Milan’s 3D printed house is demountable too

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Words:
Stephen Cousins

The EU’s first 3D printed house adds sustainability to its progressive attributes

The first 3D printed house in the EU, which was recently fabricated in Milan’s central square by a modified manufacturing robot, also ticks the circular economy box by being designed for deconstruction and re-assembly.

3D Housing 05 is a one storey prototype home – developed by CLS Architects, engineering consultancy Arup and printing specialist Cybe Construction – built to demonstrate how concrete 3D printing technology can be used to create flexible buildings quickly, sustainably and affordably. 

The circa 100m2 home features a living area, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom and will be on display during Milan design festival this month.

The walls of the house were printed directly onto the pavement of the square in 33 separate modules by a 5-axis robot fitted with a custom extruder.

The machine enabled much greater flexibility than the much larger 2-axis printers that were previously used to build in concrete, says Guglielmo Carra, Europe materials consulting lead at Arup: ‘It has a 4.5m long reach and a movable base, which makes it possible to print virtually any shape or size of building, including those with a large footprint or possibly multi-storey buildings. It can be lifted on hydraulic pistons, but to print a second storey the robot would need to be positioned on the first floor slab.’

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The 33 modules took one to one and a half hours each to print, but the overall construction time was 10 days, including the time required to level the stony floor of the Piazza and its continued public use.

A robust structure was made possible by inserting rebar manually as the printing progressed. Structural connections between capping beams at the tops of modules help increase rigidity. The base mix for the concrete was produced by Italian firm Italcementi.

Future advances in technology could further improve the process, says Carra: ‘We envision the rebar also being printed using robots, building on current research at places like ATH Zurich, where robots have welded very complex meshes with steel. In addition, the cavities inside walls could include thermal and acoustic insulation and design changes to the walls could help minimise thermal breaks.’

The 3D printing helped improve sustainability compared to traditional concrete construction, by reducing material waste and making it possible reuse the components at a second site, in line with the principles of the circular economy.

‘For us it was not an option to build a structure for temporary use and then demolish it; it was essential to provide a longer service life for the building by making it easy to disassemble and reassemble at another permanent location,’ Carra concludes.


 

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