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The recyclable, 3D-printed homes could help fill the housing gap while advancing sustainable manufacturing.
Among the houses in the Pine Tree State, one Maine home stands out from the rest. A 3D-printed home has been built with wood fiber feedstock by the University of Maine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center (ASCC) in an effort to provide sustainable and affordable housing options, university officials said in a Nov. 21 announcement.
The U.S. is experiencing a housing supply shortage of 3.8 million units, according to a 2020 report from Freddie Mac, the federal mortgage assistance agency, and Maine faces a deficit of 20,000 units that continues to grow, the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition reports.
One thing Maine does have in abundance is wood. According to the Maine Tree Foundation, about 90% of the state is forested, including about 12 million acres in northern Maine where few people live.
The fully recyclable wood-fiber house can help address the affordable housing as well as labor and supply chain shortages. 3D printing enables faster manufacturing and off-site production, and the use of bio-based materials instead of concrete loosens up strains on the supply chain and revitalizes local forestry industries, officials said. Moreover, the house’s wood fiber may serve as a carbon storage and sequestration unit even after it is recycled.
BioHome3D, the 600-square-foot dwelling features walls, roof and insulation 3D printed from wood fibers and bio-resins. The house also includes sensors that collect data on thermal, environmental and structural conditions, which researchers will use to assess how the house performs through the winter and guide future design improvements.
BioHome3D was assembled in about half a day, after it was printed in four modules and moved to its location outside the ASCC facility. “Construction waste was nearly eliminated due to the precision of the printing process,” officials said, and a single electrician was able to get power running within two hours of the home’s construction.
The project demonstrates that it is possible to relatively quickly mass produce housing, “an efficiency that we’ve never experienced before,” Director of MaineHousing Daniel Brennan said. “It’s going to stretch our precious state and federal resources exponentially, and most importantly, provide—quickly—for those most in need in our state.”
Funded by the Department of Energy’s Hub and Spoke program between the University of Maine and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the project aims to accelerate the use of forest products and composite technology. MaineHousing and the Maine Technology Institute were also involved in the development and design of the home to ensure its accessibility for low-income individuals.