3D-printed buildings: Expect taller buildings that clean the air

3D office, Dubai Dubai already has the world’s first 3D-printed office building, spread across 2,690 square feet where even the furnishings and interior design are 3D printed. (Reuters Photo)

What started off as a quicker means to mass produce small plastic toys is now becoming the norm for constructing buildings. Across the world, 3D-printing is being used to quickly construct buildings. Dubai already has the world’s first 3D-printed office building, spread across 2,690 square feet where even the furnishings and interior design are 3D printed. Rivalling that is China’s Jiangsu province where a five-story apartment block was 3D printed. The printer builds layers of ‘ink’ comprising a mix of glass fibre, steel, cement, hardening agents and recycled building waste. The advantages that 3D printing offers include faster construction, lower costs, reduced construction waste and the ability to use recycled materials.

Adding muscle to 3D printing for buildings is New York-based engineering materials and solutions company Arconic that plans to build a smog-eating, three-mile high skyscraper using 3D printing by, hold your breath, 2062. It plans to use EcoClean, a titanium dioxide-based coating, for aluminium which can absorb toxins from the air. The chemicals in the coating produce free radicals that pull the pollutants from the air and slide it off the building. So, you get cleaner air in taller buildings that can be constructed faster. While that may seem to be too far out into the future, Dubai has envisioned to 3D print a quarter of the city’s buildings by 2030. Obviously, that means fewer jobs for construction labourers, the second-largest work force in India after farmers. The next generation of construction labour will need to find newer jobs or up-skill quickly.

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