Are 3D printed buildings the sustainable future of construction?
The construction industry must adopt technologies that increase productivity while mitigating the impact of our growing housing needs on the climate crisis. Mighty Buildings’ technology is perhaps “one of the few existing” that could unlock needed productivity while reducing emissions.
The construction industry is complex. It faces a series of difficult challenges to improve efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve low carbon developments. There is pressure that the use of buildings and their construction together represent 36% of global energy consumption
and around 40% of greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere every year.
Right now, the industry is in trouble. Overall, two thirds of nations lack of mandatory energy standards for buildings. This means that in 2019, some five billion square meters of buildings were constructed with no real consideration for their energy performance once occupied. Over the past 20 years, the floor space of buildings has increased by 65%, but the energy consumption per square meter has increased. improved by only 25 percent.
The problem is, the world needs more housing. In the we On its own, around 3.5 million additional homes will be needed by 2025.
The good news is that construction is a sector that has a unique ability to help safeguard our natural ecosystems, build resilience to protect communities, store carbon, and achieve net zero goals. Construction has the opportunity to create places suitable for the 21st century and where people want to live, work, grow and prosper. But it is imperative that the construction industry embraces technologies that bring additional productivity while mitigating the impact it will have on the climate crisis.
This is certainly the point of view of Sam ruben, an entrepreneur whose mission is to transform the way we make and use our buildings. As co-founder and head of sustainable development of Mighty buildings, he says, his company’s technology is “one of the few existing” that has the potential to unleash the necessary productivity in addition to the possibility of reducing emissions.
Essentially, the company makes building panels that can be bolted together as the building blocks of any development. But these aren’t just any panels – they’re made from a thermosetting composite material, created using 3D printer technology and can be made with virtually no waste. The material, which cures immediately under UV light, replaces the need for concrete in construction.
Compared to traditional construction methods, the so-called Mighty Kit Systems
eliminate the 3 to 5 lbs of waste per square foot generated by residential construction. The company says it can produce structures with 95% less man-hours, twice as fast as conventional construction and with ten times less waste. This video shows how a 350 square foot fully printed building can be built in less than 24 hours.
3D printed buildings may seem like something out of science fiction, but Ruben hopes to change mindsets.
“This is sometimes the reaction we get, but is quickly superseded by the excitement when people have the chance to see the units completed and learn about all the work we have been doing – not just to demonstrate compliance and code security, but also to go further. and help move the codes themselves.
Like many startups, the life of Mighty Buildings began in a garage. Ruben and three friends – Slava Solonoitsyn, Dmitry Starodubtsev and Alexey Dubov – came together to start a 3D printing business in Redwood City, California. They wanted to take advantage of technology to disrupt the construction industry by creating beautiful, affordable and sustainable homes using 3D printing and robotics.
Previously, Solonoitsyn had spent the mid-2010s working in venture capital. He was looking for big, bold ideas to invest in, investing money in companies such as Supersonic boom – which is changing the way people travel by making supersonic flights affordable. He lived in Singapore at the time, but spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley. With each visit, he wondered why the United States continued to build houses using archaic methods, even though there was so much disruption and adoption of new technologies in other parts of the world.
Then he met Ruben – an expert in sustainable development and politics – and discovered the
Accessory dwelling unit
market, which was opened by new state laws in California in 2017.
“It seemed like an ideal bridgehead market to produce houses built in a whole new way, using 3D printing and automation,” Ruben recalls.
The company currently produces around 300 units per year on
Oakland and strives to grow to 1000 units per year by 2023. The ambition is to establish a distributed network of Mighty Factories across the world – in areas with build and development partners and demand – rather than to produce only in Oakland and shipping units.
“This will allow us to expand our impact by leveraging dormant capital,” says Ruben enthusiastically. “We can set up in existing warehouses rather than needing large bespoke facilities – and in doing so, reduce costs and emissions; while providing jobs and housing to the communities we serve.
The company has already found developer partners who share the vision. That said, the construction industry has historically been slow to embrace new technology – although the severity of housing needs is starting to change the situation a bit.
“We face challenges with the delays associated with the licensing and fee process. But we are actively working on collaborations with builders, developers, code makers and cities to help address inefficiencies in the industry, ”Ruben adds.
This should be a busy 12 month period for Mighty Buildings – which has joined the UNof
and the SME climate hub, the global climate commitment for small businesses that pledge to halve their carbon emissions by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050 (“Even though we have joined Race to Zero, our goals are achieve carbon neutrality by 2028 and carbon negativity by 2040 “, says Ruben). First, it will deliver the first Mighty House units in a development. In addition, it is in the process of certifying a new reinforced material of fiber that can be used to develop multi-story offerings, such as townhouses and low-rise apartment buildings: “We want to at least reach the prototype stage by the end of next year.