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Architects combine ancient materials with futuristic construction methods to build revolutionary home prototype: 'It would be truly extraordinary'

"The beginning of a new story."

"The beginning of a new story."

Photo Credit: Mario Cucinella Architects

A growing global population and an increased understanding of the negative environmental impacts brought by the construction industry have encouraged architects to examine sustainable, affordable options for housing. 

An innovative solution from an architecture studio in Bologna, Italy, has utilized 3D printing to create a housing prototype made from locally sourced clay, according to design magazine Dezeen.

Clay has been used in construction for hundreds of thousands of years, but it has made way for more energy-intensive steel, bricks, and concrete

However, with a need to step back from these materials that produce planet-warming pollution during creation, architects are looking to the past to deliver the future of environmentally friendly accommodation.

Mario Cucinella Architects partnered with 3D printing specialists WASP to create the TECLA house, which has been built in Massa Lombarda. 

The structure is set out in two domes with an open roof covered by huge skylights, and it was formed by 350 stacked layers of clay.

According to Dezeen, the layers provide structural stability and deliver a natural thermal barrier, keeping the interior cool. The latter factor is becoming increasingly important in construction, with a warming planet necessitating environmentally friendly cooling options — air conditioning is effective but relies on a lot of energy to use.

The giant 3D printer features two synchronized arms that can cover a diameter of over 160 feet, and because they can run simultaneously, two housing domes can be delivered in as little as 200 hours.

Furthermore, the process used clay obtained from a local riverbed, and the process required just six kilowatts of energy.

"TECLA responds to the increasingly serious climate emergency, to the need for sustainable homes, and to the great global issue of the housing emergency that will have to be faced," Mario Cucinella Architects told Dezeen.

"Particularly in the context of urgent crises generated, for example, by large migrations or natural disasters."

According to the European Commission, the construction industry is responsible for 35% of the EU's total waste generation, while it also accounts for between 5% and 12% of total planet-warming pollution.

This construction method could significantly cut the harmful gases the industry produces, and it can prevent excessive mining and extraction of natural resources. 

"We like to think that TECLA is the beginning of a new story," Mario Cucinella Architects founder and creative director Mario Cucinella told Dezeen.

"It would be truly extraordinary to shape the future by transforming this ancient material with the technologies we have available today."

It's only a prototype, though, and it might be some time before we see 3D-printed homes making up a sustainable community. 

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