Architect US
Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel

Where are we headed? 3d printed or prefabricated homes?

At the turn of this last century, we’ve seen great advancements in the technology that we use today in the realm of architecture. Everything ranging from the software that is being used in design studios, the gamut of materials that are now available to us, to the tools and methods of construction. Now, we’ve been regularly seeing prefabricated houses being assembled and 3d printing methods being implemented in projects worldwide. Technology which continues to improve and decrease the amount of time for a project to be completed. These methods are also becoming more popular because they can potentially bring costs of construction down so that we can make more complex projects and contribute to the niche of affordable housing and sustainability. However, with these new methods being introduced, there are also advantages and disadvantages involved. So that you have a better understanding of both methods and can make a conjecture on where architecture is headed, let’s dive into the mechanics behind both processes.

In the case of prefabrication, most of the building components are manufactured off-site. These components may be things like floors, walls panels, roof, doors, columns, beams, plates, etc. and they are then assembled on-site. This allows the prefabricated structures to be designed in a way that can be assembled and disassembled in a short period of time, making it fitting for transportation and short-term building purposes. Now, with more and more developments in computer systems, this building method is expected to reach great precision and standardization of the building processes. The modular construction has also proven to be highly efficient in saving energy. Things like tighter joints and wall insulation is bringing great benefits in green technology. A lot of the components are also built under precise use of high-tech machinery to ensure that the parts are in compliance with the building and construction codes. These modular construction processes have been proving to be a practical option in the construction process, but will it be better than 3d printed homes and other constructions?

Many architects argue that the future of architecture lies in 3d printing technologies. It was a technology that has taken a long time to get off the ground -and still needs to be refined- but has now seen light of riveting developments. For the time being, 3d printed buildings and constructions are still in an investigational phase. The other issue with this technology, is that since its still in its initial stages, the equipment, research, and training for it is expensive. This technology started in architecture with its use to create detailed printed models so that you could visualize a design. Specially those that are more complex and may take a month or two to build and show to the client. But then, as this technology continued to progress, there were small structures being developed, things like small pedestrian bridges, then on to other structures, and as you can imagine we then started printing things like small office buildings. Now, there’s still some hesitation from construction companies to use this type of application, but recent studies show that using 3d printing technologies on an industrial scale may be the most efficient way of construction in comparison to already existing methods.

You should check out machinery like Cobod, which stands to be the only second generation 3d construction printer available. Machinery like these, can now print in different materials and in concrete. They are highly expensive and have different configurations, which accordingly vary in price. However, if you think about the time that it can save and the reduced labor force that it will entail, companies could save millions in all future projects. There’re still some ways to go with these two different types of construction methods, but where do you see this technology going? Which of the two do you think will be more prominent in the architecture and construction field?


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