A 3D Print-Out You Could Call Home


In a forested patch of Garrison, N.Y., on the Hudson River, a giant robotic arm looms over a platform. Later this month, the platform will start to rotate while the arm pumps out a gooey concoction of basalt and biopolymers. Round it will go, receiving layer upon layer, until the arm, like a demonic pastry chef, has extruded an entire egg-shaped house.

This 24-foot-high, 500-square-foot, two-story construction will have a sleeping pod, a bathroom with a shower, a study area and other amenities you might expect from a cool short-term rental. In fact, it will be a cool short-term rental, as well as a demonstration of the future of home building.

The project, called TERA, is one of the latest experiments in 3D-printed houses. Innovators in this arena are seeking to reduce the expense, environmental impact and hazards of construction methods that have remained fundamentally unchanged for more than a thousand years. They are adapting a now-commonplace manufacturing technique in which a computer-controlled dispenser spews a malleable material that hardens into the shape of a pipe fitting, a chair or an internal organ — or, one day, a whole inhabitable building, with its myriad components and systems robotically extruded.

Architects and engineers are edging closer to this goal, by printing portions of houses and assembling or finishing them conventionally. (In TERA’s case the exterior shell will be printed on site and a separate birch plywood interior inserted.) They are testing different structural, surface and insulation materials and struggling to clear one of the highest bars in this technological obstacle course: the 3D-printed roof. (It’s a problem of weight. For TERA, the 3D-printed roof is an easily supported half-inch-thick dome.)

And many of these pioneers have their heads in the clouds.

TERA, which was designed by AI SpaceFactory, a Manhattan architectural studio, evolved from a prototype Martian habitat called MARSHA that won a NASA competition in May. (You can see details at the exhibition “Moving to Mars,” through Feb. 23 at the Design Museum in London.) MARSHA was destroyed as a final test of its stability — NASA wanted to see how much force it would take to crush it. AI SpaceFactory is recycling the crushed material in TERA to demonstrate its commitment to zero waste.

Mars’s atmosphere, about 100 times thinner than Earth’s, determined the habitat’s tubby shape: As pressure within the structure is equalized, the building envelope bulges. Because the cost of shipping construction materials more than 30 million miles is prohibitive, the design makes use of volcanic basalt rock, which exists on Mars, below a layer of dust. The vision is of an autonomous robot that collects, processes and prints what it finds.

Designing for extreme conditions in space helps solve terrestrial problems, noted David Malott, AI SpaceFactory’s co-founder and chief executive. The strategy of building homes on site with hyperlocal materials could have tremendous environmental benefits for our own planet. “It’s a high-tech way of going back to the Stone Age,” he said.

Printed houses have other advantages, proponents with and without cosmic ambitions believe. The speed with which the buildings are constructed makes them useful for emergency housing or to shelter the homeless. An efficient use of materials and the automated labor should drive down the cost of home construction. The potential for economy looks promising but because the technology is under development, the savings still lie in the (possibly near) future.

“As a contractor, I want to build houses, not walls,” Mr. Haines told the audience at a recent Texas Association of Builders show, referring to the wall sections that are the main products of architectural 3D printing. Motivated by the national crisis in affordable real estate and a plague of weather disasters, he estimates that a 1,000- to 1,500-square-foot house based on his Genesis design can be completed in 10 to 14 days for $100 to $160 a square foot (“You still need to put in flooring, sinks, cabinets, plumbing and electrical fixtures,” Mr. Haines noted, “and that depends upon local subcontractor availability.”) The wall systems were designed and tested to stand up to 200 mile-per-hour winds. (A 2017 survey by the National Association of Home Builders, gave $237,760 as the average total construction cost for a 2,776-square-foot single-family house, or $85 per square foot.)

Mr. Haines was in the midst of building a version of this house northwest of Austin this summer, when his California investor pulled the funding. “I’m not sure what the thinking was,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s tough if you don’t have stuff in nanotech or biomed or A.I.”

In the Netherlands, where innovation is less of a loner’s pursuit, a cluster of 3D-printed concrete houses called Project Milestone is being developed by a variety of architecture, engineering and construction firms with input from researchers at the Eindhoven University of Technology. The five houses in the city of Eindhoven will demonstrate increasing degrees of material and structural complexity, beginning with a one-story printed concrete house with steel-reinforced walls and a wooden roof, to be completed early next year, and evolving into fully printed concrete models with multiple floors. All of the homes will be sold to a real estate company and leased out for occupancy.

Theo Salet, a structural engineer who is dean of the department of the built environment at the university, sketches a future of versatility for printed concrete. Walls will be thickened for insulation and etched for ventilation and material efficiency. They will be embedded with fibers that turn them translucent and strategically endowed with electrical conductivity that replaces wiring. “This makes it a smart material all of sudden and not just stupid concrete anymore,” he said.

Not least, Mr. Salet sees a world of customization, where homeowners will be able to modify a design in imaginative ways before the button on the printer is pushed.

Even in these early days, designers are entranced by the technology’s malleable form language, which makes curves effortless and allows built-ins to be fluidly integrated. Yves Béhar, who designed the houses for New Story’s 3D-printed Latin American village, said he even likes the striated wall pattern made by the layers of printed concrete. “I personally think, especially for houses that are surrounded by nature, the horizontal texture is actually something beautiful.”

Working with Mario Cucinella Architects, WASP is currently developing Gaia’s successor, a domed house called Tecla that will be constructed with two of its specially designed printers running simultaneously. “This smart and ethical procedure may be extended to wheat, barley, spelt and rye,” wrote Massimo Moretti, the company’s chief executive, in an email.



Sahred From Source link Real Estate

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