Couple move into Europe’s first 3D-printed house - built in five days

Anthony France
·4-min read
 (AP)
(AP)

A Dutch couple have moved into Europe’s first fully 3D-printed house which could change the way we live in the future.

Retired Elize Lutz and Harrie Dekkers’s new home is a 94-square metre two-bed bungalow in Eindhoven which looks a giant boulder with windows.

However, despite its natural look, it is actually at the cutting edge of housing construction and was printed at a nearby factory.

Elize, 70, said: “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.”

She will rent the house – which can be built in just five days – with Harrie, 67, for six months at £700 per month.

Elize and Harrie, former shopkeepers from Amsterdam, received their digital key - an app allowing them to open the front door at the press of a button - on Friday.

“It is beautiful,” she said.

“It has the feel of a bunker - it feels safe,” Harrie added.

The house, for now, looks strange with its layers of printed concrete clearly visible even a few places where printing problems caused imperfections.

ANP/AFP via Getty Images
ANP/AFP via Getty Images

In the future, as the Netherlands seeks ways to tackle a chronic housing shortage, such construction could become commonplace.

The country needs to build hundreds of thousands of new homes this decade to accommodate a growing population.

Theo Salet, a professor at Eindhoven’s Technical University, is working in 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, to find ways of making concrete construction more sustainable.

He figures houses can be printed in the future using 30 per cent less material.

“Why? The answer is sustainability,” Prof Salet said. “And the first way to do that is by cutting down the amount of concrete that we use.”

He explained that printing can deposit the material only where you need it – saving waste.

A new generation of start-ups in the US also are among the companies looking to bring the futuristic properties to the mainstream.

The Eindhoven home is made up of 24 concrete elements printed by a machine that squirts layer upon layer of concrete before the finishing touches, including a roof, were added.

AP
AP

The layers give a ribbed texture to its walls, inside and out.

“This is also the first one which is 100 per cent permitted by the local authorities and which is habited by people who actually pay for living in this house,” said Bas Huysmans, chief executive of construction firm Weber Benelux.

“If you look at what time we actually needed to print this house it was only 120 hours,” he said.

“So all the elements, if we would have printed them in one go, it would have taken us less than five days because the big benefit is that the printer does not need to eat, does not need to sleep, it doesn’t need to rest.

“So if we would start tomorrow, and learned how to do it, we can print the next house five days from now.”

The home is the product of collaboration between city hall, Eindhoven’s Technical University and construction companies called Project Milestone.

They are planning to build a total of five houses, honing their techniques with each one. Future homes will have more than one floor.

The process uses concrete with the consistency of toothpaste, Professor Salet revealed.

That ensures it is strong enough to build with but also wet enough so the layers stick to another.

The printed elements are hollow and filled with insulation material.

ANP/AFP via Getty Images
ANP/AFP via Getty Images

The hope is that such homes, which are quicker to build than traditional houses and use less concrete, could become a factor in solving housing shortages in the Netherlands.

In a report this month, the country’s Environmental Assessment Agency said that education and innovation can spur the construction industry in the long term.

But other measures are needed to tackle Dutch housing shortages, including reforming zoning.

Professor Salet believes 3D printing can help by digitizing the design and production of houses.

“If you ask me, will we build one 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…then my answer is yes,” he said.

Harrie 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.

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