Is this 3D printed clay house the future of living?

Written by Jacqui Palumbo, CNN

How could architecture help solve the housing crisis and build a more sustainable future? Just west of Ravenna, Italy, in the small town of Massa Lombarda, Mario Cucinella Architects has completed a prototype for a house that wants both by combining some of the latest technologies with the oldest living materials. The apartment, called TECLA, is the first 3D-printed house made of clay. The founder, Mario Cucinella, hopes the program design can be a viable option for people who do not have adequate housing due to financial problems or displacement.

In recent years, a number of 3D printed houses and communities have been conceived that promise fast construction times and low construction costs, from a 400 square meter house printed in Russia in 24 hours in 2017 to an entire neighborhood two years later printed in Mexico. In the United States, the first printed home to hit the market – a single-story, 1,400-square-foot lot in Riverhead, New York – listed for $ 299,000 in February. In Austin, Texas, a series of two four-bedroom homes will be ready for occupancy later this year.

The two-circle design of the TECLA prototype includes a bedroom, a living room and a bathroom. It is the first 3D printed clay house. Recognition: Iago armor

While earlier structures were built from concrete or synthetic materials like plastic, TECLA – whose name is derived from both the fictional town of Thekla by the writer Italo Calvino and a fusion of “technology” and “clay” – was built from found soil on the site mixed with water, fibers from rice husks and a binder, of which the last cucinella makes up less than 5% of the total volume. Cucinella believes that this approach can be repeated in different parts of the world using the local materials available and could be particularly helpful in underserved rural areas where industrial building materials may be harder to come by.

Printing with clay has its drawbacks. It’s a much slower process than quick-drying concrete – the design can be printed in 200 hours, but according to Cucinella, the clay mix can take weeks to dry depending on the climate – and there are also height restrictions (skyscrapers made of clay are not in the future) .

Related Video: Check Out The First Community Of 3D Printed Homes

However, given the flexibility of the program in using the available land and its simplicity of construction, TECLA could be well suited to providing housing in many different countries. In 2015, Habitat for Humanity estimated that 1.6 billion people lack adequate housing, and UN-Habitat – the United Nations Program for Human Settlements and Sustainable Urban Development – estimates that 3 billion people, or 40% of the population, will be living by 2030 The world’s population will need access to accessible and affordable housing.

“You can build this type of house in many more places if you don’t have to rely on a specific product,” Cucinella explained in a video interview.

Tradition meets new technology

Cucinella emphasized that building houses out of the earth is not new. Adobe – made from a mixture of soil, water, and organic matter – is one of the earliest building materials in the world known for its longevity, biodegradability, and natural insulation.

“The challenge was to use an old material in the history of architecture with new technology to come up with a new house shape,” said Cucinella.

The project uses WASP printers to make everything from the structure of the house to the furnishings.

The project uses WASP printers to make everything from the structure of the house to the furnishings. Recognition: Iago armor

To do this, the Crane WASP printers mixed water with the local soil and then printed the 60 square meter TECLA prototype layer by layer using an intricate grid work pattern. The design consists of two circular rooms that are connected to each other, with skylights in each filter light falling on the textured walls. The residence comprises a living area, a bedroom and a bathroom. The furniture, including tables and chairs, can also be printed on using WASP machines, while components such as doors and windows are installed after printing.

However, the idea behind TECLA is not necessarily to replicate the same house for every environment, but to adapt the design depending on the location. “We don’t make one type of house that you can print and make anywhere … Because of course it is different if you design a house in northern Italy or … in the middle of Africa or in South America,” explained Cucinella. “We adapt the house to different climates.”

A representation by TECLA before printing shows what the bedroom could look like with a family living in it.

A representation by TECLA before printing shows what the bedroom could look like with a family living in it. Recognition: Mario Cucinella Architects

In addition, the building process can be easily taught and widely disseminated using WASP 3D printed machines. WASP’s “Maker Economy Starter Kit” can be delivered in a single container with all the tools needed to make houses, from the machines that print the overall structure, to the furniture, plus a recycling system and power generator. “I. I don’t think we will be able to say that this will be the future of all homes on the planet,” said Cucinella, pointing to countries like China, whose large metropolitan areas are grappling with an overpopulation crisis could not be solved by small mud buildings. However, he added, “I think the revolution in 3D printing is in giving people a degree of freedom to work without being affiliated with a large, professional industry.”

CO2-neutral targets

Cucinella believes that 3D printing using natural materials could be an important technological tool as Europe works towards its goal of climate neutrality by 2050. Construction and construction are responsible for 38% of all carbon emissions in the world, according to a 2020 report by the United Nations on the Environment and the International Energy Agency.A representation of what a TECLA community could look like.

A representation of what a TECLA community could look like. “If we look into the past, we can use what we know about how architects have been able to design buildings without energy for many, many centuries,” said Cucinella. Recognition: Mario Cucinella Architects

Cucinella claims that TECLA is low in waste because its shell is biodegradable (additional fittings such as doors and windows are not) and the building process uses far less energy than building a standard house.

“In my opinion, when we talk about sustainability, we also have to think about the construction process, as construction processes are very complex and cause high CO2 emissions (carbon dioxide),” said Cucinella.

He believes we can learn from pre-industrial architectural design to build buildings that do no harm to the planet. “If we look back, we can use knowledge of how architects have been able to design buildings without energy for many, many centuries,” he said.

The TECLA prototype is currently undergoing structural and thermal performance tests – an essential step before the project can be scaled up. When it goes into production, Cucinella said he would love to live there and the materials would evoke a sense of home and history.

“You have the feeling of something a long time ago from your memory,” he said.

Top caption: A photo of TECLA at night.

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