design, even with odd shapes unlike traditional construction methods that have some design limitations.
Specialized Labour Requirements
In a digital age where most job have become automated, when 3D printed technology takes foot in theses demand for regular construction workers will plummet while the specialized labour required to build with 3D may not be immediately available. The situation then becomes dire as one group, the tradional skilled labours will be left jobless while 3D printed housing investors will also need to invest and train these specialized workforce. There is then a middle ground that needs to be found which can be challenging.
Difficulty Finding Raw Materials
The raw material used in traditional construction is not the same as the material used in 3D printers and there are very few materials today that can be used in a 3D printer. Besides, most of the printers need specific materials so printer versatility is also a challenge i.e. it might not be possible to use the raw material of one printer on another.
In summary, the advent of 3D-printed houses is clearly a big step in affordable housing delivery and if managed properly can also offset the huge housing deficit experienced in Ghana and in Africa in general if investors are willing to take the big step. Any takers?
The writer is the Executive director of Yecham Property Consult
& Founder of Ghana Green Building Summit.
Email: [email protected]
LinkedIn: Cyril Nii Ayitey Tetteh
YouTube: Real Estate Minute