Chinese Company Creates 3D Printed Buildings

3D printed buildingA collection of 10 small buildings were recently constructed in the suburban Qingpu District of Shanghai using additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3D printing, rather than traditional building methods. The 10 structures are intended to be used as office spaces. They were the first 3D printed buildings constructed in China.

A 3D printer created successive 2-centimeter thick layers of material to construct the buildings in a single day. The technology uses “ink” that consists of a combination of sand, concrete, and glass fiber. The team bought parts of the 3D printer abroad and constructed the machine in a factory in Suzhou. The printer measures 22 feet tall, 33 feet wide, and 105 feet long.

The materials used to print the buildings were originally industrial construction waste. The materials are lighter than those commonly used in construction projects, but they are five times as hard. The layers are firmly connected to prevent them from separating, deforming, or collapsing.

The walls are hollow, and the ones with beam columns are 3D printed with steel bars inside. Concrete can then be poured directly into the walls. This process dramatically reduces the amount of construction material needed.

The buildings can be 3D printed on-site, or the walls can be printed at a factory and transported to the construction site. Cranes can be used to stack the pieces to assemble the buildings.

Design software AutoCAD Architecture was used to plan the buildings. The software took into account the need for plumbing, electrical systems, insulation, and windows that were to be added after the structures were built.

Ma Yihe, CEO of Shanghai Yingchuang Design & Engineering Co., which was behind the project, wants to create more centers to recycle construction waste material in China. He is currently applying for a patent.

The technology needs to undergo more testing to evaluate its strength and performance before it can be used on a wider scale. For now, it will be used to build temporary structures.

Modular Classrooms Get Upgrades

modular classroomModular classrooms have become a necessity for many school districts across the country. According to the Modular Building Institute, about 260,000 classrooms across the United States are in “relocatable” buildings that were partially or completely constructed in manufacturing facilities and are intended to be reused multiple times at different sites.

Portable classrooms offer several advantages. They allow school districts to deal with fluctuating enrollment quickly and cost-effectively. Since most of the construction occurs off-site, portable classrooms are easy to build. They are less expensive than traditional school buildings, and they can often be purchased with funds from operations and maintenance budgets, rather than going through the bond-approval process.

Traditional modular classrooms have limitations. They often have poor ventilation, excessive noise, uncomfortable temperatures, low levels of light, and high concentrations of formaldehyde.

Several companies have recently begun creating portable classroom buildings that address these shortcomings. The new green buildings have energy-recovery ventilators, no or very low levels of volatile organic compounds, better daylight, energy-efficient window glazing, LED lighting, and other features. Modular classrooms sometimes have structural materials exposed, which reduces materials costs and also allows teachers to explain how the buildings were constructed and how they function.

The nonprofit SEED (Sustainable Education Every Day) Collaborative has set goals to meet the criteria of the Living Building Challenge, which is administered by the International Living Future Institute and surpasses LEED requirements. A project must meet 20 difficult imperatives in order to be designated a Living Building. It must produce enough energy to meet or exceed demand for a year, and it must not use 14 prohibited substances commonly found in portable classrooms. The new portable classrooms are also designed to last longer than older versions, which were usually only intended to be used for five to 10 years. Energy-efficient features make them more expensive, but they usually pay for themselves in terms of lower energy and maintenance costs.