Alongside the Buiksloter canal in northern Amsterdam, a container-sized printer is being used to build the blocks for the world’s first 3D-printed canal house.
Amsterdam firm DUS Architects created KamerMaker, or ‘room builder’ in Dutch, a 3.5-metre tall 3D printer inside a shipping container. The firm's ultimate goal is to print pieces that will be assembled to create a complete house.
Last month, the printer was transported to a vacant lot beside Buiksloter canal in the northern area of Amsterdam to start printing. The end product will be the first 3D printed canal house, and work is expected to be complete within the next three years.
The 3D Print Canal House will be 15 metres high, 6 metres wide and 6 metres deep. In addition, the project aims to add the house a back of the same size if possible within the same time frame.
The printer uses a type of plastic compound consisting of an 80 per cent bio-based hotmelt which can be easily shredded and reused in the future or if a piece has flaws when it is printed. Architect Hans Vermeulen from DUS Architects said this is very convenient because the first blocks are meant to be test pieces used to discover faults in the construction process.
The architects plan to print each room separately on site so they can be carefully tested in a safe and easy way, and then to assemble them into one house. Each room is different and consists of complex, tailor-made architecture and unique design features, which are joined together as large Lego-like blocks.
The construction system is similar to that of a prefabricated house, where the rooms can be disconnected quite easily in case the house needs to be relocated. Within the 3D printed walls, there are empty gaps for connecting construction parts, electric cables, water pipes and wiring.
Unlike traditional construction, both the exterior façade and the interior are constructed/printed at the same time as one piece. The heart of the 3D Print Canal House will have a smart ‘data fireplace’ to distribute resources such as water and energy and to serve as a central nervous system for smart technology.
The architects acknowledged that printing a house is still a process of trial and error. At the moment, a three-metre high block takes about a week to complete.
"Eventually, we would like to be able to finish one within two hours," said Vermeulen. "Maybe in three years we will have printed the house four times, upgrading the house based on the gained knowledge," Vermeulen said.
The goal is to complete the first of 13 planned rooms by midyear. In the meantime, the site of the 3D Print Canal House will also act as a space for research into architecture and construction which will be open to the public and to those interested in watching as the building process takes place.
Each room in the house will be dedicated to a different research area. For example, one room will serve as a hub for research into the use of smart data for efficiency purposes. Other research topics include how to print with conducting material and the integration of sensors in digitally fabricated design.
The project has an ambitious objective of finding a way to meet the housing needs of the earth's 7 billion inhabitants, providing a solution for the the sub-standard shelter for the world’s poor that has developed in megacities across the globe.