Are 3D-printed homes a sustainable future option?

Friday 4 Nov 2022

The process is being touted as a sustainable solution for housing shortages, but is it? The answer is yes, possibly no and it depends.

Few industries have seen the fast-paced level of innovations like the 3D-printing world. What began as a high-priced device capable of printing a small figurine in 12 or more hours has exploded into technology that can print the framework of a house in a few days’ time.

Perhaps the most notable step towards sustainability in the 3D realm is the ability to print houses with nearly zero waste. The technology is so precise it allows structures to be printed to exact specifications. Even better, because the printing information is provided by software, changes from one design to another are easily accomplished with a tweak to the programming.

In standard construction, board and metal cutoffs are prolific, resulting in copious waste on the construction site. Without a doubt, well-designed 3D houses are a win for the environment in this category. However, “well-designed” is essential. Not all 3D printing companies have their processes dialed in. Those who don’t can produce waste through inefficiencies.

3D-printed houses, either printed off site and transported as prefabricated units, or printed onsite where the structure will sit, predominantly require much less transport than traditionally-built homes. Think of all the separate contractors, suppliers, subcontractors and other invested parties that show up to a traditional build over the multi-month timeline.

In contrast, 3D-printed homes typically require limited equipment and transports, significantly cutting the embodied carbon during the build. This is especially true in remote locations and for small structures like tiny homes. However, this is again contingent upon the sustainability efforts of the 3D-printing provider.

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