The new home of Elize Lutz and Harrie Dekkers is a 94-square-meter (1,011-square-foot) two-bedroom bungalow that resembles a boulder with windows.
Its gray concrete walls’ curving lines appear and feel natural. They are, however, at the forefront of housing construction technology in the Netherlands and around the world, having been 3D printed at a nearby factory. “It’s special. It’s a form that’s unusual, and when I saw it for the first time, it reminds me of something you knew when you were young,” Lutz said Friday. She will rent the house with Dekkers for six months for 800 euros ($970) per month.
For the time being, the house appears strange, with its layers of printed concrete clearly visible — including a few places where printing issues caused imperfections.
As the Netherlands seeks solutions to its chronic housing shortage, such construction may become more common in the future. To accommodate a growing population, the country will need to build hundreds of thousands of new homes this decade.
Theo Salet, a professor at Eindhoven Technical University, is researching ways to make concrete construction more sustainable using 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing. He believes that in the future, houses can be 3D printed with 30% less material. “Why? The answer is sustainability,” he said. “And the first way to do that is by cutting down the amount of concrete that we use.” He explained that 3D printing can deposit the material only where you need it.
A new generation of start-ups in the United States is also working to bring 3D-printed homes to the mainstream. Lutz and Dekkers’ new home is located in Eindhoven, a city that promotes itself as a center of innovation.
The house is made up of 24 concrete elements that were “printed” at a factory in the city by a machine that squirts layer upon layer of concrete before being trucked to a neighborhood of other new homes. The finishing touches, including a roof, were added there.
The layers give a ribbed texture to its walls, inside and out. The house complies with all D Inside and out, the layers give the walls a ribbed texture. The house meets all Dutch building codes, and the printing process took only 120 hours.
The house is the result of a Project Milestone collaboration between the city hall, Eindhoven’s Technical University, and construction companies. They intend to construct a total of five houses, honing their skills with each one. Future homes will have multiple floors.
According to Salet, the process employs concrete of the consistency of toothpaste. This ensures that it is strong enough to build with while also remaining wet enough for the layers to adhere to one another. The hollow printed elements are filled with insulation material.
The hope is that such homes, which are faster to build than traditional houses and use less concrete, will play a role in addressing housing shortages in a country one-third the size of Florida, with a population of 17.4 million people and growing.
The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency stated in a report this month that education and innovation can help the construction industry in the long run. However, other measures, such as zoning reform, are required to address Dutch housing shortages.
Salet believes that 3D printing can help by digitizing house design and production. “If you ask me, ‘will we build 1 million of the houses, as you see here?’ The answer is no. But will we use this technology as part of other houses combined with wooden structures? Combined with other materials? Then my answer is yes,” he said.
Dekkers has already noticed great acoustics in the home even when he’s just playing music on his phone. And when he’s not listening to music, he enjoys the silence that the insulated walls provide. “It gives a very good feel, because if you’re inside you don’t hear anything from outside,” he said.