Home Applications & Case Studies University of Texas at Arlington: 3D printing of houses made of cork...

University of Texas at Arlington: 3D printing of houses made of cork and concrete

Shadi Nazarian, an architecture professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, is part of an interdisciplinary team exploring the possibilities of 3D printing homes in rural Alaska to create affordable, sustainable and resilient housing.

Nazarian and her team plan to print these homes using an innovative mix of cork and concrete. This unique method is specifically adapted to Alaska’s frozen soils, making the structure lightweight and superbly insulated. This innovation allows the homes to be built quickly while reducing costs and labor. Nazarian’s long-term goal is to develop seamless transitional materials that can be printed on a large scale to make housing construction more energy efficient, affordable and accessible in remote areas.

“Part of the goal is to think about how to build quickly and well enough for people to be safe and healthy, as the number of people living on Earth will dramatically increase in the next 20 years,” said Nazarian, the inaugural H. Ralph Hawkins, FAIA, Chair in Architecture.

This technology could ultimately help address affordable housing issues in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, where real estate prices continue to rise.

The project in Alaska was initiated by the Xtreme Habitat Institute (XHI), an Alaskan non-profit organization that approached Nazarian and her team after their successful participation in the NASA 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge Competition. The goal of the competition was to promote the adoption of additive building technologies and develop printable systems that utilize indigenous materials.

Nazarian’s team won several awards and was the only one in the finals of the competition with an all-university lineup of faculty members and students. They created the world’s first fully enclosed 3D-printed concrete structure without relying on a support structure or formwork.

The project in Alaska is supported in part by a $1.6 million grant program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Denali Commission, the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation and the Rasmuson Foundation. A portion of this funding was provided to the remote Alaskan city of Nome, which contracted XHI to conduct research, testing and demonstrations of 3D concrete printing technologies.

“Advancing construction technology and developing 3D printing is a necessity because it enables us to achieve the goals of providing housing much faster, safer and stronger,” she said.

XHI is collaborating on the project with X-Hab 3D, a robotic concrete additive manufacturing company co-founded by Nazarian that provides printing systems, materials and designs. Other partners include Sven Bilén, professor at Penn State and co-founder of X-Hab 3D, Nate Watson, vice president of engineering and product at X-Hab 3D, and José Duarte, professor at Penn State and co-founder of X-Hab 3D. Penn State professors Ali Memari and Aleksandra Radlińsk and their graduate students and the Cold Climate Housing Research Center at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory will also work on the project.

Nazarian joined UTA last fall and will lead expanded initiatives in research on sustainable materials and manufacturing techniques, as well as continue her research on sustainable concrete materials.

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