3D printing is sustainable solution to global housing crisis

Cities around the world are turning to 3D printing to help them build sustainable futures. The technology is affordable, fast, easy to replicate and can even be used with recycled materials.

“Cities are 3D printing their way to more sustainable futures,” writes Katie Pyzyk for Smart Cities Dive. And her examples are plenty: from office buildings and single-family homes to transport infrastructure like bridges, bus stops and ticket vending machines, 3D printing is a disruptive technology that has the potential to revolutionize how cities build and function.

Calling Dubai “a leader in imagining ways to utilize 3D printing”, Pyzyk reports that the city’s 3D Printing Strategy requires that every new building by 25 per cent 3D printed by 2025.

Amsterdam for its part will get a 3D printed pedestrian bridge in 2019. Crossing a historic canal in the city’s Red Light district, it will be the world’s first 3D-printed stainless steel bridge. And in Shanghai, WinSun Construction has built a bus shelter made of concrete and recycled materials.

As Pyzyk points out, 3D printing could also be used to solve a major urban crisis: the affordability, availability and sustainability of housing.

“There really is a multi-layered problem with housing in the world,” said Jason Ballard, co-founder of Icon. The Austin-based 3D printing startup believes that by reducing the amount of time to build a home, 3D printing drastically reduces overall construct costs and allows for rapid increases in housing supply.

Its material of choice is concrete because it is cheap, strong and more energy efficient than other materials in the long run.

“Concrete has a high thermal mass. It really helps regulate the way heat flows in and out of a space. It will keep a space more comfortable longer and with less energy investment,” Ballard explained. Concrete structures are also more resilient to environmental conditions and disasters.

Icon is currently partnering with the non-profit organization New Story to build homes for people in developing countries. “We are super excited. Usually the world’s poor are the very last people to get access to emerging technologies,” Ballard said.

Image credit: Icon

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