Are 3D printed houses safe?
Since 3D printed housing is all over the media, more and more people wonder about the viability of owning a 3D printed house themselves. After the financial questions, the next question that comes to mind after hearing about the 3D printed house is oftentimes: Are 3D printed houses safe?
3D printed construction is safe, as long as you have a good coonstruction company you can trust, guiding you through the process. Properly built 3D printed houses are said to be even more stable than traditional ones and can withstand even strong earthquakes. Even higher story buildings might be safe in the near future, just consult with your construction company.
The materials used in 3D printed construction usually consist of different concrete mixtures. The concrete is usually adapted to the 3D printing technology by using less water, some sand and other additives. These materials are said to be very strong, especially after you leave them some time to dry. After two days, some companies claim, the 3D printed house has alreasy reached the stability of their traditionally built counterpart, after that it gets even harder. There has even been a 3D construction project which utilized steel, something that embodies stability. Some projects, like the one from Gaia, have been realized using dirt and soil. While this might raise some concern regarding stability, companies themselves claim these houses to be of extreme stability.
Another concern of many is that because there is so little regulation on the 3D printed house, safety is even more of an issue. While this depends a lot on the country you are in, usually the lack of building code doesn’t mean that you don’t need a permit and an inspection. On the contrary, many inspectors are very suspicious towards this new concepts, which is why they usually don’t give their consent out too easy. From what I have read, even 3D printed houses which are praised as being very stable in the industry, don’t get the license for full-time living. Of course there are other examples from countries such as China, where the novelty of the 3D printed house doesn’t seem much cause for concern, but in general even though the 3D printed houses aren’t properly regulated yet, you can be at easy if your house has been inspected.
3. Structural problems
Structurally speaking, 3D printed houses are said to be very safe. To understand this, we first have to look at regular houses: They rely on large mass, being distributed among the house. In this concept, we have certain pressure points, which you can sometimes even see supported by columns or reinforced material. The advantage of the 3D printed house here is that the house can be designed and planned completely new. In this way, 3D printed houses still have those pressure points, but there is much less mass resting upon them, since the weight of the building is better distributed. This is also one of the main reasons as to why a 3D printed house in China has been said to withstand earthquakes of a strength up to 8.0 on the Richter scale.
4. Skilled workers
This might be an actual cause for concern if you are planning to construct a 3D printed building. Skilled workers, who understand how to build 3D printed houses properly are rare, since the profession is relatively new. Also, it is barely regulated, so you have no idea if the people who build your house actually know what they are doing. This is why in this regard you almost completely have to trust your construction company and them chosing the right people to build your 3D printed house. There are some things the architect needs to be aware of, too. Even for the workers themselves and people around the construction site, so also you as the home owner, there are some significant issues which arise from improper training. One example is the foams which can cause serious problems for bystanders without proper ventilation, such as heart attack or other fatale diseases.
5. Fire hazard
Fire safety is a serious concern for many people when we talk about housing safety. The question “Are 3D printed houses safe” can not be answered without talking about fire hazards. First and foremost we have to realize here that 3D printed construction is so far mainly used for the walls, As a result, this is the only thing which can have an impact on fire safety. According to my research, this doesn’t seem to be much of an issue, as long as the rest of the housing requirements is set up correctly. Nevertheless, as I described in the materials section, 3D printed houses normally don’t use highly inflammable materials such as wood, but rather rely on concrete mixtures. Still, there is some interior decoration to consider. While there is nothing yet in the building code about 3D printed houses, the Austin fire department has mentioned that hey would be happy to go with the times and include 3D printing houses in the law as soon as there is more information on the subject known.
Even though most experts believe that multiple stories are feasible for a 3D printed house, there are still some problems you are going to face if you want to build higher 3D printed houses. There is simply not enough practical data we can look at to learn about 3D printed buildings which are higher than one story, even though theoretically there shouldn’t be any cause for concern. The construction company Kamp C from belgium is one of the few to take the technology, quite literally to another level. They managed to build a two-story 3D printed house, the biggest one built so far using a fixed printer. The biggest 3D printed building ever though has been built by Apis Cor for the Dubai Municipality and is 9.5m tall. The construction was a success, according to those involved and should not raise any further issues on using 3D printing technology buildings of this height.
I think as always we can conclude this question by saying that there is not enough information about the subject to make a definitive statement, nevertheless it looks promising. If one imagines a 3D printer and thinks of the usual products a 3D printed makes, they might imagine fragile structures and 90s action figures, but a 3D printed construction project is a different story. Talking about stories, this is something you’ll seriously need to consider if you think about a 3D printed house. There might be some issues, if not on the technical site, rather on the site concerning construction. Technological progress is still moving fast though, so if you do not want to miss out any developments in this interesting field, make sure to subscribe to the newsletter and maybe some day you will be the proud owner of a perfectly safe 3D printed house.