First 3D-printed home using only natural materials

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Alice Cruickshank

In March this year, the world was wowed by the unveiling of the first 3D-printed house, crafted for less than $4,000 in 24 hours. The impressive structure opened the door to a new era of affordable housing in developing countries.

Now an Italian 3D printing company believes it has developed an even more affordable and environmentally-friendly solution to the global housing crisis.

At their “Viaggio a Shamballa” 3D building conference, which translates as: “a call to save the world”, WASP presented Gaia, the first 3D printed house to be produced using its Crane WASP technology and natural materials from the surrounding area.

The project was completed in partnership with RiceHouse, a manufacturer of rice products for architectural use, who provided the manufacturing materials.

3D Printed House Gaia WASP Exterior

Meet Gaia, a fully natural home

The test house was named Gaia, the Greek work for ‘earth’, due to the use of raw soil as the main binder of the constituent mixture. Gaia is a high performance structure both in terms of energy and indoor health, with an almost zero environmental impact.

The external casing, completely 3D printed on-site through the Crane WASP, has been designed with the aim of integrating natural ventilation systems and thermo-acoustic insulation systems. Therefore, the house does not need heating or an air conditioning system, as it maintains a mild and comfortable temperature inside both in winter and in summer.

Using raw earth, straw and rice husk as construction materials requires an articulated weaving process to ensure the walls are strong and substantial. This design process is made possible in the construction practice thanks to the precision and speed of the 3D technology, which would be difficult to replicate with the traditional construction systems.

3D Printed House Gaia WASP Close Up

How the Crane WASP 3D printer works

The Crane WASP was created to reinterpret classic cranes for building construction from the point of view of digital manufacturing. The printer has a column height 405m, an arm length of 330m, and weighs 150 kg. It comprises of a steel and aluminium frame, and has a configurable nozzle diameter from 18 to 30 mm.

For the Gaia test project, RiceHouse supplied the vegetable fibres through which WASP developed a compound composed of 25% of soil taken from the site (30% clay, 40% silt and 30% sand), 40% from straw chopped rice, 25% rice husk and 10% hydraulic lime. The materials were mixed through the use of a wet pan mill, which ensured the mixture was homogeneous and workable.

It took 10 days for the realisation of the 3d printed exterior, comprising of 30 sq m of wall at a thickness of 40 cm.

Construction Of Gaia 3D Printed House

What does Crane WASP and Gaia mean for the construction industry?

Inspired by the nest-building techniques of potter wasps, the company’s research is focused on building zero-mile homes, using clay found naturally within the surrounding area. Earth is available everywhere in the world; it is cheap and easily malleable. Combined with other ‘zero-mile’ local materials, clay can create printed buildings that last in time, that adapt to the territory and don’t leave ruins behind once no longer used.

The total cost of the materials used in the wall structure was a modest €900, meaning WASP’s homes offer huge potential for developing nations. With its 3D-printed construction method and compact design, WASP states one ha of cultivated paddy field can become 100 sq m of built area.

Unlike New Story and its 24-hour printed house, WASP is not running its own project to build 3D-printed homes. Instead, it provides the software and hardware required by other bodies to realise their cost-effective, environmentally-friendly residential developments.

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Readers Comments

My mind is not so flexible to comprehend the 3-D printer. I would love to see it work.

By Jim