We need more homes and we need to reduce emissions! It’s a conundrum how to address these seemingly contradictory pressures – but the American construction company Mighty Buildings’ innovations may show us a way forward.
Emissions of construction industry
The building and construction industry accounts for more than a third of the world’s emissions, according to the United Nations. Far from reducing, these building-related emissions are growing – reaching a new high in 2021 according to a UN report published for COP27.
How can this be addressed when we need more homes?
3D Printing is one of the innovations can help. The process produces a fraction of the waste of traditional construction manufacturing, because builders simply print exactly and only what they need. It only requires a small factory with minimal space for storage materials and needs little energy during the production process, according to a report by the World Economic Forum.
3D offers the advantage of speed over traditional construction methods, with claims from 3D printer Cobod that 3D printed houses can be constructed up to 20x faster, resulting in significant time and cost savings. This speed is something to be embraced in the many countries facing significant housing shortages.
Why 3D printing?
It also has the potential to be significantly cheaper. A 2018 study in the academic journal IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering argues that 3D printing can cut costs by at least 35%. This potential cost saving has led international NGO Habitat for Humanity to pilot 3D houses.
3D printing is faster, potentially cheaper, and reduces waste, but it can only become truly sustainable if materials and processes are also ecologically sound. Some builders using green processes still rely on traditional materials, such as cement, which accounts for about 8% of the world’s emissions.
Work of Mighty Buildings
Mighty Buildings have embraced 3D printing, collaborating with leading architects to design ready-made drawing sets, optimised for cost reliability and quick assembly. But they have done more. They have addressed materials as well. Their proprietary material is, they claim, made of 60% recycled glass, is five times the strength of concrete, 70% the weight and produces fewer carbon emissions during manufacturing. They are working hard on innovating on all the materials used in their buildings and have an ambition of delivering carbon negative construction by 2028.
In September 2023 Mighty Buildings announced $52 million in additional funding so clearly investors believe in them. Their work is very much to be welcomed, as we need all the creativity and innovation possible to address our, at times competing, needs for housing and reducing emissions.
Published: 16 October 2023
Author: Jean Callanan is a strategic thinking consultant and sustainable innovation facilitator. She blogs about companies doing inspiring things to create a better world.
SDG solution: SDG 11
About ‘Green Shoots – Stories from Business for our Planet’: Green Shoots is a weekly blog by Jean Callanan that shares stories of businesses and brands doing inspiring and innovative things to address #climatechange and create a better world.