Picture caption: A smaller-scale 3D printer – Picture credit: Maria Teneva on Unsplash
Two years after a French family moved into Europe’s first 3D-printed house in Nantes, work on the UK’s first 3D-printed development is expected to start this year. The £6-million project in Accrington, Lancashire, will create 46 eco homes, built in 100 days and costing around 25% less than standard construction methods.
A gantry-based 3D printing system will operate on site, fabricating the walls and load-bearing elements of the homes out of concrete, much like a giant cake-icing machine. The printable concrete mix, which contains a 40% slag substitution to make it more sustainable, is fed into the printhead which then extrudes the concrete to create the superstructures of the homes. Roofs, windows and doors will be built using traditional methods.
The Building for Humanity project in Charter Street, Accrington, will be built by an Irish firm, Harcourt Technologies (HTL.tech). This company is the partner and distributor of COBOD 3D construction printing technology in the UK and Ireland – COBOD stands for Construction of Buildings on Demand and is a world-leading specialist in 3D construction printing solutions.
Building for Humanity is a not-for-profit organisation, which works with councils to develop net-zero carbon, affordable homes for homeless people and other individuals and families who need a roof over their heads. This Community Interest Company (CIC) began after a group of friends on a night out in Manchester were struck by the numbers of homeless people they saw. With their background in construction, they set out to make a difference. Their goal is to deliver high-quality, energy-efficient, affordable housing at scale, for people in need.
Interestingly, when 3D printing first hit the headlines around a decade ago, the focus was on the average consumer having a 3D printer in their home and using it for all kinds of household tasks and spare parts. That hasn’t happened, but 3D printing has boomed elsewhere, especially for printing custom hearing aids, teeth aligners and car and aircraft parts. Hubs, a marketplace for manufacturing services, has predicted the 3D printing market will almost triple in size by 2026, with a value of $44.5bn (£34.7bn).
The potential benefits for the construction industry are vast. Many young people have been priced out of the housing market, so building methods that reduce costs and delivery times on housing developments could make a huge difference.
The Charter Street project will see a disused piece of land turned into 3-storey apartment blocks with 1-bed, 2-bed and 3-bed apartments and 2-storey houses. As well as being the first development of its kind in the UK, it will be the largest printed building complex in the whole of Europe. These homes will be offered to low-income families, homeless veterans and other people in need. Along with their new home, residents will benefit from Building for Humanity’s skills training programme, and both private and communal gardens to help foster a sense of community.
It will be interesting to see how quickly this development is finished, as 100 days seems ambitious, but it would be brilliant if the project did hit that target. The UK is lacking in good-quality, affordable homes, so if this development is a success, then it would be great to see more of these kinds of projects.
Meanwhile, if you need assistance with the structural elements of an upcoming project, please do get in touch.