Innovation happens slowly, meticulously, through trial and error, and a great amount of research. That early work often goes unseen by the majority of people, but when it is shared with the world, it can be revolutionary and change the trajectory of the industry that it aims to impact.
The future of housing construction may very well be taking place on the campus of Iowa State University. Under the leadership of Assistant Professor Pete Evans, AIA, IDSA, Julie Robison, Interim Director, IDRO, and Kevin Kane, Director, GIS Facility, in the College of Design, his team is researching the feasibility of 3D concrete printing, in the 3D Affordable Innovative Technologies Housing Project.
Why 3D printing? Initial industry analysis suggests that a 3D concrete printed home can be built faster, with less labor costs, and with a reduction in material costs. When developed, the application for such technology can impact affordable housing initiatives and when housing needs to be built in emergency situations, such as in the fallout of natural disasters.
The goal of Evans and his team is the “create a collaborative in-state ecosystem for high performing affordable housing through innovative and emerging 21st century technologies and strategies.” Other specific goals include streamlining the process for quicker to market affordable homes, and to collaborate with state and local officials to help develop housing codes for this new technology.
But simply speaking, their goal is research. “We are a research institution,” said Evans. “We are not in the business of printing 3D homes for purchase, but rather, to uncover and provide information to housing contractors and developers who may be interested in using this technology.” Evans talks about how all of their research and key understandings will be available to the design and building industry in order to eventually unlock this technology.
Funding has come from the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA). Director Debi Durham admits that the “industry is not there yet,” but adds that “in five years, I guarantee that we are going to be ready for this and it’s going to make a huge difference.” The IEDA has committed $2.14 million dollars to the project.
Evans and his team began their research in early 2022 with the acquisition of printers and related technologies. Since then, they have been incrementally conducting research, working with smaller versions of the 3D printer, developing the right mix and process. This spring, the team moved toward the printing of reasonably sized shed prototypes to test their understandings.
In addition to their 3D concrete printer on campus, they are collaborating with Iowa Central Community College, where an even larger printer resides. All of this momentum is building toward a large collaboration in Hamburg, Iowa, in the far southwest part of the state, later this summer. Brunow Contracting has committed to utilizing the 3D printing technology for one home in their development. The house will be occupied by Brunow contracting staff, and will be used for further research.
304 Main St.
Ames, Iowa 50010
Phone: (515) 232-2310
About the Ames Chamber
Centrally and conveniently located in the heart of the Midwest and Iowa, Ames is known for its healthy, stable economy, flourishing cultural environment, and the world-renowned Iowa State University.
With over 700 members, the Ames Chamber of Commerce strives to make Ames a better place to live, work, and do business by strengthening the economic vitality and the quality of life in the Ames community.