Researchers have 3D-printed made entirely from natural materials that can be recycled at the end of the home’s lifecycle. This project was designed to innovate a “factory of the future” for producing recyclable sustainable homes built with 3D printing technology.

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A 3D printed one-story home

University of Maine researchers created this 600-square-feet home from wood fibers and bio resins from sawmill waste. It’s a challenging idea: create a home with a new construction method using new materials that have yet to be tested for their longevity. In addition, make the entire thing not only fully recyclable, but also sourcing materials from waste. Pretty impressive, really, the thought that went into this new home model.

Related: 3D-printed tiny homes are made from recycled plastic

The front door and porch of a home

Current 3D home building technology relies on high-emissions materials such as concrete for 3D printing walls. This new model doesn’t rely on concrete, replacing it with wood components except for the foundation. Maine governor Janet Mills said homes like these could help provide a climate-friendly solution to the state’s housing shortage of 20,000 units.

An interior living room with wooden walls

Can you 3D print your own home?

The short answer is not yet, because the technology is still expensive. It’s more cost effective to work with a company that can scale their use of machinery to build thousands of homes. The BioHome3D, as it’s called, is a one-bedroom, one-bath bungalow with curved ceilings inside. The home was printed in four modules and assembled on site in half a day. It took an electrician just two hours to wire the home.

The University of Maine researchers who built the BioHome3D hope to bring 3D printing time down to two days to create a quick solution to housing shortages. In the meantime, they’re monitoring how the materials used to build the home hold up in various weather conditions.

A bathroom with a standing shower

Would you want a 3D printed house?

According to the United Nations Environment Program, construction and materials account for 11% of global carbon emissions. Concrete is a big chunk of that number. Cement production generates about 2.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year, or 8% of the global total. Cement also consumes nearly a tenth of the world’s industrial water supplies and a good amount of the world’s sand.

A bedroom with wooden walls

The BioHome3D sits on a concrete foundation, but most of it is printed from something called wood flour, or sawdust left over from sawmill operations.

A hallway that opens into the bathroom and the bedroom

“There’s 1.2 million tons of wood residuals in our sawmills right now in the region that could go to print housing,” Habib Dagher, executive director of the university’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center, told the crowd gathered for the unveiling.

As the global construction industry goes green, we expect to see more innovative uses of waste products that are renewable sources of building materials. Many companies are just in the phase of testing materials and concepts for a few years to make sure their products are reliable over time before scaling up to address the housing crisis.

+ The University of Maine

Images via BioHome