3D printing can help make construction carbon neutral. here’s how
- The construction sector is responsible for 27% of global CO2 emissions. How can we make it more sustainable?
- 3D printing offers a potential solution, but can only become truly sustainable if the materials and processes are also environmentally friendly.
- Progress will require collaboration between regulators and industry leaders, who should actively engage to ensure that many standards are updated regarding the use of alternative building materials.
Building our houses harms our homes. Traditional construction is responsible for generating 27% of global CO2. Alternative methods such as 3D printing show promise, but more work needs to be done before construction is truly environmentally friendly.
3D printing is an industry that is already sustainable right now. The process produces a waste fraction of traditional construction manufacturing, because builders simply print exactly and only what they need. It only requires a small factory with minimal space for material storage, and unlike a traditional production line, 3D printing does not require energy to move the same parts from one stage to another. .
However, some builders using green processes still rely on traditional materials, such as cement. Cement alone is responsible for 8% of global CO2 emissionsvirtually eliminating any positive environmental impact that 3D printing can have.
The advantages of alternative construction methods like 3D printing are obvious
Sustainable materials are already available today. For example, the polymer composite is as strong and durable as concrete – the synthetic stone developed by Mighty Buildings weighs 30% less than concrete and has five times the tensile and flexural strength. These innovative materials can be stored in liquid or compact semi-liquid form in drums, reducing plant footprint. The environmental benefits continue once a building is printed, as the polymer composite is a superior insulator to traditional materials, minimizing emissions from the home over its lifetime as it is lived in and used. .
Despite the benefits of alternative construction methods using sustainable materials, their widespread use still requires support from regulators, customers and builders themselves.
With rising housing prices Regularly making headlines, the prices are a barrier to widespread customer demand for greener building alternatives. While it’s true that next-gen housing currently costs more than traditional construction, as scale increases and 3D printed construction continues to become more efficient, prices will come down, realizing an economy of scale. . Additionally, buyers willing to make a sustainable investment in their home purchase will experience long-term cost advantages, as green homes have higher asset value, lower long-term utility costs, and are more resistant to extreme weather conditions and natural disasters.
Promote sustainable materials and processes
As customers increasingly embrace sustainable construction, builders should and likely will make 3D printed homes more widely available. It is however a challenge – many market players representing various categories are expected to be actively involved in the evolution of the industry. For existing construction companies with deeply entrenched business models, the transition to a greener model could take decades, but frankly, they don’t have much time. Cement production is the third largest generator of CO2 emissions, more than any country except China and the United States. The extraction of cement is incredibly destructive to the environmentand obtaining the the sand necessary for the production of concrete and cement is also harmful and increasingly difficult as demand outstrips supply.
Decarbonizing the process is extremely difficult, as the chemical processes used to produce CO2 cement concrete release. Rather than modernizing age-old technology to make it durable, it’s time to embrace sustainable alternatives and explore other revolutionary materials. Traditional construction companies should lead the industry and leverage their market power to promote sustainable materials and processes for the benefit of all.
Regulations are the other major impediment to the advancement of sustainable building alternatives. As often happens with innovation, the technology evolves faster than laws can keep up, and there are many layers in the highly regulated construction industry, including local building codes, permits, inspection authorities, and contractual provisions. Progress will require collaboration between regulators and industry leaders, who should actively engage to ensure that many standards around the use of alternative building materials made using 3D printing are updated. or other means. Tech talent from startups may be more willing to disrupt the conservative industry model and could prove to be a driving force for sustainable development.
Embrace green building alternatives
The next generation of sustainable homebuilders have the tools they need to make the construction industry greener, however, to accelerate the transition to eco-friendly housing they need to partner with regulators and promoters. Ultimately, achieving carbon-neutral construction will depend on customer demand and the willingness of major builders to embrace greener alternatives and pave the way for widespread implementation.