TAKE A LOOK | 3D printed homes and schools are coming to Africa

Business Insider SA

3D printed house school Africa
3D printed structure, Malawi (Image supplied)
  • 3D printed homes can be completed in just 12 hours, compared to four days using normal construction methods.
  • Reducing the structure’s carbon footprint by 70%, a UK-backed firm is dedicating more than R30 billion to fight climate change in Africa and Asia.
  • A school and house already printed in Malawi is the first phase of a project which will be rolled out to Kenya and Zimbabwe.
  • While start-up costs are high, modest houses can be printed for under R140,000.
  • For more articles, go to

Homes and schools constructed in mere hours, with carbon footprints reduced by 70%, are being rolled out across Africa as part of an innovative 3D printing programme. Cutting time and reliance on carbon-heavy resources, the project’s initial rollout in Malawi, which has a shortage of 36,000 classrooms, is expected to be expanded into Kenya and Zimbabwe in the near future.

Malawi’s burgeoning backlog, which, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) would take an estimated 70 years to clear with conventional building methods, can be solved in under a decade through the use of 3D printing technology. This is the aim of 14Trees, a joint venture between Swiss-based building material manufacturer, LafargeHolcim, and the UK’s development finance institution, CDC Group.

3D printed house school Africa
3D printed structure, Malawi (Image supplied)

CDC Group, funded by the UK government, is expected to invest more than R30 billion in Africa and Asia as part of its push towards fighting climate change and creating job opportunities in 2021. This includes addressing Africa’s chronic shortage of housing and school infrastructure.

Using locally produced printable cement, concrete and mortar materials created by LafargeHolcim’s research and development department, 14Trees creates solid, multiroom structures in a fraction of the time required by traditional construction firms. The first prototype house, printed in Malawi’s capital of Lilongwe, was completed in 12 hours compared to the four days it would’ve taken a conventional building crew.

3D printed house school Africa
3D printed structure, Malawi (Image supplied)

Similarly, a multiroom school in Salima took just 18 hours to build through the use of 3D printing technology.

“This is a great example of our commitment to build for people and the planet,” says Miljan Gutovic, Region Head and LafargeHolcim Executive Committee member.

“Starting in Malawi, we will deploy this technology across the broader region with projects already in the pipeline in Kenya and Zimbabwe.”

The Vulcan 3D printer, which was recently named as one the world’s greatest inventions by TIME magazine, is the preferred tool when printing houses and other liveable structures. Standing almost four metres tall and eight metres wide, this printer has the ability to churn out 7 inches of building material every second.

3D printed house school Africa
3D printed structure, Malawi (Image supplied)

While materials and running expenses are regarded as affordable housing solutions, start-up costs, including the purchase of an industrial sized 3D printer used for constructing houses, range upwards of R1.5 million. Using Cobod 3D technology, 14trees aims to print average sized structures – around 46 m² – for under R140,000.

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