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May 12, 2021

Could 3D-Printed Housing Solve Two Global Problems?

As the world struggles to address the global housing crisis, design experts look to 3D-printing for a sustainable mass solution.

Mario Cucinella Architects (MC A) and 3D printer specialists WASP have collaborated on an incredible large-scale process to print sustainable housing out of local terrain. The dome-like structures are printed using locally sourced clay, minimising the environmental impact of construction with a circular housing model, and have the potential to provide eco-friendly homes for those in need across the world.

With a name representing the combination of technology and clay, the TECLA housing was conceived in response to the dual global crises of climate and housing, which reinforce each other as they remain unresolved. According to the United Nations, approximately 1.6 billion people live in inadequate housing or in homelessness globally, with housing and rental prices continuing to rise out of reach. Unfortunately, the climate crisis destroys housing through more frequent and severe natural disasters, while the creation of housing negatively affects the climate with carbon emissions and land degradation, forming a negative feedback loop that continues to spiral. This is where TECLA comes in, tackling both problems at the same time.

The houses are crafted using Crane WASP 3D printers, which are the first in the world to be modular, multi-level, and designed to build collaboratively. Two synchronised printer arms work in tandem to print in an area of fifty square metres, capable of printing independent housing modules in just a few days. Made using locally sourced clay, the material is biodegradable and recyclable, making the houses zero-waste structures; this means that the TECLA process avoids the negative impacts of construction very neatly, from the use of resources like wood and glass to the carbon footprint of transporting these materials. It’s hardly surprising, then, that the technology is informed by research conducted by architects and architectural students in Sustainable Environmental Design programs. This research has yielded a resilient, energy-efficient design, enabling the construction of sustainable homes suitable for climates across the world.

The housing modules themselves are beautiful in their organic forms, with interconnected earthy domes that feature a ridged texture across the surfaces. Each dome culminates in a circular skylight, allowing natural light to permeate the home. Each building features a living zone with a kitchen and a night zone, with many furnishings partly printed using the same local clay. The overall impression is one of ancient wonder; domed houses of clay are reminiscent of humanity’s ancestral abodes, with the creation of mudbrick structures reaching back many millennia. TECLA may allow us to return to our roots, so to speak, by providing sustainable housing for those many millions in need.

Mario Cucinella Architects and WASP are pioneers in sustainable housing. The urgent need for homes as well as climate action finds a solution with TECLA, which represents a magnificent collaboration between nature, technology, and human ingenuity. The implementation of TECLA housing is truly something to look forward to!

If you liked this article, you might enjoy our feature about the Sharaan by Jean Nouvel Resort in Saudi Arabia, which places guest accommodation in cavernous underground structures.

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