What Might Be the World's First 3-D Printed House Is Being Built in Amsterdam

If the experiment works, sustainable housing solutions could be push-button ready.
Apr 1, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

If a Netherlands-based effort to build the world’s first 3-D printed house is a success, future generations might not associate the phrase “going Dutch” with paying a restaurant check. An exhibition, research, and building project dubbed the 3D Print Canal House is taking shape in Amsterdam.

It's understandable if you think this sounds like just another crazy example of the wonders of 3-D printing. Some uses of the innovative technology don’t seem all that helpful to the average person, or they just come off as gross—3-D printed food, anyone? But this printed house project has generated so much interest that even President Obama checked out a prototype last week when he was in Amsterdam. And Dus Architecture, the firm that's spearheading the project, hopes it'll catalyze sustainable housing solutions.

“The building industry is one of the most polluting and inefficient industries out there,” Hedwig Heinsman of Dus told The Guardian. “With 3D-printing, there is zero waste, reduced transportation costs, and everything can be melted down and recycled. This could revolutionize how we make our cities.”

To make that revolution a reality, Dus partnered with German chemical manufacturer Henkel to “develop a renewable, sustainable, strong, tactile and beautiful material that can compete with current building techniques.” As a result, the house is constructed of a bio-plastic material that's 75 percent plant oil mixed with wood fibers.

The construction is enabled by a gigantic 3-D printer called a KamerMaker. The 20-foot-tall machine releases the building material according to a preprogrammed design. It takes a little more than a week to print out a gigantic block-like section of the house. Once the blocks, which weigh about 400 pounds each, are produced, they fit together like Legos.

Ready to move in? Dus doesn’t expect this model of the house to be fully habitable when it’s finished. It plans to experiment over the next few years to see what techniques and materials work best with 3-D printing technology.