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Students achieve first-of-its-kind construction with remarkable 3D-printed home: 'Leading the way towards a more sustainable future'

"The Solar Futures House demonstrates the potential of 3D construction printing."

"The Solar Futures House demonstrates the potential of 3D construction printing."

Photo Credit: COBOD

Architecture students from Woodbury University have helped bring the first permitted 3D-printed "net-zero" home to the Los Angeles area. 

In a press release, 3D-printing technology supplier COBOD International announced that the 425-square-foot Solar Futures House was completed in just 15 hours using its BOD2 printer. Laborers' International Union of North America and 3D builder Emergent partnered with the students to make the project happen. 

"The Solar Futures House demonstrates the potential of 3D construction printing and its advantages for the industry," Emergent CEO Donald Ajamian said. "By partnering with COBOD International and leveraging their automation technology, we are not only building homes but also leading the way towards a more sustainable future." 

The project was part of the U.S. Department of Energy's 2023 Solar Decathlon, which challenged university students to design and build "high-performance, low-carbon buildings" that are affordable, climate-resilient, and energy-efficient. 

A net-zero building not only reduces energy consumption, it also generates its own clean electricity. According to the competition's official website, the Solar Futures House does this by harvesting energy from the sun and then storing it in batteries for later use. 

This will enable it to operate off the grid, making the design more resilient to climate-related power outages, as rising global temperatures have caused an increase in extreme weather. A metal roof helps protect the building against wildfires

The house also collects and recirculates rainwater for irrigation, a practice that can save more than a thousand gallons of water per year. Meanwhile, grey water from the shower is repurposed for toilet flushing. The architects of Solar Future House also planned to install an air-to-water system to increase climate resilience and provide drinking water. 

Constructing the Solar Future House on-site with 3D printers also reduced the amount of planet-warming pollution generated during the building process. 

According to the International Energy Agency, the buildings and construction sector generated nearly 40% of all energy and process-related carbon pollution in 2018. Shortening the build time means less planet-warming gases are released into our atmosphere.

While the cement used to make traditional concrete is responsible for 8% of global carbon pollution, 3D printing helps reduce material waste. Additionally, the architects made their concrete more sustainable by incorporating fly ash and carbon-soaking elements into the mix. 

According to COBOD's press release, building the Solar Future House costs around $250,000, making it significantly cheaper than the $1.2 million average home price in Burbank, where it's located. 

This is one reason why 3D-printed buildings could solve a growing housing crisis in the state and elsewhere. While the technology has been available since the 1980s, it has become more advanced, and its applications continue to expand. 

Japanese startup Serendix even believes that 3D-printed tiny houses could lead to widespread access to affordable living spaces that cost "as much as a car," according to Fast Company.  

COBOD International Co-Founder and Head of Americas Philip Lund-Nielsen is also optimistic that 3D printing will address a labor issue in the construction sector. 

"The construction industry is grappling with a significant shortage of skilled labor, compounded by a lack of interest from young individuals for pursuing careers in conventional construction," he said in COBOD's release. "We believe that arming and training the future workforce with automation technologies, such as 3D printers, can effectively address this issue."

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