3D Printed Houses : The answer for Affordable Housing

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1 billion estimated people in the world cannot afford adequate shelter and rely on ‘Informal settlements; or ‘slums’ for habitation. A statistical report published by the United Nations claims that around 3 billion people will require adequate and affordable housing by 2030.


‘Chawl’ or ‘bastee’ are familiar terms for every Indian which roughly translates to the term ‘slums’ in English. A study in India has concluded that every 1 in 6 city residents stay in an urban slum that is ‘unfit for human habitation’. As per 2011 census report identified about 64 million people, roughly 13.8 million households, living in city slums nationwide. That’s 17.4 per cent of all urban households, accounting for roughly one-third of India’s 1.2 billion people. Even in the major cities such as Mumbai, the financial capital of India, more than 40% of the houses are located in the overcrowded shantytowns. Around 600 million people are expected to make urban India their home by 2031, which is a whopping 59% increase from 2011. Undeniably, these increasing numbers add further pressure on the current unavailability of residential infrastructure.

The data presented above demands a major change in the current foundation and imposes a need for affordable housing. Constructing diminutive houses, micro-apartments along with modular and prefabricated housing are few of the potential solutions; keeping well in mind the impact of a clean and affordable house on the health and well-being of a resident, along with the smooth functioning of the economy. A well planned, and constructed house with adequate sanitation holds significant aspirational value for the customer.

A radical approach for the affordable housing crisis can be solved by 3D Printing. Commonly termed as additive manufacturing, it is used for manufacturing a variety of elements. From conceptual and prototype designing to traditional manufacturing, this technology appears to revolutionize the construction sector as well. As of today, entirely fabricated buildings exist using commercial grade Concrete 3D Printers. The technology has been developed to work with a variety of raw construction materials, ranging from concrete to wood. The idea of 3D printed housing does appear to be a highly suitable low-cost solution. With proper implementation and cooperative norms, this manufacturing method presents a relatively fast and budget-friendly manner for developing structures – structures that can completely redefine a third-world environment and low-income areas.

Credit: Singularityhub.com

Additively Manufactured houses are not only simple but also affordable and eco-friendly. It is easy to operate these 3D printers and does not require much labour. The implementation can reduce labour costs as low as 1/5th when compared to traditional construction practices. Today, the construction 3D printing industry is booming and advancing to much faster and cheaper methods. A standard 3D printer can produce a 2,000 sq ft home in less than a week,  which is 1/8th of the total time spent today in erecting a functioning house. When it comes to waste materials, this technology creates only 1/3rd of the waste generated using conventional building methods. These printers can also be configured to work with a variety of additional materials including plastic and ceramic. The design freedom provides the builder with the privilege of omitting concrete blocks, allowing the architect to explore more complex structural designs automatically enhancing the building’s aesthetical value.

The cost of constructing a 3D Printed house is approximately 5-5.5 lacs, roughly 20% of a standard 2BHK apartment in any urban locality in India and the material freedom allows easy scalability. Moreover, the 3D printed structures not only significantly reduce the labour costs, construction time and material wastage, but they are also disaster-resistant. Many fundamental problems with conventional stick-building are solved by 3D printing, besides affordability.

Although the idea of being able to print an affordable, small house legally is a tantalizing one, considering it will make a big difference in developing nations. Ideally, one should be able to move from thousands of people to millions of people around the world by allowing other nonprofits and governments to use this technology. The goal is to impact most families possible.

Credit: hidelbergcement.com

The rise of functional yet highly-affordable additive manufacturing processes could be just the solution we need as a society to end many problems. As a whole, 3D printed homes will hopefully be a viable solution for low-income communities all around the world. Though 3D printed houses are still something of a novelty and are largely still in development, you can, however, 3D print a home for a lot less money than having one built using the traditional construction methods.

Tvasta has been the pioneer of Concrete 3D printing in India, and has developed an indegenious concrete 3D printer. This machine was used to build a small booth, India’s first Concrete printed booth, in the premises of IIT Madras, Chennai, and soon, the company will be completely printing a 400sqft. Functioning house in the same campus. This will be the first pilot project to understand and evaluate the ease with which houses can be manufactured using concrete printing, and finally learn the total cost on a large scale to sufficiently solve the problem of affordable housing in a country like India.

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