Kootenay company uses 3D printer to build affordable housing – Boundary Creek Times
Ian Comishin was scouring the internet when a video he describes as clickbait caught his eye.
The video pioneered the use of 3D printers to make houses, but no one seemed to know what they were doing.
“They were building this weird stuff that really looked like little office printers and just trying to make it bigger and bigger,” says Comishin.
Comishin thought he could improve the idea. He had experience in automation, having just sold a company that made wind turbine blades, and was looking for a new project.
In 2018, Comishin co-founded Twente Additive Manufacturing (TAM) with five others in the Netherlands, and a year later he moved to the Kootenays where he was born and raised. In the small community of Procter east of Nelson, Comishin and his employees have just completed TAM’s first house built using a 3D printer of his own design called the Fibonacci House.
TAM isn’t the first North American company to build a house using a 3D printer – that honor belongs to Texas-based ICON. But it’s the first Canadian company to develop the technology, which uses custom concrete mixes to build cavity walls that can then be filled with insulation.
The process is also fast. The printer builds walls like a baker puts icing on a cake, the mixture coming out of a nozzle as it comes and goes, gradually forming layers. For the 300-square-foot Fibonacci house, Comishin says printing took five days, followed by eight to ten days of laying the pieces.
“One of the great things about 3D printing is that once we have a really functional building design, you can print the same thing in Africa, South America, or the Northwest Territories for exactly the same effort as to print it here, ”says Comishin.
“It’s really setting up the machine, pushing the game. It will be a great catalyst for this technology.
It’s technology that a Canadian charity hopes to bring affordable housing to the world.
Vancouver-based World Housing, which has built affordable housing in seven different countries since 2013, has partnered with TAM to print five approximately 975 square foot homes in Procter that will be provided to single mothers in need.
If the project is successful, World Housing plans to use the same model in remote communities where General Manager Don McQuaid said a 3D printer would help overcome construction barriers such as transportation and the short seasons of construction. construction.
“We believe that one machine, two operators and the right ground support could significantly reduce costs,” says McQuaid. “The technology has yet to be proven in this direction, but it has to be where it is going.”
Although TAM is exploring markets in the Middle East and Europe, Comishin wants to see houses built with his printer closer to his home.
The lack of affordable housing is an urgent problem in Nelson, which had a vacancy rate of 0.5% in 2020. It is also a problem across British Columbia, where the provincial government is investing $ 2 billion in middle-income households. The federal government also announced that $ 2.4 billion over five years will be devoted to increasing the supply of housing in Canada.
“There are so many studies that show how a safe living space contributes to almost everything else in people’s lives…” says Comishin. “Whatever path to success they are trying to take, it’s easier to walk when they have like a safe and healthy environment to fall asleep every night.”
But there are still issues to be resolved.
Comishin said the Fibonacci house was printed without right angles, but the lack of straight lines in the house made it difficult for other crafts to work. And although the house was printed relatively quickly, it took over a year to complete while TAM waited for contractors to visit the site.
Part of the problem, Comishin said, is the construction industry, which is slow to adopt new techniques and is constrained by slow building code updates.
“There’s this process of thousands of years of house building going on. It just changed very slowly over time, ”says Comishin.
“Any sort of disruptive technology like this doesn’t immediately stand out as something these guys are going to get into. “
For now, the Fibonacci house is complete and is being used as Airbnb, with the proceeds being used to fund the next five houses. Comishin said he hopes development will stall this year.
One day, he believes, 3D printers will be as common on construction sites as excavators.
“Everyone is going to have one of these things.”
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