Sustainable housing and 3D printing technology
The importance of sustainable housing cannot be overstated both in Nigeria and anywhere else in the world. With the unprecedented rate at which climate change is advancing and the decline of raw materials on our planet, sustainable housing must be a top priority for every government and private actor in the housing sector.
Sustainable housing is the process of building homes while ensuring less waste, more reuse, more recycling, environmental impacts and lower life cycle costs, less maintenance, better reliability and greater user satisfaction.
The factors that make housing sustainable are the extent to which the construction of the house uses energy and materials, it is the continuous impact on the environment in which it exists, the design of the house and how it is affects the need for things like artificial heating, cooling, lighting and water requirements, energy and materials needed to maintain or renovate the building throughout its life, the overall lifespan of the building, the resources required to demolish the building and how its by-products are disposed of or recycled.
Sustainable housing projects in Nigeria
Housing in Nigeria is generally classified into two categories namely public and private sector housing. The term public housing refers to housing provided by the government as part of its obligation to meet the housing needs of its citizens. For decades Nigeria has tried to develop a viable housing delivery program that would enable the country to achieve its “housing for all” policy. The availability of decent and affordable housing in Nigeria has been a major concern for successive governments since 1960.
With Nigeria currently operating a three-tier system of government i.e. federal, state and local, each level has the responsibility of ensuring practical housing projects for their different groups. Over time, state governments like the Lagos State Government have put in place housing programs to achieve this policy.
Recently, a World Bank report noted that two of the most critical urban development issues plaguing Nigeria are the financing of urban infrastructure and institutional arrangements for the provision of housing in urban centers (World Bank 2008). With the increase in Nigeria’s population (around 200 million), now more than ever, there is a need to develop an efficient and operational framework for the provision of housing. Could 3D printing be the break Nigeria needs to achieve its “universal housing policy”?
With the introduction of 3D printing, it can no longer be said that there are no measures to ensure sustainable housing in Nigeria and the world. 3D printing has introduced massive waste reduction in homes and increased speed in construction, among other benefits. 3D printing uses computer aided design (CAD) to create three-dimensional objects through a method of layering. Sometimes referred to as additive manufacturing, 3D printing involves the layering of materials, such as plastics, composites, or biomaterials, to develop elements that vary in shape, size, stiffness, and color. 3D printers are part of the additive manufacturing family and use methods similar to a traditional inkjet printer, albeit in 3D. It takes a combination of high-end software, powder-like materials, and precision tools to create a three-dimensional object from scratch.
Simply put, the term “3D PRINTING” refers to an additive manufacturing process that creates a physical object from a digital design. The process works by depositing thin layers of material in liquid or powdered plastic, metal or cement, and then fusing the layers together. Thanks to this technology, houses were built faster, at lower cost and with less labor.
However, there are some common myths about 3D printed houses; While some claim that 3D printed houses are structurally inferior to their traditional counterparts, others say that the durability of such houses is questionable as they do not necessarily involve carving or building with human hands. However, 3D printing ensures that there are relatively fewer stress points in the construction. This means that the structure would be more substantial. Hua Shang Tengda, a company specializing in building 3D printed houses, recently demonstrated a 400 square meter house that has been proven to withstand an 8.0 Richter earthquake. This is just one of the advantages of 3D printed houses for sustainable housing. Go further.
3D printing and its contribution to sustainable housing in Nigeria
An important feature that should not be overlooked in defining a sustainable home is waste management / reduction. Building a sustainable home is imperative to ensure that the available resources are well managed and are never wasted. This is something that 3D printing helps deliver. It is equally important to consider sustainable housing projects in Nigeria, as waste management has always been a good topic of discussion in the country’s housing and other related sectors.
To reduce housing waste, 3D printing is a great option, as traditional manufacturing methods can be very expensive and consume large amounts of energy and raw materials. Instead of carving an object from huge pieces of metal or plastic, 3D printing manufactures objects layer by layer with precision, resulting in less waste (between 70 and 90%) compared to some methods of traditional manufacturing. Other contributions of 3D printing to sustainable housing include:
With a 3D printer, construction projects can be completed faster to significantly reduce the construction period. Having a house built with 3D technology can be completed in about a month and a half. This can be useful in an emergency where structures need to be built in a very short time. Using materials like concrete, traditional construction methods take a long time to dry. During the drying process, the materials are subject to the vagaries of the weather. However, with 3D printing, drying becomes more accessible and faster. While a traditionally built house can take 6-7 months, 3D printing methods can create a house in 24 hours.
Over time, the Nigerian government has put in place measures through the Ministry of Housing to create sustainable development plans for good housing programs. The primary concern of state and federal governments is how to develop strategies that will lower the cost of housing for citizens. However, the dramatic reduction in construction costs on 3D printing is almost unbelievable due to the minimal consumption of materials and labor. Experts say a 650-square-foot home costs just $ 10,000, but more people adopting the technology can drop to $ 4,000 even further. Compared to traditional methods of building a house, this is a massive cost reduction.
Homeowners can have unique homes to suit their taste with the endless design possibilities that 3D printing offers. With this new technology, curvilinear structures can be used, which have proven to be much more structurally sound. It helps construction workers to experiment with different shapes.
These are just a few advantages of 3D printing for sustainable housing. However, there are a few baffles to be resolved; roughness of the surface, unlike houses of traditional construction. High printer prices also remain a major source of concern and discouragement for construction workers.
With the pace at which the Nigerian government is striving to create sustainable housing projects to reduce the housing deficit and provide affordable housing to a greater percentage of residents, it is essential to note that the above contributions from the Sustainable 3D printing prove that the technology is a better option for Nigeria and other developing countries.
Increase in design shapes
3D experts say the technology can create design shapes and customizations that would be impossible and expensive if done the traditional way. As explained earlier, printers can precisely place small amounts of concrete exactly where it’s needed for complex shapes, which will dramatically improve the design possibilities for architects.
The future of sustainable housing in Nigeria and the introduction of 3D printing in the housing sector are two inseparable factors that will help achieve the goals of the public and private housing sector by ensuring excellent and achievable projects for Nigerians.
Story by: Noah Ibrahim
Noah Ibrahim is a real estate disruptor, CEO of Novarick Homes and developer of Nigeria’s first solar-powered residential community. He is also an advocate for change and has pioneered several innovations in the real estate industry, such as the Green Real Estate Initiative, the Build to Rent Campaign and the Young Entrepreneur Mentorship Initiative.