Is the future of the built environment 3D printed?

Is the future of the built environment 3D printed?

DJHC is always at the cutting edge of new developments. Innovation is key to making buildings safer, more efficient and more sustainable, so we make it our business to always be ahead of the curve. In a previous article, we discussed how 3D scanning is transforming surveying. Here, we’ll look at how another 3D technology is revolutionising engineering and construction: 3D printing.

According to a recent report from Grand View Research, the global 3D construction market will inflate by an astonishing 91% between 2021 and 2028. But why is this once new-fangled technology roaring into the mainstream at such a pace? Essentially, it’s because it could hold the answer to some of architecture’s most pressing problems right now – speed, scale and sustainability.

The solution to the housing crisis?

Experts predict that 3D printed buildings could provide a solution to some of the biggest issues facing architects, engineers and builders – especially as climate change moves to the top of the agenda. These structures could provide affordable housing, emergency shelters in disaster-hit areas, and sustainable alternatives to other building materials.

Plus, the price of 3D printed has plummeted over recent years, making it a surprisingly affordable construction tool. This is largely because printed components are fabricated much faster than traditional materials, and as the old saying goes, time is money. One specialist firm in California recently printed a unit in 24 hours, showing just how fast these tools really are. It’s also far easier to calculate the volume of materials needed, so there’s less waste, meaning we can construct large scale projects efficiently and effectively.

Speedy and sustainable

However, it isn’t just about speed – 3D printed architecture could also hold the key to more sustainable materials. The first 3D printed objects were generally made from ABS, however, sustainable options are becoming more commonplace. Local and natural alternatives to carbon-intensive concrete are emerging; for example, a company in Italy has recently printed a structure with clay. Not only does this mitigate the emissions from producing concrete, but it also dramatically cuts the emissions associated with transport.

Utilising local materials will also be essential to building in more inhospitable environments. Some of the most technologically advanced firms in the business are already taking this proposition to its radical conclusion. In the US, ICON is working with NASA to develop a simulated Mars habitat made from material from the planet.

Implications for MEP

Although we might be some way from taking MEP to Mars, 3D printing certainly holds interesting opportunities for MEP engineers. We can translate the speed and sustainability that architects are already leveraging to rapidly prototype and produce components; with a 3D printer, engineers can produce and test mechanical parts in a cinch. This is particularly useful for redevelopments and upgrades, where we can combine 3D scanning and printing to renovate systems in complex structures.

DJHC is already deploying new technologies to develop more sustainable projects at pace. Stay tuned for case studies and insights into the tools transforming the industry.



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