Cheap, Green, And Custom: 3D Printing In Green Building

The promise of 3D printing technology is astounding. By taking simple, basic materials and “printing” them to spec using binding agents and/or robots, these machines are capable of creating everything from pharmaceutical medications to wearable planters at the touch of a button. So why not apply that smart tech to green building?

Two such buildings caught our eye recently (via Inhabitat).

Villa Asserbo

image via Inhabitat

The first structure comes to us from Denmark, where the architecture firm Eentileen joined forces with Facit Homes on Villa Asserbo. This sustainable home was built on the cheap using digital design, and is located in woods north of Copenhagen. It comprises 1,345 square feet, and was constructed using 820 sheets of plywood cut via a CNC printer — which is, essentially a room-sized, computerized drill. The home went up in just four weeks.

Smartplanet reports that thee Print a House process used by Eentileen begins as a 3D model, which is then translated into a manufacturing template and sent to the CNC machine. This computerized milling machine proceeds to cut sheets of plywood into pieces that can be slotted and fitted together. The green benefits of tech such as this are many — it negates the need for concrete, allowing sustainably harvested wood to act as the only wall material. (The plywood used in Villa Asserbo was sustainably sourced from Finnish forests.)

The process is absolutely miserly when it comes to its use of resources, keeping waste to a minimum. Structural steel in a 3-D printed house is also used sparingly, and the structure only touches the ground at its screw pile foundations, lessening site impact. According to Frekerick Agdrup and Nicholas Bjorndal of Eentillen, their Print a House method also cuts down on the carbon emissions associated with the construction process, as it allows a house to be built by two people without heavy machinery.

Another fascinating example of how 3D printing tech: Stone Spray, a robotic 3D printer that can create entire buildings out of sand. Although this technology is still in its infancy, the Stone Spray robot can blend soil (sourced on-site) with a binder. The binder takes its basic materials — all of which are LEED-qualified — and sprays the mixture onto a surface. As the machine works, the soil solidifies, creating fascinating sculptural forms. And yes, all those pretty forms can be built to load-bearing specs as well.

Stone Spray installation

image via Inhabitat

Better yet is the fact that the Stone Spray robot runs on solar power, and can just as easily be used to create ultra-modern, ultra-green furniture for your Guadi-inspired sand-castle home. Unlike other 3D printers, the Stone Spray robot can print in multiple directions, on both the vertical and horizontal plane.

According to Inhabitat, this robot was developed by Inder Shergill, Anna Kulik, and Petr Novikov under the supervision of Jordi Portell, Marta Male Alemany and Miquel Iloveras of Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, which is dedicated to sustainable architecture. The organization hopes to “push further the boundaries of digital manufacturing and explore the possibilities of an on-site fabrication machines.”


Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.

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