Made in Windsor: When will we see Canada’s first 3D-printed residential homes?

A team of researchers from the University of Windsor has partnered with the local Habitat for Humanity to build four 3D-printed homes for residential use in Windsor-Essex.

Officials with the Centre for Engineering Innovation and Habitat for Humanity Windsor-Essex say they’ll be the first 3D-printed residential homes in Canada.

“Habitat for Humanity believes everyone has the right to a safe, decent, affordable place to live,” says Fiona Coughlin, executive director and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Windsor-Essex.

“As this cutting-edge technology is evolving, we are excited to partner with the University of Windsor to find ways to provide housing solutions in our community.”

Coughlin states that current building codes in Canada do not have these novel 3D-printing technologies in mind and that one of the goals of this collaboration is to design a 3D-printed home that meets residential building code requirements. Coughlin hopes it will produce “landmark precedents” for future cost-effective and environmentally sustainable practices in home construction across the country.

Civil engineering professor and University of Windsor project lead, Dr. Sreekanta Das, explains the project will help address the need for a more affordable and environmentally sustainable housing market.

“Traditional concrete construction requires more materials,” Das says. “Panels, usually made of wood, are used to create enclosures into which concrete can be poured to form a mold. With 3D printing, the need for panels is eliminated, eventually making construction much cheaper and faster.”

A team of engineering graduate students and laboratory technicians will work alongside Dr. Das and will 3D print concrete segments on a large-scale, industrial printer in the university’s Structural Engineering Testing Lab — one of the largest and tallest in Canada — and test them exhaustively for strength, sustainability and durability to ensure they’re safe for residential use.

Das says 3D-printed construction significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions generated by the construction industry, saying a house can be printed with as little as three people within a significantly shorter timeframe and at a much lower cost.

Das predicts that once construction processes are perfected, multiple homes can be printed within a few days.

The goal is to have the four homes built by April 2022.