Apartments from huge 3D printers are being built in Germany, Belgium, Kenya, the Philippines, China and Dubai. In Canada, a four-apartment building using this technology was built in Leamington, Ontario.
Posted at 12:00 p.m
This innovative project is led notably by Habitat for Humanity Windsor-Essex in collaboration with researchers from the University of Windsor and the Municipality of Leamington.
“It’s great to see so many different groups working together to do something remarkable that will hopefully change the future of housing,” said Fiona Coughlin, President and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Windsor.-Essex. “It’s very exciting because this is the first multi-unit building to be built with a 3D printer in North America. »
We are in the middle of a real estate crisis and we need to innovate. Part of the experience is to show that with this technology we can build efficiently for less money and provide affordable and sustainable housing.
Fiona Coughlin, President and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Windsor-Essex
Huge, the concrete 3D printers follow a computer-determined route and use concrete as the material, with a cleverly calculated consistency as the walls are assembled line by line. Each layer should be sufficiently dry when the next layer is applied. The four-unit building, partially subsidized by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), will be handed over to community organization The Bridge.
“It was clear with the community from the start that we would work together with the goal of constructing the first building of this type in Canada that would be occupied,” says Ms.me Coughlin. Any adaptation to the building code has been previously approved in order to obtain the necessary permits. »
The adventure began in May 2021. The company that does concrete 3D printing, nidus3D, was contacted in spring 2022, some time after acquiring a 3D construction printer from Danish company COBOD.
“It is part of our core values to seek solutions to the housing crisis and to help build affordable housing,” said Ian Arthur, President of nidus3D and until recently MP for Kingston and the Islands, flying the New Democratic Party banner from Ontario.
“Our company’s vision is not limited to concrete 3D printing,” he explains. We want to check how houses are built. On this project, which was very advanced to begin with, we have a partnership with the civil engineering departments at Windsor and Queen’s Universities who are doing a lot of testing. It’s precious. I expected more resistance from established entrepreneurs. But industry pressures in Ontario are such that with labor shortages and rising prices, people are desperate for solutions. Concrete 3D printing is very fast and predictable. There are no mistakes. We are starting construction of a two story home with a basement in Kingston in August. »
Research at the University of Sherbrooke
Ammar Yahia, a professor in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Sherbrooke, believes strongly in this technology. As the holder of the NSERC Industrial Research Chair for the development of liquid concretes with adapted rheology, he and his research team designed the first concrete 3D printer in Canada.
“It’s a small printer that prints 2 x 2 x 2 m elements, which allows us to test and validate the performance of the materials we’ve developed,” he explains. Our ultimate goal is to have a large printer so we can actually print houses. We are very advanced in the development of materials that we want to make low carbon. If we get the funding, we’ll start making prototypes within a year or two. We could build a model house in three or four years. »
3D concrete printing eliminates the formwork step, which typically accounts for 40% of project costs, he notes.
This is a significant simplification of the construction process. We are moving towards making a cake without a mold where the material keeps its shape.
Ammar Yahia, Professor in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Sherbrooke
“3D concrete printing also makes it possible to significantly reduce waste and build elements with very complex geometric shapes,” continues Ammar Yahia.
Marco Lasalle, Director of Technical Services at the Association of Construction and Housing Professionals of Quebec (APCHQ), is following advances in this area with interest.
“The house in Leamington that is being built as part of the university’s research is a very good start,” he says. Except that in terms of building code compliance, if we want to build differently we need to demonstrate that our method is at least equal to or better than the code’s minimum. We have not yet reached that point in the demonstration. But Quebec is certainly in the running for printed houses thanks to the research being conducted there. »