A full-fledged family home straight from the 3D printer? What sounds incredible is already possible. Inspired by pioneer projects in the US and China, Germany and the UK are following suit with 3D-printed houses. In the UK, the first 3D printed social housing development is set to provide 46 affordable and net-zero carbon homes. Germany already has its own 3D-printed house – featuring smart technology made by Gira.

When innovation takes concrete shape – in every sense of the word

These days, the real estate market is changing and evolving at a rapid pace. Architects are constantly trying to find new ways of building and living – and thus make housing more affordable and, most of all, sustainable. With that vision in mind, a group of German architects set out on an unprecedented venture: they designed the country’s very first 3D-printed house in Beckum, complete with comfortable furnishing and smart technology. Their project, as showcased during a Gira live session on Instagram, has even earned the team a German Design Award.

3D-printed house: taking a look inside

Eventually, the team of Mense-Korte managed to construct a two-storey building with 160 square metres of living space. The first level has an open floor plan including a living room, dining area, and a cosy fireplace in the middle. The second floor consists of three separate bedrooms (which might also be used as working space, for example). In addition, there are three bathrooms to accommodate several family members and guests. Since the whole building was made by a 3D printer, it took less than a year to complete the construction.  

Sustainable living in a 3D-printed house

Almost every permanent installation came out of the concrete printer. Round shapes require less effort than square objects, hence the eye-catching geometric design. To ensure that everything would fit seamlessly, the architects equipped the interior with customised furniture. They decided to use recyclable materials only – even if that meant compromising on thermal conductivity. In the end, the 3D-printed house still turned out to comply with high standards of energy efficiency (as specified by the German credit institution KfW). An integrated ventilation system provides fresh, clean air in each room. Behind the ceiling, the architects placed heating mats that are warmed up or cooled down by air-heating pumps to regulate indoor temperatures. The 3D-printed house also has its own hot water storage. All in all, the construction was built in the most sustainable way possible – from the choice of materials to the use of energy.  

A 3D-printed house with smart technology

Needless to say, power supply presented another major challenge. How can cables and pipes be installed within a concrete structure, you might ask yourself? Mense-Korte had a simple solution to that problem: monocoque construction. They printed out hollow walls in which they would lay the cable network later on. With the framework completed, it was time for the technical fine tuning: Tapmeier, a German specialist for electronic engineering, installed various smart devices at the 3D-printed house. The result: a home with future-proof technology for long-lasting living comfort.

  • Gira G1 serves as the central control unit for automated lighting, blinds, or heating. 

  • The Gira pushbutton sensor 4 allows for an intuitive operation of different functions within the smart KNX system.  

  • Smart switches from the Gira E3 design line were chosen to complement the sleek and modern interior. Thanks to their rounded shape, they blend in harmoniously with the curved and arched lines throughout the building. 

  • On the house facade, Gira outdoor sockets provide a water-protected – and stylish – power supply for garden gadgets and other appliances.  

3D-Druckhaus Gira Außensteckdose
Black Gira outdoor socket outlets add an elegant edge to the grooved concrete walls. Source: Gira

First 3D-printed houses in the UK to provide affordable housing

Meanwhile in the UK, a £6m project is set to construct 46 eco homes using 3D Construction Printing (3DCP) technology in Accrington, northwestern England. This unique project will prioritise affordable housing for low-income families and veterans. The initiative, dubbed the Charter Street project, is the brainchild of Building for Humanity, a UK-based not-for-profit housing provider. The 3D-printed house project is supported by Harcourt Technologies Ltd (HTL.tech), a leading provider of 3DCP technology in the UK and Ireland. 

The planned 46 net-zero carbon homes will consist of 1 and 2-bedroom apartments and 3 and 4-bedroom houses. The 3D house construction aims to showcase the benefits of using the 3D Construction Printing technology.  It is expected to cut the labour cost ratio by 30%, site time by up to 50%, and waste by 60%, with a projected 25% cost reduction against comparable conventional construction.

A 3D-printed community centre in the UK by day
The community centre demonstrates the free-form capabilities of the 3D house printing technology. Source: Harcourt Technologies Ltd & Harcourt Architects

In addition to the 46 3D-printed homes, development plans also encompass a community centre and training hub, along with private and communal gardens. The construction of the Charter Street development is projected to only take half the time that would be required using traditional methods, with the Community Centre and Training Hub demonstrating the free-form capabilities of the technology. Upon completion, the Charter Street project will be the first residential development in the UK and the largest in Europe to use 3DCP.

The 3D-printed community centre. Source: Harcourt Technologies Ltd & Harcourt Architects

Thinking ahead: 3D printing in architecture today and tomorrow

Of course, the first question on your mind will probably be: what do 3D-printed houses cost? The answer is not as simple as you might think. The prototype model in Beckum, Germany amounts to a value of about 450,000 €. However, this includes a rather luxurious furnishing and high-end smart devices. One must also take into consideration that architects have only just started to develop housing based on 3D printing. Right now, the number of printers suitable for huge projects is still limited. But as technology progresses, 3D-printed houses will become increasingly easy to build – and thus increasingly affordable. The team of Mense-Korte have high hopes for the future: they plan to make individually designed, sustainable 3D-printed houses accessible for the average customer in five years’ time.

Gira UK c/o Wandsworth, the home of Gira in the UK

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