Back to basics: 3-D printing dirt may be the future of construction

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In Ravenna, Italy, Mario Cucinella Architects has used massive 3-D printers and dirt to create a house in what could be an inexpensive and sustainable solution for homelessness.  The 645-square-foot domed domicile—dubbed Tecla for “TEChnology and CLay”—took over 200 hours to “print.” 

Firm founder Mario Cucinella tells Fast Company that replacing concrete with dirt greatly reduces the carbon footprint of construction.   “There’s a long history of architecture made by mud, like adobe,” he says. “This is a palette used everywhere in the world. I think this combination expresses the idea that reducing the ecological footprint is not only about high tech, but a mix between new tools and an old material.” 

Even emissions related to transportation are reduced, since local soil can be used for printing in many cases. The soil is excavated, filtered, and mixed with water and rice husks. Performance tests are currently underway. 

“The idea is not to have the same house everywhere, because the machine can print any kind of house,” Cucinella adds.