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Could 3D Printed Mud Houses Be The Future of Construction?

Mon 23 Mar 2015

We’ve heard about 3D printed houses before, but never in the same sentence as the word “mud”. An Italian 3D printing company, called World Advanced Saving Project (WASP), has now demonstrated how it can print 3D mud houses using clay.

What makes these 3D houses extra special though, is that the clay used comes embedded with plant seeds that will grow into a root system, supporting the building like a strong, stable house foundation.

The World Advanced Saving Project, based in Ravenna, has spent many years working on a huge 20ft tall 3D printer that is able to build affordable houses for various developing countries around the world.

Inspiration

The houses were inspired by the beautiful clay buildings that dominate the city of Aït Benhaddou, a fortified city found between the Sahara and Marrakech, in Morocco. Here the houses are made using soil combined with natural dried tamarind fibre, meaning they are usually unaffected by downpours and thunderstorms.

The great thing about these houses is that they only need touching-up every two years or so, when they need a 2cm thick extra layer of clay added to the outside, to repair any cracks or wear and tear the house might have suffered from.

WASP are hoping to replicate this construction method using their 3D Delta printer, which they showed a prototype of at the MADEExpo show last week in Milan.

Strength From Seeds

The mixture used to print the houses is a combination of cement, clay, and seeds from certain weeds. The idea is that this will make the material used in the foundation stronger than if only clay and fibre were mixed together.

The seeds in the mixture will absorb the moisture from the clay, and over time they will grow roots and develop a strong webbed system within the 3D printed house. This will keep the structure strong and ensure it maintains it’s shape for as long as possible.

A spokesperson from WASP told 3DPrint.com:

"The use of the seeds will offer a practical solution to the issue of clay shrinking: the reinforcements produced by the roots will set the material in a more permanent way, thus allowing for it to fully dry without altering its dimensional stability."

Cheapest Option

At the moment, WASP is trying out various different types of seeds, including Bermuda grass, which is a very common type of weed that grows fast and tends to be cultivated in warmer climates. It is often used in sports fields, as it is fairly strong and resilient.

Although the idea of strengthening the mud houses from seeds grown within the clay is a great idea, it could be a while before WASP bring these concept houses to life. Other inventors and developers have already joined the race to cut the cost of construction, and one inventor, Andrey Rudenko, built a 3D printed castle in his backyard just using cement last year.

Another guy in China, called Ma Yihe, also become famous last year for printing 10 3D houses using recycled concrete waste in under 24 hours. A firm called BetAbram is also soon to launch the first commercial house 3D printer in the world.

Although these ideas will all cut construction costs, WASP’s solution would still be the cheapest and offer the most options in terms of building development.

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