3D printing offers exceptional sustainability benefits, while avoiding supply chain issues



Several startups are positioning 3D printing as the next most attractive sustainable, efficient and affordable option for home building. Innovation is improving at a rapid pace, catching the attention of some of the nation’s largest home builders.

Recently a California-based 3D printing construction company Mighty buildings announced a partnership with Fortera, a materials technology company that produces an innovative cement that reduces CO2 emissions by over 60% compared to traditional cement. The partnership will help advance Mighty Building’s mission of addressing the housing availability crisis while becoming carbon neutral by 2028, hoping to lead the way for the construction industry.

This kind of collaboration is essential, explains Sam Ruben, director of sustainability and co-founder of Mighty Buildings, because it would be impossible to solve the housing crisis or the climate crisis on your own.

“We have partnered with Fortera to bring sustainability to market at scale,” said Ruben. “Together, we are changing the way concrete is made and taking this into account in creating low carbon concrete to reduce the impact of construction. We look at a holistic systems perspective – how to leverage new and existing business technologies to show the industry more broadly that there is a way.

The traditional cement used for foundations contributes a significant portion of a home’s overall carbon footprint; however, Fortera’s new cementitious material converts carbon dioxide into cement, reducing CO₂ emissions by over 60%.

Kas Farsad is Vice President of Business Development at Fortera and explains the process that reduces environmental impact.

“There isn’t much you can do to reduce the CO₂ in cement,” he said. “Traditional cement production takes limestone, grinds it and burns it. During this process, 44% of the weight of the limestone burns as gas. We want to make it as efficient as possible, but basically when you burn limestone you give off CO₂. It’s inevitable. To make our cement, we inject the CO₂ back into the finished product, keeping the CO₂ intact. Everything you are building now has incorporated it, instead of publishing it.

Since half the weight of limestone is CO₂, half is usually lost as gas during the process. Since Fortera reincorporates CO₂, it retains the weight that was extracted and does not suffer the loss that occurs when burnt, thus extending the life of existing quarries.

As part of its commitment to sustainable development, Mighty Buildings has signed Climate commitment, an initiative launched by Amazon and Global optimism achieve the Paris Agreement 10 years in advance and be zero carbon by 2040.

Ruben says the company has also launched a cross-sector advisory board to advance its sustainability mission. Members such as Lindsay Baker, CEO of the International Institute of the Living Future and Shawn Hunter, Global Director of Sustainability at DuPont are part of this charge.

Other 3D printing companies are also rethinking sustainability. For example, Luai Al Kurdi, founder and CEO of a construction technology company Print4d based in the Czech Republic, plans to incorporate waste into the production of 3D printing materials to reduce anything that would previously have been thrown away.

Kurdi says that durability in 3D printing is a three-legged stool: durability can be achieved by improving the quality of the material, by reducing the amount of material, and also by the longevity of the materials, which generally last longer than others. materials.

Reduce supply chain challenges

This innovation and the search for sustainable materials in 3D printed homes also creates value by eliminating other materials. Where a typical wall may have wood, drywall, screws, duct tape, mud, insulation, barriers, and plates, 3D printed walls have a formula. This simplification not only has sustainability benefits, it also reduces the supply chain, freeing up time, resources and expense for more affordable housing.

“3D printing, especially using our Light Stone material, largely avoids the use of traditional building materials and the associated volatility and is able to tap into a global supply chain that leverages of production at facilities around the world to minimize shipping impacts, ”said Ruben. .

Furniture maker Model number 3D prints chairs, sofas, and other items to provide a smarter, more personalized, and highly durable solution. Sustainability is measured in various ways from the process. First, the company chooses only sustainable materials. Second, it only creates furniture on demand, so there is very little waste from additional inventory or storage needs. In addition, the furniture is printed as close to the end consumer as possible to reduce transport costs. In addition, the company aims to take advantage of reuse and recovery programs.

Kurdi is also studying how to use recycled materials, such as recycled aggregate that is not usually incorporated into concrete. The idea here is to incorporate the waste into the mix before it becomes waste.

Labor shortages currently play a very important role in tackling supply chains. The Mighty Buildings process fixes this as well.

“For five general contractors who retire, only one arrives,” said Ruben. “New entrants into the job market enter the gig economy or become programmers. With our process, we create a safer working environment and a stable job as it is indoors, as well as fixed schedules so that they can plan their life easily. All this means more certainty in the structure. We are able to reduce working hours but increase productivity by more than 20 times.

In addition, the 3D printing process means that production can be more localized. A 3D printing plant can be set up next to the site, using source materials close to the site, eliminating logistics and supply chain issues. Mighty Buildings took advantage of new technology to move into a 79,000 square foot warehouse in an incredible urban location in Oakland, California. The company credits the ability to attract the next generation of workers to this excellent location.

Printing houses

Although it’s hard to believe, this innovative 3D printing process for house building is not a far-fetched idea. Mighty Buildings partners with a number of builders to bring it to life in various contexts.

For example, Palari and Mighty Buildings are partnering with several projects across California to deliver 3D printed net zero energy homes. Palari started as a real estate consulting firm years ago and has grown into a 3D printed home builder after seeing the amazing use cases.

For these zero net single family homes, Mighty Buildings is able to print all panels in less than a week; the whole exterior wall system is 3D printed. The project site goes from virgin stage to installation in less than four weeks, then there is a six to eight week construction period as they arrive flat packed on site. Finally, on-site installation only takes three to four weeks, including setting up the panels and connecting them. Ruben says they have partners who provide prefabricated bathrooms, which are a very attractive part of the house because they have beautiful, high quality finishes.

“The solutions must be economically feasible,” said Ruben. “There has to be a reduction in costs.

The turnkey three-bedroom, two-bathroom properties that also include an ADU, garage, and high-end tech like the Delos Healthy Home System, start at $ 500,000.

Print the future

“Our vision is to become a production-as-a-service platform,” said Ruben. “Right now we don’t have enough people to build all the housing we need. So we bring new technologies to solve the problems we have. ”

Ruben said Mighty Buildings is finding market niches to focus on. For example, due to the smaller size of ADUs, it is prohibitive for many builders to produce them. So the company was recently able to refine an ADU strategy with a product line called Mighty Mods.

Mighty Buildings also wants to play the role of a solution provider. One of the things they achieve is by creating a REVIT plug-in for its panel system, so that in a few years, third-party designers can connect directly to the Mighty Buildings platform.

Ultimately, Ruben and his team strive to create a distributed network of 3D printing and robotic Mighty Micro factories across the country and around the world, with each factory capable of producing 100 homes per year.

Kurdi is in the lockdown phase.

“Over the next few years, we will have fully automated and fully digitized solutions to increase productivity in construction,” he says. “The promise is that efficiency and productivity will increase. Robots don’t need to rest, so they can produce 24/7. The efficiency will increase because the machines are really precise and the quality can be very high, which reduces human errors and other problems that can arise. “

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