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Small community of 3D-printed concrete houses is coming to the Netherlands

NETHERLANDS — Living in a community of 3D-printed homes will soon be reality in the Dutch city of Eindhoven.

In what is considered a world first, a single-floor, three-room house made of 3D-printed concrete will be ready for occupation in 2019. More than 20 people have already registered their interest in the house since Dutch construction company Van Wijnen announced the project. It will be the first of five 3D concrete homes to be built in a wood in the district of Meerhoven.

“We need a technical revolution in the constructing area to respond to the shortage of skilled bricklayers in the Netherlands and all over the world,” Rudy van Gurp, a manager at Van Wijnen, told CNN. “3D printing makes things quicker, better, cheaper and more sustainable by using less material. It also fosters creativity and freedom in the design.”

Working along with the Eindhoven University of Technology, the construction firm is printing a special type of concrete for the house’s exterior and inner walls by adding layer upon layer.

In laying concrete only where it is needed, the amount of cement being used is significantly lower, which helps cut down on costs and environmentally destructive carbon-dioxide emissions. Van Gurp estimates that 3D-printed walls of the new houses will be 5 centimeters thick, while normally they would be about 10 to 15 centimeters.

Not only do the layers increase the walls’ strength and their acoustic and heat insulation, but they also allow for wireless sensors to be incorporated in the right place during construction, according to van Gurp.

“Smart” housing features such as wireless control of temperature, lighting and security from a smartphone app could be made more efficient and functional, van Gurp added.

While the first house will be printed off-site by the concrete printer at Eindhoven University of Technology, the other four houses included in the project will be built using an on-site printer.

The houses will look like “erratic blocks in a green landscape,” and their unusual design “can be realized thanks to one of the key features of 3D-printing: the ability to construct almost any shape,” according to a press release.

At the moment, research costs and regulation restraints outweigh the benefits of 3D houses, but we may see mass production of these in the next few years, van Gurp said.

One of the appealing points is the ability for the owners or renters to “make their own twist to the house facade or design,” van Gurp said, envisioning a future “where people will be able to design their own homes and then print them as they suit them best.”

The houses will not be on sale, though, but rented out by Vesteda, a real estate company, after undergoing the necessary safety testing.