Building towards a sustainable future

Spotlight: Additive Construction (AC)

The strong connection between environmental and social justice is being illuminated by advancements being made in 3D printing and the additive manufacturing industry.

At Adhumaen, our focus is sustainability and we are thrilled to shine the spotlight on the newest innovations being made in the construction industry: additive construction.

The challenges that inhibit the creation of high-quality, affordable housing are the same challenges that contribute to issues like homelessness: cost. Right now, materials like steel and cement are heavily relied upon for building even though they are expensive and ultra waste-generating, ultimately contributing to our global climate crisis. 

Additive construction (AC) is addressing several of traditional construction’s biggest hurdles: cost, time, labor, and renewal materials. These advancements are now empowering communities to take meaningful steps to alleviate problems like displacement and homelessness. 

The Problem

The building and construction industry is considered one of the largest consumers of raw materials and energy in the world. According to the World Green Building Council’s (WGBC) Global Status Report, over 30% of global carbon emissions are produced through this sector. In order to stay adherent to the Paris Agreement 2050 climate pledge, global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions need to be reduced by 60%. The construction industry is growing by roughly 4% each year, commiserate with population growth and housing demand whilst contributing to the global emission crisis. Statistics show that next to water, concrete is the most consumed substance on the planet contributing roughly 7% of global carbon dioxide emissions. Steel contributes a further 7-9% with around half attributed to buildings and construction. Steel and concrete are still some of the most commonly used building materials in the world.

Additive construction (AC) can use materials that were previously considered waste, recycled materials, and renewably sourced materials. These are several actualized ways AC is tackling these issues and utilizing advancements made in material sciences and 3D printing technology in AC. 3D printed construction projects offer a more hands-off approach that enables a quicker turnaround time than traditional building methods. When coupled with alternative energy during the production processes such as solar powered printers, this assists in a lower much carbon footprint that will push construction into global sustainability.

Photo by Life of Pix

The Next Wave of Innovations

Weighing the Benefits

Additive construction is so much more affordable than traditional construction methods, often taking only a fraction of the current costs of development.

In Bengaluru this week, a new post office was 3D printed on location and took only roughly $28,000 USD to build. Traditional methods would’ve cost upwards of $100,000 USD including materials, labor, transportation, and time.

3D printing buildings and developing communities using additive construction has cut building timelines from being constructed in months or years with traditional methods to days and weeks using additive construction.

In 2016, Dubai printed the worlds first office building. The design was made by Gensler was imagined as an office campus. This project took a total of 17 days to put together.

Sustainability can be overlooked in construction but with 3D printing technological advancements, new materials are being developed every day that use waste-by products, plant-based sources, or recycled materials to create new materials for construction. 

Check out what materials companies are turning into homes below.

The lasting impact of affordable, high-quality development of homes and buildings is social justice.

We will be able to house those in need in quality shelters developed at a fraction of the cost and time helping make meaningful steps to alleviate poverty in our communities. 

A world with fewer emissions is resoundingly one of the most positive impacts of additive construction (AC). AC is 3D printing as an alternative to traditional construction methods. Unlike traditional construction methods, it can utilize waste material and renewable sources for building materials while significantly limiting waste creation throughout the building process. A 3D printed building is built layer by layer from a computer-aided design (CAD) file. They can create intricate shapes and designs with extreme precision and accuracy, allowing complex shapes and infinite opportunities to customize.

AC is more cost effective than traditional construction and its positive environmental impact is significant. Global sustainability practices have been accelerated in the construction industry with the rapidly growing technological advancements in AC. According to the WGBC 2022 Status Report, the measures we can implement for energy efficiency in buildings can reduce emissions by as much as 43% by 2030. 

3D printing in construction reduces carbon emissions in an industry that accounts for nearly 30-40% of global energy-related CO2 emissions. Waste generated from traditional construction ends up in our landfills and pollutes the atmosphere with methane as it decomposes. With the global population increasing, the use of non-renewable materials such as steel and concrete for construction is severely detrimental for the environment to produce and quite a bit more costly than the sustainable development alternatives.

3D printing in construction allows the builder to use only exactly the amount of material needed for precision building and paired with the use of recycled building materials, this alone can revolutionize building. The disruptive innovations within this new technology includes its ability to rely on recycled material sources and generates very little waste compared with traditional methods.

This technology allows development of high-quality and affordable housing quickly and efficiently which directly addresses social issues such as homelessness and can help so many people living in low income communities globally.

The Innovators

Material Advancements

A newly developed net carbon-negative material produced by Texas A&M made from hemp powder called hempcrete, provides a high level of environmental resilience and insulation when compared to standard materials currently used in construction practices.

They’ve just received $3.74M from the US Department of Energy’s HESTIA program.

An Overall Example

The world’s first fully 3D printed office campus was built in Dubai in 2016. The project, costing about $140,000 USD, was built in just over two weeks and was able to be completed with less than 50% of the labor that is typically used. The 2700 sq ft, single story office campus only needed a single operator for the 3D printer. Fittingly enough, this landmark project is home to the HQ of the Dubai Future Foundation.

Photo by Engin Akya
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