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UMaine unveils the world’s first bio-based 3D-printed house




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“Our home is all grown materials and we can continue to grow these materials for generations.” 

The exterior of the first bio-based 3D-printed house. MJ Gautrau

The world’s first bio-based 3D-printed house has been built in Orono, Maine, by the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center (ASCC), in what could be a major step forward in combatting the affordable housing and climate crises.

BioHome3D, when mass-produced, will help provide affordable housing solutions. It’s also made of natural materials and is completely recyclable, which will help reverse climate change — normal buildings account for nearly 40% of global carbon emissions.

MJ Gautrau

Nationally, there is a need for more than 7 million affordable housing units, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, and that number is 20,000 in Maine alone, per the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition. Since sustainably grown wood fiber is a renewable resource that captures carbon, BioHome3D is a kind of carbon storage and sequestration unit, doing the opposite of the buildings that are responsible for those carbon emissions.

“We’ve been looking for ways to have more sustainable construction for generations to come, and so we use bio materials,” Dr. Habib Dagher, the founding executive direct of the ASCC, told Boston.com. “Our home is all grown materials and we can continue to grow these materials for generations.” 

Plus, if there’s a need to remove these houses, that can be done without creating waste.

“Since our house is 100% recyclable, at the end of its life, you can grind it up and print with it again, something else,” said Dagher. 

The house, which is 600 square feet, was built with the world’s largest polymer 3D printer. The floors, walls, and roof are all 3D printed, meaning it’s fully recyclable and was also almost entirely void of construction waste due to the precision of the printing process. BioHome3D was printed in four modules and then moved to the site and assembled there.

Other homes have been 3D printed, said Dagher, but they don’t print the whole home, just the walls. He and his team found a way to print the entire home, and in a more sustainable way. 

MJ Gautrau

The technology will also address labor shortages and supply chain issues that contribute to the lack of supply of affordable housing. With less time required on-site for building and fitting up the home due to automated manufacturing and off-site production, less labor is required. And printing with abundant, renewable, locally sourced wood fiber feedstock reduces dependence on the supply (and is good for the forest product industries). 

“With its innovative BioHome3D, UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center is thinking creatively about how we can tackle our housing shortage, strengthen our forest products industry, and deliver people a safe place to live so they can contribute to our economy,” said Maine’s Gov. Janet Mills in a press release. 

MJ Gautrau

This house is a prototype that will be used to improve future iterations. The house is equipped with sensors for thermal, environmental, and structural monitoring to track how BioHome3D performs in a Maine winter. That data will be used to improve future designs of these houses.

The Center has received $30 million in federal funding and $15 million in state funding and is in the process of creating a facility that will scale up — and speed up — the process.

”Our goal is to have a cost that’s competitive to what we have today, as well as faster delivery to the consumer by being able to print one of these homes in two days,” said Dagher. “When we get to that scale of production, we can drive the cost down to be competitive with existing technologies.”





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