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As large-scale 3-D printing evolves, buildings created by the process will be faster, cheaper, and more architecturally interesting than traditional structures. They can be built where they stand, and customizing a new design is as easy as altering a computer model. The process “allows us to digitally fabricate new material systems and building components with varied properties of density, translucency, elasticity, and much more,” says Areti Markopoulou, a professor at Barcelona’s Institute of Advanced Architecture. Imagine ovular windows as easily built as brick, or curved facades without the leakage problems that plague Frank Gehry.
At a moment when the world’s leaders are gathered in Paris trying to find a way to cut greenhouse emissions and avoid cooking the planet, there is another remarkable upside: A 3-D-printed building is much greener than a traditionally built one. WinSun estimates that its printed structures require 60 percent less material. “The duration of construction is not very long and people don’t drive back and forth to the work site,” says Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis, a professor at USC and leading innovator in large-scale 3-D printing.
A handful of other printer-architecture projects have already been completed around the world. A 26-foot-long, 10-foot-tall pavilion, called Vulcan, was printed and unveiled in Beijing earlier this year, its modular structure and threaded texture inspired by silk cocoons. Architect Yu Lei used digital fabrication throughout the design and construction process. “This development will increasingly blur the boundaries between technology and art,” he explained at the project’s launch. In Amsterdam, DUS Architects’ Canal House is an ongoing pop-up project with a series of smaller-scale experiments working toward printing a full-size traditional Dutch home. […]