3D printed homes: A sustainable solution for residential construction?

The global housing shortage is forcing companies, architects and urban planners to rethink conventional approaches to construction on a vast scale. The 3D printed house could be a sustainable way to provide affordable living space for our ever-growing population. The technology has made enormous advances in recent years, giving it the edge over conventional construction methods in a number of ways.

Fast and cost-effective construction in the world’s first 3D- printed community

A fully finished, occupant-ready home from Texas-based construction company ICON comes with a price tag of just 6000 US dollars. How can the company offer its homes at this price? It’s thanks to an automated 3D printing manufacturing process. This simplifies planning, shortens construction time and significantly reduces the costs of building a home.

Between the space of 12 and 24 hours, the company’s machine (developed in-house) can construct a single storey 3D printed home with 60 to 80 square metres of living space. This includes a living room, bedroom, bathroom and patio.

Unlike in early experiments with 3D printed construction, such as those by Chinese trailblazer WinSun, ICON can print the cement brickwork on site. The machine runs on a fully scalable rail system, which means that it could also be used on larger construction sites in the future.

ICON has partnered with charitable organisation New Story to build the world’s first 3D -printed community in El Salvador by the end of the year. The development of over 100 printed homes will be allocated to families in need of new and affordable housing.

3D printing in architecture. Source: New Story / YouTube

Innovative designs: Extraordinary 3D-printed architecture

Alongside all of the cost benefits associated with using 3D printing for social housing construction, the technology also opens up a whole new world of possibilities for architects – because digital construction enables them to create extraordinary shapes that would not be achievable with conventional building methods.

The 3D printed homes by Dutch construction company Van Wijnen, for example, look like oversized rocks, and are designed to fit into the natural environment. In Project Milestone, the company worked with Eindhoven University of Technology to print five of these futuristic homes; the first set of occupants will move in later this year.

Homes for rent – from a 3D printer. Source: Dezeen / YouTube

Urban Cabin: A 3D printed retreat from the city

Another Dutch firm has also been looking to 3D printing technology to create sustainable and adaptable solutions for city living. At the industrial port in Amsterdam, the team from DUS Architects has created an urban mini oasis – which can be used as temporary accommodation – on just eight square metres of green space.

The creative patterns on the black façade of the Urban Cabin show just how versatile 3D printed house design can be. And the aesthetic design is not the only pioneering aspect of the concept: The innovative summer house with patio and separate outdoor bathtub is made from biobased plastic, making it almost fully recyclable.

Good for the soul: Micro-houses in Amsterdam. Source: OnHome / YouTube

Environmentally friendly construction solutions: the 3D printed house made from earth and straw

3D printing wastes very little material. For this pioneering construction technique, that’s a huge advantage. The technology does, however, reach new levels of sustainability when conventional construction materials such as concrete and glass are replaced with new, environmentally friendly materials. And now an Italian firm is doing exactly that:

In early October 2018, WASP presented its first 3D- printed model made entirely from natural raw materials.

This eco-home is built around a supporting structure made of earth, limestone, straw and plant fibres sourced from rice production. With this biodegradable mixture, the machine prints lightweight, insulating walls to the highest standards both in terms of energy efficiency and ensuring a clean, healthy living space for you and your family.

The prototype of the 3D printed home was completed in ten days. The materials used to build 30 square metres of 40-centimetre-thick wall cost just 900 euro.

How a 3D-printed house was built from rice. Source: 3D WASP / YouTube

TERA: Using space technology to build sustainable homes for the future

New York-based start-up AI Spacefactory has already won over NASA with the designs and materials for its 3D printed house TERA. The company developed a fully recyclable bioplastic made from natural raw materials that can be sourced from the local environment – not only on Earth, but also on Mars.


The oval-shaped design was created as an entry to a competition run by NASA, as part of its search for living solutions suitable for use in space. The winning technologies will now be tested on Earth. From March 2020, hikers in the forests in the state of New York will be able to explore

the 3D printed house on the bank of the Hudson River and even book an overnight stay.

3d printed house in misty forest
3d printed house winter darkness
3d printed house forest

There has been a lot of rapid progress made in recent years. In spite of this, there still remains a lot to be achieved before 3D printing technology can replace all other conventional construction methods used in the building industry. Theoretically, however, houses of the future could be 3D printed in their entirety – including components such as drainpipes, bathtubs and sinks as well as internal and external walls.

3D printed in their entirety – including components such as drainpipes, bathtubs and sinks as well as internal and external walls.

A switch to 3D printing would further reduce construction costs – putting the dream of having your own home within the reach of more people.

What do you think of this new, innovative trend? Do you see it catching on in the future? Let us know in the comments!

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