3D Printing

What is 3D Printing?

3D Printing is a revolutionary step in the development, construction and manufacture of many different materials. The aspect appealing to a LEED Accredited professional centers on printing uniform building components. 3D printing refers to the process of electronically designing a shape using a programmed printer, which expels a liquid material in the predefined shape to harden into a finished product. Many promising aspects of 3D printing present an attractive and popular alternative for LEED professionals.

Why is it Popular?

The popularity of 3D printing, with any emergent technology swells as new developments arise. The key areas of development for 3D printing include;

  • Cement construction
  • Organ printing
  • Textile printing
  • Plastic printing
  • Composite Metal Printing
  • Bespoke manufacturing.

Perhaps the most compelling of the above reasons rests on the ability to manipulate files and designs to build precisely what is required. Waiting for the delivery and construction of a onetime custom piece is drastically eliminated. A 3D printer contains the ability to form any shape the material printed can take. The dimensions of a 3D printer determine the largest single piece for construction. Control and detail are the primary benefits of 3D printing.

Benefits for LEED Professionals

There are two major benefits for LEED Professionals;

  • Cost efficiency
  • Construction Time


The development and design of 3D printed materials presents cost beneficial aspects. The cost of the materials is often reduced due to the lack of other manufacturing. The materials in 3D printing for buildings consist primarily of concrete. A design is developed in an applicable program to send a design to the 3D printer. Once the design is set to print, the printer follows the design, laying the concrete mixture into predetermined designs. The major costs in building centers on the raw material to fill the printer. A great method of reducing cost centers on the reuse of prior building materials in the concrete mixture.

Enhancing the cost benefits further pertains to the lack of other manufacturing. Currently, it is impossible to construct an entire building from a single continuous 3D printing process. The individual pieces require fastening together. Yet, the construction requires far less work than traditional carpentry-centered construction.

The cost is reduced specifically during the on-site manufacturing of bespoke or custom designs. No longer will a sustainability designer have to commission the special and expensive development of a onetime custom application. 3D printing is able to build nearly any structure and shape a designer can envision. There is no need to commission a specialized installation.

Construction Time

The benefits of cost reductions also greatly improve the time under construction. As mentioned, the designer only has to wait for the printer to finish the given task.

Where construction professionals require breaks and shifts, the 3D printer can continuously print materials and allow drying without the need for breaks and rest. The only issue for downtime in regards to 3D printing construction pertains to the supply of materials and drying time. Developing and incorporating drying time into the printing process becomes a concern for the efficient and rapid minded developer.

A company in China, Winsun, is able to produce 10 houses in fewer than 24 hours using 3D printing techniques. The company prints sections of materials comprising the walls and roofs. People are still required to weld the panels together and run electrical and plumbing systems. These activities take up much less time than pouring a foundation and constructing the studs, drywall and flooring. 3D construction streamlines all of the previous examples by producing multiple uniform elements on a continuous stream.

The First 3D Printed Building, and other Green Uses

The United Arab Emirates, specifically Dubai, constructed and opened the first ever 3D printed Office Building with 250 square meters. The printer had to be large to build the office building and it is 20ft X 120ft X 40ft. The facility arrives with a complete compliment of modern technologies including;

  • Air conditioning
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical
  • Telecommunications

The project was too large to rely on even a solo massive printer. The construction required the use of multiple mobile onsite 3D printers to ensure the finished materials were exactly as needed.

The construction of panels occupied 17 days, ready to install onsite. Afterwards, the interior and exterior designs were determined. The onsite construction occurred in a scant 2 days. In under 20 days, with the aid of 3D printing, the city of Dubai was able to construct a Class A Office building. This comprises a much faster rate than the traditional method. Sheikh Mohammed, the president of Dubai, envisions “… as a case study that will benefit regulators as well as research and development centers… of the real application of 3D printers. We are documenting and building on it to take advantage of… lessons, which serve as reference points to take the technology to new levels”

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