University Unveils Bio-Based 3D-Printed House


The world’s first 3D-printed house made entirely with bio-based materials was recently constructed at the University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center.

Unveiled last week, BioHome3D was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hub and Spoke program between the UMaine and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Partners included MaineHousing and the Maine Technology Institute.

“Our state is facing the perfect storm of a housing crisis and labor shortage, but the University of Maine is stepping up once again to show that we can address these serious challenges with trademark Maine ingenuity,” said Governor Janet Mills.

“With its innovative BioHome3D, UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center is thinking creatively about how we can tackle our housing shortage, strengthen our forest products industry, and deliver people a safe place to live so they can contribute to our economy. While there is still more to be done, today’s development is a positive step forward — one that I was proud to support through my Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan and my budget. I extend my congratulations and thanks to the University of Maine and its partners, and I look forward to continuing to tackle these problems with innovative solutions.”

About BioHome3D

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the nation—and Maine in particular—is experiencing a crisis-level shortage of affordable housing.

In a recent report, the Coalition shared that there is a need for more than 7 million affordable housing units. The Maine Affordable Housing Coalition says that the deficit in its own state is 20,000 housing units and growing each year.

The situation has only been exasperated by the twin challenges of a labor shortage and supply chain-driven material price increases.

A potential solution to the problem is the development of affordable, 3D-printed housing options.

The university’s prototype, BioHome3D, measures 600 square feet and is fully recyclable and highly insulated with 100% wood insulation. All aspects of the home, including the floors, walls and roof were 3D-printed using wood fibers and bio-resins. Printed in just four modules, BioHome3D was reportedly moved to the site and assembled in half a day.

Students working on the project shared that construction waste was nearly eliminated due to the precision of the printing process and hopes that the technology can help to also address labor shortages. Thanks to automated manufacturing and off-site production, less time is spent onsite constructing the home.

Supply chain issues are also tackled by utilizing abundant, renewable, locally sourced wood fiber feedstock. The decision to use these materials also supports the revitalization of local forest product industries, the university notes.

The team on the project further shared that by building 3D-printed homes with the technology at UMaine, future low-income houses could be customized to meet a homeowner’s space, energy efficiency and aesthetic preferences.

“We are finding solutions here at ASCC to the pressing problems that our world faces and that Maine faces, through research on transformative offshore wind technology, next-generation solutions for transportation infrastructure, advanced forest products and large-scale 3D printing, and of course, affordable housing,” said UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy.

“The work that goes on in this lab absolutely exemplifies the work of a land grant institution — an institution that was started in order to help to solve the problems of, and further the economic advancement of, the state of Maine in partnership with the people of Maine. I couldn’t be more proud to point to this lab and exactly how that’s happening right here.”

Since being constructed at the campus, BioHome3D has been equipped with sensors for thermal, environmental and structural monitoring to test performance through the winter months. Researchers expect to use the data collected to improve future designs.

“Many technologies are being developed to 3D print homes, but unlike BioHome3D, most are printed using concrete. However, only the concrete walls are printed on top of a conventionally cast concrete foundation. Traditional wood framing or wood trusses are used to complete the roof,” said Dr. Habib Dagher, ASCC executive director. “Unlike the existing technologies, the entire BioHome3D was printed, including the floors, walls and roof. The biomaterials used are 100% recyclable, so our great-grandchildren can fully recycle BioHome3D.”

While the BioHome3D project is the result of strong partnerships between UMaine and the community, the DOE-funded Hub and Spoke Program between UMaine and Oak Ridge National Laboratory continues to lead research and development of sustainable, cost-effective bio-based 3D printing feedstock alternatives, such as the material used for BioHome3D.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility and UMaine are natural partners in the field of large-scale, bio-based 3D printing. The Maine Technology Institute supported the design of the prototype, and MaineHousing was a key partner in developing and reviewing the specifications for the home in alignment with low-income housing standards.

“With today’s production of the world’s first-ever 3D-printed house made from recycled forest products, the University of Maine continues to demonstrate its global leadership in innovation and scientific research,” said Senator Susan Collins.

“This remarkable accomplishment was made possible by the tenacity and expertise of Dr. Habib Dagher, his team and students at the UMaine Advanced Structures and Composites Center. I commend them on pioneering this new market opportunity for Maine’s forest products industry, which could help alleviate our nation’s housing shortage. Their groundbreaking work will lay the foundation for the future of affordable housing and help create new jobs across our state.”

3D-Printed Homes Elsewhere

Earlier this year, construction start-up Alquist 3D announced plans to build 200 homes in the southwest region of Virginia to help solve the housing crisis in rural and underserved areas of America.

The company claims that the endeavor, dubbed “Project Virginia,” will be the world’s largest 3D-printed construction project.

According to reports, Alquist 3D chose the area because the demand for housing is soaring due to 3,000 new jobs posted by Volvo, Blue Star Manufacturing and American Glove Innovations. In addition, Virginia's New River Valley was recently identified as having one of the highest growth rates in the nation for tech jobs in the United States.

The company further reported that 3D-printing homes will help lower the cost of housing and infrastructure in otherwise economically distressed and under-served communities.

In January, Habitat for Humanity announced the completion of its first home entirely constructed using an Alquist 3D printer.

According to reports, the 1,200-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom concrete structure can withstand hurricanes and tornados and was constructed in just 12 hours. Following completion, the home was sold through the Habitat Homebuyer program, which works with applicants who clarify their need for safe, affordable housing from community to community around the country.

In addition to living in such an energy efficient space, the new homeowner has also received a personal 3D printer that will let them reprint just about anything from electrical outlets to cabinet knobs.

The 3D-printed structure is EarthCraft certified, meaning that the home serves as a blueprint for comfortable homes that both reduce utility bill costs and minimize negative environmental impacts.


Tagged categories: 3D printing; 3D Printing; Colleges and Universities; Construction; Design - Commercial; Education; Good Technical Practice; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Recycled building materials; Residential; Residential Construction

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