The construction industry is revolutionized. Two trends are transforming it: do-it-yourself culture and 3D printing technology.
What happens when both are combined? Until recently, almost unimaginable projects were born, such as the ambition to print a house on Mars or to build your own home in a few days and for less than US $ 81,000.
A colony on Mars
The colonization of Mars could be closer than it seems.
Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, wants to build a city on the red planet. The US Space Agency (NASA) plans to send people by 2035 and is also Mission Mars One, the semi suicidal version of Big Brother in space.
Behrokh Khoshnevis of the Viterbi School of Engineering at the University of Southern California is already working on this ambitious goal for NASA.
The construction technology they are testing is called Contour Crafter and consists of 3D printing concrete or concrete buildings, layer by layer, using a gigantic robot-printer that can complete the mission in just 24 hours.
The walls are designed with a system of internal cavities to give the building more insulation and strength.
Applications on Earth
But beyond the Martian plans, the technology will also be useful on our planet.
According to Khoshnevis the closest uses for this type of construction will probably be in emerging markets, where there is a great demand to create fast, cheap, and secure accommodation.
Another possible use, adds the engineering doctor, would be as emergency shelter in the event of a disaster.
But Khoshnevis believes that its adoption in the developed world will be slower. This technology still has many limitations: for a long time it will not replace materials such as glass, steel or wood.
«But if you can build better, faster and cheaper with this cement technique, there will be less demand for wood,» he says.
«So it’s not going to make everything in construction obsolete, but certain types of buildings are definitely going to be built this way and not the traditional method,» he said.
If you are in a hurry «do it yourself»
Those who can’t wait for the Contour Crafer technology to be perfected have the option of building their own home.
The Wikihouse project, for example, offers free plans downloadable over the internet.
«Wikihouse is a building system that is manufactured digitally,» Sarah Gold, designer of Wikihouse and design studio 00, told the BBC.
The creators of the project estimate that it is possible to build a 75m2 two-bedroom house for less than $ 81,000.
Gold explained that users receive at the construction site a material cut into sheets with CNC (computer numerical control) technology, which is assembled with a special mechanism that makes parts fit together.
«So you don’t need to have any of the traditional building skills to be able to lift the structure. We build the structure, we lift it, we fit it, and then you can start assembling the insulation membrane,» said the designer.
This modular system is open source, under a Creative Commons license.
A revolution in the industry
«It is easier to send recipes than to send cakes and cookies.» This quote, from the famous British economist John Maynard Keynes, sums up the approach of the creators of Wikihouse.
«It’s the same revolution we’ve seen on the internet for the past few years,» explains co-founder Alastair Parvin.
«The power of YouTube made us go from consumers to film producers, the power of Wikipedia from consumers to information producers and all that is what is happening now with things like 3D printing: that same alteration is being carried over to the world. real, «he explained.
Lewis Blackwell of the Building Center agrees that until recently the construction industry had escaped this kind of revolt.
«It is perhaps the beginning of the breakdown of professional structures in the industry,» he said.
«It starts to demystify the industry, and maybe it raises the expectations of what you can expect from a professional because now you know that you can do more.»
And if design is a priority …
If time is not urgent and design is a priority, another project is gaining momentum: Paperhouses, «open source architecture».
It is a platform that is currently registering users before launching a series of downloadable designs made by great architects.
The plans, free of charge, can be adapted to the taste of the users.
The difference with Wikihouse is that unless you are an industry professional, it is unlikely that you will be able to build these houses.
Papaerhouses plans to connect users with its network of building partners to tailor designs to the topology, atmosphere of each location, and other considerations such as ecological impact.
«The site will be a forum where initially you can share ideas and in the future you can manipulate the models,» says Joana Pacheco, from Paperhouses.
But the project has encountered some opposition.
«The architects have very strong positions in this regard,» according to Pacheco. «
«While some welcomed the idea, others feel that the project discredits their art and profession,» he said.
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