Can 3D Printing Reshape Residential Architecture as We Know It?

Dubai expects to print a quarter of its buildings in 3D construction by 2025. This is a testament to the power of this rapidly-developing technology that can redefine and push the boundaries of traditional architecture. It is rapidly becoming a popular option in construction, engineering and architecture. According to Grand View Research’s July 2021 report, the global 3D-construction market will grow by 91% between 2021-2028. This rapid growth is explained by Grand View Research. It is a quicker alternative to traditional construction and can be affordable for housing. There are many design options and it has numerous other benefits. The rise of 3D printing is a promising technology that architects need to adapt to. In an era where efficiency and speed are key components in design and execution, 3D printing has great potential. It could even change the way we think about construction.

Flexibility in design and shorter construction times

3D construction printing, a new technology, shapes concrete without using formwork. This means that prefabricated parts and whole walls can be printed in any shape in a quick and cost-effective way. Three-dimensional shapes can be created using a computer-controlled process. This transforms the traditional building process and opens up a wide range of design possibilities. Contrary to conventional methods, architects are able to create unique structures with unusual surfaces, shapes, colors and other features. This allows them to design eye-catching, creative and innovative buildings that are the first and only of their type. Any organic shape can be created: straight or curving walls, smooth or rough surfaces or flat or angled. You have no limit to your architectural creativity.

Courtesy of PERI

The printing process is extremely efficient, and this freedom of design is not the only benefit. It offers a high degree of planning reliability right from the beginning, and it also requires very little coordination, which reduces construction costs. PERI AG is now able to build a single-family house in 25 hours. This is compared to months or years ago when it used bricks or wood. This allows for architecturally innovative buildings to be built in a shorter time and at a lower cost than traditional methods.

Courtesy of PERI

What is 3D printing?

Peri is a leading supplier of scaffold systems and formwork worldwide. Although the 3D printing technology for construction is still in its early stages, has been active in this market for many years. The German family-owned company, COBOD, has been working together to improve the technology and open new markets. While the main focus of the company is residential construction, it also produces individual prefabricated components.

PERI uses a machine called the COBOD BOOD2, a fully-developed and safe 3D printing device that can be used for a variety of purposes, including walls, columns, stairs, and other elements. The COBOD BOD2 has many advantages. It can be used for both off-site production or in-situ applications. This eliminates the need to relocate and calibrate. The system also includes a variety of modules that can be customized to suit specific projects.

Concept and execution by Röser GmbH, design by MENSE-KORTE, materials by MC Bauchemie . Image Courtesy of Röser GmbH
Concept and execution by Röser GmbH, design by MENSE-KORTE, materials by MC Bauchemie . Image Courtesy of Röser GmbH
Concept and execution by Röser GmbH, design by MENSE-KORTE, materials by MC Bauchemie. Image Courtesy of Röser GmbH

This printer stands out due to its superior speed in comparison to other machines. It is the fastest construction printer available, printing at a speed of 1m/s. The printer has also been certified to allow for work to be done within the print area while the printing process is progressing. All manual work such as pipe installation can be integrated into the printer to optimize the building process.

The first 3D printing machine was sold last year. Roser GmbH, a German company, placed an order for PERI to produce a wide range of prefabricated concrete elements. This was in an effort minimize planning restrictions and make PERI an innovative long-term investment.

Method of application

Although ceilings, floor slabs and foundations are built in traditional ways, the BOD2 can produce concrete walls. The Z-axes are attached to the steel structure’s X-axis. A silo and concrete pump connect to the BOD2 after the printer has been transported to the construction site. Once the assembly is complete, the printing process can be performed in three dimensions along the 3 Axes of a secure metallic frame.

No reinforcement is necessary as the cavity wall printed in a flat format meets residential building static requirements. The double-skin printed cavity walls are able to integrate insulation methods in any manner.

Courtesy of PERI

Residential buildings: Milestones in 3D construction technology

The first German fully functioning printed house has been inaugurated. This is a landmark in 3D construction technology. With printing starting in September of 2020, the two-story detached house, built by PERI and designed by MENSE-KORTE ingenieure+architekten, came through all of the regulatory approval processes and opened this July in Beckum, North Rhine-Westphalia. PERI printed 80 square meters of living space per floor. The triple-skin cavity walls are filled with an insulating material and allow for space for electricity and water. Roser GmbH provided the prefabricated components for the attic, which were combined with the on-site printing process to create a homogeneous unit.

The German Design Council awarded the Beckum project the German Innovation Award. This award recognizes innovative, effective projects in the industry.

Beckum has implemented the three features digital, dynamic and print-ready. Positive pressure has been created in the construction industry with the first 3D-printed residential building in Germany. It is a positive example of innovative construction, greater attraction in the construction professions, and modern architecture with new styles.” Ina Scharrenbach Minister for Home, Municipal Affairs and Equality, State of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Single-family house in Beckum, North Rhine-Westphalia. Image Courtesy of PERI
Single-family house in Beckum, North Rhine-Westphalia. Image Courtesy of PERI
Single-family house in Beckum, North Rhine-Westphalia. Image Courtesy of PERI

PERI is positioned as a market leader by the success of this one-of-a kind project. It also proves that 3D building is possible and opens up a wide range of options in the industry. This project also opened the door to larger and more complex dwelling units. Two months after the Beckum house was completed, PERI began to print the largest apartment building in Europe. This time it was in Wallenhausen in Bavaria. The 5 units, which are spread over 3 floors and measure 380 sqm in area, are rented out. One unit is used as a showcase apartment. Many of the lessons learned in Beckum have been incorporated into Tempe’s first residential project. This is an extension to the Lake of Constance apartment building in Germany. It was also the first 3D-printed building in Austria, which was completed in collaboration with STRABAG SE.

The PERI 3D printing team in Austria has completed the fifth printing project. These are not research projects. They are real houses that have been through all the building code approvals and are now rented out or occupied by people.

Residential building in Wallenhausen, Bavaria. Image Courtesy of PERI
Residential building in Wallenhausen, Bavaria. Image Courtesy of PERI
Residential building in Wallenhausen, Bavaria. Image Courtesy of PERI
Residential building in Wallenhausen, Bavaria. Image Courtesy of PERI
Residential building in Wallenhausen, Bavaria. Image Courtesy of PERI
Residential building in Wallenhausen, Bavaria. Image Courtesy of PERI
Residential building in Wallenhausen, Bavaria. Image Courtesy of PERI
Residential building in Wallenhausen, Bavaria. Image Courtesy of PERI

One thing is certain, as architects across the globe face uncertainty, housing and labor shortages, and other industry challenges, building and planning will change fundamentally. 3D printing could make it possible to eliminate costly and slow planning changes. The increased viability, productivity and optimization of the building process could not only provide affordable housing solutions and lower rents but also shelters for disaster-prone regions and an answer to sustainable construction. There is still much to explore in other markets or segments of the industry. However, 3D construction printing is certain to be a long-lasting solution.