Just outside of Bologna, work is advancing on an ambitious construction 3D printing project spearheaded by Italian company WASP and Mario Cucinella Architects. Together, the companies are constructing the first prototype of a sustainable, 3D printed habitat called TECLA.
If you are familiar with WASP, you’ll know that the Italian 3D printing company has been interested in large-scale printing and construction for some time. In 2016, for instance, it announced its plans to construct an experimental eco village using its 12-meter-tall BigDelta 3D printer. Last year, the company showcased its construction capabilities with the completion of the Gaia house, which was made on a materials budget of just $900. Its TECLA project, however, is arguably its most ambitious construction initiative yet.
With an ever-increasing global population and strain being put on the Earth’s natural resources, there is an urgent need to find housing solutions that are not only affordable but also sustainable. Interestingly, 3D printing seems to be at the center of several proposed housing solutions (just look at ICON, Project Milestone or Contour Crafting).
In TECLA’s case, WASP’s on-site 3D construction technology, Crane WASP, is constructing housing structures made from local materials, which are reusable and recyclable. The project, which “broke ground” in September 2019 in Massa Lombarda, is expected to be complete in early 2020.
“WASP takes inspiration from the potter wasp,” said Massimo Moretti, CEO of WASP. “We build 3D printed houses using earth found on the spot, under a sustainable perspective. The oldest material and a state-of-the-art technology merge to give new hope to the world. Gaia, our first 3D printed house made with raw earth, was born a year ago. Today with our partners we are printing TECLA an entire eco-sustainable habitat. The planet is asking for a joint project that we share with Mario Cucinella.”
The TECLA structures themselves, characterized by a rounded, hut-like shape, were designed by Mario Cucinella Architects, a Bologna-based architecture firm with global operations. The School of Sustainability—a professional school founded by Mario Cucinella—also provided vital insight into the project.
The locally sourced building material was developed in collaboration with Mapei, a producer of construction materials, which analyzed the local clay and adapted it to create a “highly optimized printable product.” To ensure the integrity of the printed material, engineering consultancy Milan Ingegneria conducted structural tests and helped to optimize the shape of the structure. Other partners include Capoferri, Frassinago, RiceHouse and Lucifero’s.
“Together with WASP, we aim at developing an innovative 3D printed prototype for a habitat that responds to the increasingly urgent climate revolution and the needs of changes dictated by community needs,” said Cucinella. “We need a paradigm shift in the field of architecture that gets closer to the needs of people, thus finding an answer for the ‘Earth’ within the ‘earth’. A collaboration that becomes the union between empathic architecture and the application of new technologies.”
Building on WASP’s previous experience with construction and large-scale 3D printing, TECLA will reportedly be the first habitat to be built using multiple 3D printers working in collaboration. The use of various large-scale 3D printers will allow for WASP to achieve a larger scale. Ultimately, WASP hopes to demonstrate a viable solution for constructing off-the-grid, sustainable communities.