The first school in Europe to be printed with a 3D printer is being built in Lviv's Holosko district. The new school building will open for 100 students in 2024.
Liga.Tech explains the advantages of such 3D construction, whether a 3D printer can use materials from destroyed buildings, and what else is planned to be built using this technology in Ukraine in the near future.
Where did the idea come from?
Jean-Christophe Bonis, head of the Team4UA humanitarian foundation, came up with the idea for the project during a meeting with Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi in the first months of the invasion. At that time, the city was hosting a lot of IDPs and needed to accommodate about 700,000 people, taking into account the possibility that they might stay in the city.
"During the meeting, I mentioned a technology that has become very popular in Europe over the past five years and thought, why not start printing houses? It's fast and cost-effective if you scale the project," Jean-Christophe Bonis tells Liga.Tech.
Next, the team began to study the technology, international experience, and search for partners specializing in construction 3D printing. The pilot project was a school building, the walls of which have now been erected.
What are the stages of construction?
School construction consists of five stages. The first stage is the construction of the concrete walls and parapets of the building, which has already been completed.
The second stage is the arrangement of the structure. This includes floor slabs, masonry partitions, walls and other structural elements, roofing and facade works.
The third stage includes electrical networks, water supply and sewerage networks, heating and ventilation networks, boiler room arrangement; filling of building openings: window, facade structures, doors. After that, the engineering networks are installed. In particular, underfloor heating in screeds, access control systems, connection of main communications, interior decoration of walls, ceilings, floors. The last stage is the landscaping.
The foundations, supporting frame and floor slab are made of monolithic reinforced concrete.
Particular attention was paid to the architectural concept of the school building and the surrounding landscaping, taking into account all professional standards established for school buildings, the foundation says. The construction process and the use of materials were coordinated with all the requirements specified in the state building codes. The high energy efficiency of the building was also taken into account.
How many people are involved in the construction
Five specialists were needed to operate the 3D printer: a printer operator, a concrete mix technologist, and three specialists who helped with mix preparation and post-printing concrete maintenance.
Compared to the construction of walls using monolithic reinforced concrete technology, twice as many specialists would have been needed, explains Jean-Christophe Bonis.
What are the advantages of the technology?
The most important advantage of this technology is the speed of construction, according to Team4UA. The walls of a small residential building for one family can be erected in about 48 hours.
For example, the largest building in Europe, a computer server room in Germany, was built using 3D printing in 140 hours. If you have several printers and scale up construction, you can quickly rebuild small settlements or destroyed neighborhoods, the foundation explains.
"Currently, two- and three-story buildings are being built using 3D printing, but there are already printers that can print buildings up to seven or eight floors, and we hope that soon we will be able to test this technology and apply it to the future reconstruction of the destroyed regions of Ukraine," Bonis says.
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The second significant advantage of 3D printing is the variety of architectural forms that can be realized by the printer. Starting with the design of a building by an architect, the subsequent transfer of data to a 3D printing engineer allows you to create a printing model that can be used by the printer to print walls of various shapes. This opens up wide opportunities for innovative architectural solutions that, in traditional construction, require significant financial investments.
The third advantage is the efficient use of materials and potentially lower cost compared to conventional construction. "The school we are working on has a higher cost compared to conventional construction because it is a pilot project for our team, which has invested significant effort in training and studying the technology and its practical application in Europe," says the head of the foundation.
In addition, the team faced a shift in the project's timeline. Initially, the printing was planned for October last year, but due to missile strikes and electricity problems, it had to be postponed until spring.
In general, when scaling up this type of construction, it is potentially possible to achieve a 10-15% cost reduction compared to traditional construction, Bonis concludes.
Building safety during the war
In the case of the school, 3D-printed concrete is not used as a supporting frame for the building. Its purpose is to construct the exterior and interior walls, although it has four to five times the strength of a conventional brick wall. The main supporting frame of the building is made of monolithic reinforced concrete, which meets the requirements of the current State Building Standards.
No shelter is planned for the primary school, as the distance to the high school, according to the State Building Standards, allows for the use of the high school shelter.
The use of recycled materials
Almost 95% of the materials used to prepare the concrete mix using 3D printing technology were produced in Ukraine. These include cement provided by Cemark, crushed stone, sand, and polypropylene fiber. In general, most of the materials were of domestic origin.
"As for the imported materials, we used special additives for the concrete mix, which give the concrete more plasticity to create various shapes with a 3D printer, and also accelerate its curing so that the previous layer can withstand the load of the next," says the project team.
Currently, concrete from demolished buildings is not used, as the exact formula and density of the concrete mix is required for the printing process. However, the possibility of using materials from destroyed buildings in the future, not necessarily for 3D printing, is being considered and discussed.
Construction 3D printing allows people to build not only buildings but also infrastructure facilities. "Right now, our team is working on a project to build a bridge using 3D printing technology in Kherson Oblast," says Bonis.
While they built the school on site, they plan to use a different format with the bridge: it will be printed abroad or in the western part of Ukraine, and then the finished bridge will be installed in Kherson Oblast.