News

3D printing innovation could provide affordable housing solution

18 March 2019 | By Denise Chevin

An innovative prototype of a 3D printed wall made from clay and rice husks could offer a solution to provision of more affordable housing.

The prototype has been designed and engineered by the Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) and printed by Crane WASP – the 3D printer developed by Italian firm WASP specifically for printing houses.

The prototype represents a wall portion 40 cm thick, with timber elements interlocked, providing support for stairs and floor structures, accurately designed for being anchored to the printed part.

This work can be considered a first significant step towards load-bearing earthen structures. Indeed, the wall has been realised employing a mixture of clay and rice fibres, provided by Italian start up RiceHouse for this specific purpose.

The printing process took 40 hours, with an overall material amount of two cubic metres, by modelling multiple surfaces internally that are able to confer both solidity and aesthetic expressivity.

The research is part of the Open Thesis Fabrication research (OTF), a programme of the IAAC, which is focused on additive manufacturing in construction. 

This wall continues the research already undertaken in the Digital Adobe Wall case study.

WASP and IAAC have set their focus on providing an architectural solution for affordable sustainable housing. Thanks to international networks with universities of architectural design, WASP allows researchers, taking part in the current architecture lines of research, to use its labs and technologies.

At IAAC, an institute that explores the future of architecture and construction, students and researchers develop projects that aim to provide urban, architectural and construction solutions arising from the use of new technologies and, in turn, incorporate computer design and analysis to provide innovative solutions for a more sustainable habitat and city.

3D printing technology is progressively considered a viable construction strategy because of the advancement in design methods refined by educational programmes. IAAC’s Open Thesis Fabrication programme trains researchers and practitioners on computational design, material engineering and robotic fabrication to foster new design opportunities on bioclimatic architecture.

RiceHouse is an Italian start up promoting the cicrular econopmy – using agricultural waste to make building materials. Its natural mortars are obtained by mixing aerial lime with the rice husk. The material has a high thermal insulation, combined with excellent acoustic performance  and high breathability, claims the company.

Further reading