Architecture Students Plan 3D-Printed Housing


Drury University students in Springfield, Missouri, alongside nonprofit The Gathering Tree, are working to build 3D-printed concrete duplexes as an option for affordable housing solutions.

The nonprofit organization builds tiny houses for the homeless and has previously built two housing complexes. Architecture students from the university have also worked with The Gathering Tree in the past, building two sleeping shelters and two campers.

About the Project

According to the university, 3D concrete printed structures cost about a third less to build than traditional methods. Additionally, they can be constructed quickly with about 400 square feet printed in one day, have lower maintenance costs and are considered safer.

“This is leading edge technology. There are very few people in the country doing this and only about eight schools around the nation,” said Traci Sooter, Director of Drury University’s Design-Build Program and Professor of Architecture.

“Our students are looking at pushing technology by finding innovative ways to reimagine 3D printed structures to create affordable housing solutions.”

The Gathering Tree reportedly owns the 35x50 foot machine, now housed on Drury’s campus. Over the next couple months, the technology will be used to construct 12 duplexes with 24 units for the new Eden Village 3 location at 2419 W. High Street.

“One of our core values for The Gathering Tree and Eden Village is to change people’s perceptions of homelessness by housing people and putting them in a community,” said Nate Schlueter, Chief Visionary Officer for Eden Village.

“When lives are destroyed and they don’t have a home, traditional construction takes a long time to get people off the streets. The 3D printers allow us to build a better product more affordably and rapidly.”

Recent tests conducted by Miller Engineering on sample walls for Eden Village 3 reportedly passed E5 tornado windspeeds at 250 miles an hour, which will allow the duplexes to double as tornado shelters. Once additional testing is complete, construction will begin at W. High St, Drury explains.

Schlueter told reporters that the spaces, however, are not “move-in ready the next day,” as the concrete involves a 28-day curing processes. During that process, workers can attach the trussing, roof and more.

“It moves similar to your home 3D printer, but there are other technologies that are proprietary,” Sooter explained. “We’re under a 14-page NDA, so we can’t tell you a lot about the details of how to make it work with concrete, which can be very difficult to manage.

“There’s a lot of chemistry going on there, and it’s a lot different than running that plastic through a home 3D printer. It’s also vulnerable to wind, humidity, and temperature. So when we do print around town we will be under a big tent. One reason is because we can’t allow images of it. But also to protect the printer and material to keep a constant temperature with no wind and things like that.”

Sooter, who sits on the board for Eden Village, designed the duplexes.

“Our students have worked on five other projects with The Gathering Tree, including a tiny home for Eden Village 1 that won a national design award, two campers and two sleeping shelters for the Revive 66 Campground,” she explained.

Next semester, students are expected to use the 3D printer to do complete a Design-Build project for The Gathering Tree.

“It’s been amazing working with Drury students to help us take homeless people and create good neighbors by providing permanent supportive housing,” said Schlueter. “It’s an unbelievable experience to work with the next generation and introduce them to homelessness in a healthy way.”

Other 3D-Printed Housing

In November last year, what was called the world’s first 3D-printed house made entirely with bio-based materials was constructed at the University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center.

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.

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.

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.


Tagged categories: 3D printing; 3D Printing; Asia Pacific; Coatings Technology; Colleges and Universities; concrete; Construction; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Housing; Latin America; North America; Program/Project Management; Projects - Commercial; Research and development; Technology; Z-Continents

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