This may sound unbelievable – almost half of the materials purchased to build a house are thrown into the garbage. It may sound absurd, but conventional construction methods (concrete blocks and mortar) are used to build 100 square metres in the developing world, up to 45 per cent of raw materials are wasted. In most cities, one house can take up to three years to build, at a cost up to US$30,000.
So even if governments spend more money on housing, they will be wasting up to half their investment and creating mountains of garbage in the process.
There needs to be a new approach to build not only more housing, but better cities (including thinking about the entire lifecycle of housing).
What about 3D printing? Is it the technology to bring about the fastest, cheapest and greenest construction ever seen?
3D printing technology is based on additive manufacturing (making something by depositing material in layers) and digital fabrication technologies. A handful of companies and research groups around the world are experimenting with it for shelter and housing purposes. The promise of 3D printing is tremendous, especially considering that, every year, the technology’s cost halves, while its speed and printing area doubles.
But the technology won’t be adopted if conventional construction continues to be used because of a resistance to change. It will take more examples of solving problems using 3D printing for building to help make this process more common on building sites around the world.