Is 3D Construction Printing an Eco-Friendly Solution for Cities of the Future?

By Camilo Lopez, Urban Designer at RMA

As more and more people move to cities, city leaders need to think creatively to innovate and improve their citizens lives by maximizing limited land/natural resources and utilizing arising technologies. In a world filled with vast amounts of information, it is imperative to think clearly and set the right vision with principles to achieve goals that benefit people, the environment, and the economy.

One arising technology is 3D Construction Printing which generally refers to various technologies that use 3D printing as a core method to fabricate buildings or construction components. 3D construction printing is often associated with green and sustainable solutions, which are useful and beneficial for our cities and people since they reduce pollution, lower greenhouse gas emissions, conserve natural resources, improve air and water quality, improve quality of life, and improve health and comfort, according to the World Green Building Council.

How does 3D Construction Printing (3DCP) help the environment?

3D printing is a fairly recent technology at the scale of constructing habitable spaces, making it early in the process to comprehensively measure its environmental and end user benefits. However, we can say that this technology from a construction industry point of view has the potential to diminish transportation impacts, reduce costs, decrease labor requirements, conserve energy, and increase overall project efficiency. Looking at it from the actual building product, it may benefit the environment in a variety of ways: by having a water collection system, maximizing natural light, utilizing less energy, utilizing solar, having a smaller footprint, using non-harmful materials, embedding natural landscape to give life and continuity to the natural world, producing its own food supply and using recyclable materials. Although 3DCP has some environmental benefits within its product by consequence, we must also look at its social impact; the relationship between the person making the product and the product itself. Because we know that 3DCP replaces manual labor with a robot.

What steps can City Leaders take to make a real impact on the environment?

Leaders should be bold and stay true to the established vision, especially concerning green and sustainable solutions that benefit the community. They must be able to formulate policies that preserve and improve local environmental conditions, helping constituents have a better and healthier quality of life while also benefitting the environment. How can they achieve this? The first step is educating team members and the community and staying updated on current successful practices and emerging technologies – such as 3DCP. Next, create a technical team to look at current sustainability efforts and ways to expand them. This group should be involved in all new development projects and be qualified to provide recommendation. Many cities accomplish this by creating a dedicated Sustainability division/team.

June 5 is World Environment Day, a cause to create global consciousness about the things that we create and how that affects the places that sustains our lives. It is important to remember that the environment produces all the necessary things that we need to survive; therefore, we should strive to work and function in the best interest of the natural world. What benefits the environment will also benefits us!