• NWD Architects

What next for construction? The pros and cons of 3D printed buildings

When looking to design a new home, self-builders are often looking for something with all the mod-cons, whilst delivering an eye-catching dwelling, which will also be more economic and environmentally friendly in its construction. To deliver all these things, modern home building technology is advancing rapidly. Looking to the future, it’s likely we will see significant growth in interest in 3D printing buildings. 3D printing has already revolutionised prototyping and model making so it seems to be only a matter of time before it shakes up the house building industry too.

Pros of 3D printed buildings

This ground-breaking advancement takes the method of modular construction to a whole new level. Similar to pre-fabricated homes, which have components traditionally made off-site and then assembled on-site, 3D printing can create whole sections of a home in less than 24 hours. A home design that might take months to build using traditional methods may take just days or weeks if 3D printed. This will make this choice of construction a much speedier process, saving a huge amount of time.

On the subject of saving, a 3D printed home could potentially become significantly cheaper than a traditionally-built house. With everything printed on-site, all it would need is the machine to be assembled on site and a small crew to operate and monitor it, reducing the need to hire so many contractors and tradesmen, keeping costs lower. In fact, some predictions say that the rise of 3D printing could see construction costs lowered by up to 40% in the next 10 years, potentially making this a great option one day for those looking to build without blowing their budget.

This method could also be a more environmentally friendly option for the surrounding area, or in locations where space on site is limited. Lighter vehicles cause less damage or fewer obstructions to the site, and as everything is printed to size, this method often generates less waste - an environmental bonus for the construction industry which generates a huge volume of waste every year. According to the UK Green Building Council, the construction industry accounts for 60% of the UK’s material use and waste creation. This can be up to 100 million tonnes of waste each year, 32% of which can end up as landfill.

As a 3D printed home can be made directly from a digital design, there will be so much more scope for creating something truly unique and exciting as it will no longer be confined by the limitations of traditional construction. Curved walls, and buildings of all shapes and sizes are just some aspects which have successfully been incorporated into 3D printed homes, so for someone looking for their new home to really make a statement, 3D printing may become one way to help give it the wow-factor.

Cons of 3D printed buildings

Errors in the printed design would be likely to cause costly and lengthy delays if remedial works are needed, which could set the project back.

Whilst new materials are currently being developed, the materials available now for 3D printing structures are still limited – concrete walls are the predominant material, which would be a bit difficult if you’d prefer your home design to be wood or brick-clad. However, most 3D printed designs can be retrofitted once on site, so other design elements that you have in mind could be incorporated.

Although 3D printed buildings are starting to generate a lot of interest around the globe, this construction method hasn’t taken off in the UK yet. We are intrigued to see how this exciting next stage for construction will progress overseas and at home.

If you are looking for a design for your new home, whatever the method of construction, speak to our team of experts to see how we can make your dream home a reality.

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