29 Dec 16 Can 3D printing solve the global housing crisis?

Imagine a typical construction site – hard hats, high-visibility jackets, construction material, and heavy machinery. It could be several months (or years) before your view of the horizon is obstructed. Fast forward to last year – a site in China where a 57-storey skyscraper was built in 19 days. No, it wasn’t built brick-by-brick. According to the Guardian, the construction company spent four and a half months fabricating the building’s 2,736 modules before construction began.

The construction industry has been slow to adopt new technologies, with some still using paper-based processes. The industry – plagued by cost and schedule overruns – is ripe for disruption, says a study by McKinsey. Instead of hard hats and hi-vis jackets, we are likely to see an increasing use of drones, robots and 3D printers. The push of a button will give you access to all the project information you require.

The UN estimates that by 2025, 1.6 billion people will require adequate and affordable housing. 3D printing technology – or additive manufacturing, as it is often referred to – will revolutionise the way homes are built in the future. Homes will be printed in a matter of hours or days, dramatically reducing costs. Villas and buildings will be built with a robotic arm attached to a 3D printer head. Foundations will be laid remotely. Soil and local and environmentally friendly materials will be used to create bricks.

Here are some advantages that 3D printing technology will bring to the construction industry

  • Homes will be built at a fraction of current costs, with some claiming that costs could come down by as much as 50%
  • The technology will provide an impetus to affordable housing
  • Companies will be able to offer visual representations of their projects, reducing the gap between perception and reality (for clients and contractors)
  • An increase in green constructions reducing the burden on lumber

What does all this mean for the global construction industry? While automation will no doubt have a negative impact on the employment market in the future, engineering firms, construction companies, and contractors must embrace technology – if they haven’t already – to remain competitive.

Though it might seem unlikely today, 3D printed homes could become common-place in the future. What do you think?

Nandita Harendra

I look after the corporate communications function at ValueNotes, and contribute towards marketing. You can reach me on nandita@valuenotes.co.in

  • Adam Wells
    Posted at 00:03h, 10 February Reply

    3D printer is big enough to build houses. Created by Italian engineering company WASP, the project has aspirations to solve the global housing crisis by building houses using sustainable materials.

  • Angela Erin
    Posted at 00:01h, 10 February Reply

    Building houses from 3D printers isn’t unprecedented. In January 2015 a Chinese company built ten houses on the outskirts of Suzhou, a city in eastern China. A Dutch company is also using 3D printers to build a bridge made out of printed steel, but where the bridge will be built is yet yet to be decided.

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