14Trees to build largest 3D printed affordable housing project in Kenya

14Trees, a joint venture between building materials specialist LafargeHolcim and CDC Group, the UK’s publicly owned impact investor, is building Africa’s largest 3D printed affordable housing project in Kenya.

The 52 house community will be located in Kilifi town, north of Mombasa, and will be part of the Green Heart of Kenya regenerative ecosystem, supporting Kenya President Kenyatta’s “Big 4” agenda to increase affordable housing in the region. 

“We are excited to be building one of the world’s largest 3D printed affordable housing projects in Kenya,” Jan Jenisch, CEO at Holcim. “With today’s rapid urbanization, over three billion people are expected to need affordable housing by 2030. This issue is most acute in Africa, with countries like Kenya already facing an estimated shortage of two million houses.

“By deploying 3D printing, we can address this infrastructure gap at scale to increase living standards for all.”

A render of one of the homes in the Mvule Gardens complex. Image via 14Trees.
A render of one of the homes in the Mvule Gardens complex. Image via 14Trees.

Solving Africa’s housing crisis

14Trees first embarked upon its mission to build affordable and low-carbon housing and schools in Africa last year, starting with a prototype house in Lilongwe, and a school in Salima, Malawi. Completed in July in just 12 hours, the Salima school is reportedly the world’s first 3D printed school and has already welcomed students through its doors. 

The project was rolled out to Zimbabwe earlier this year to address the country’s chronic housing and infrastructure shortage and to showcase the capabilities of 3D printing for construction. 

Now, 14Trees is extending its 3D printed affordable housing project to Kenya as it continues to support Africa’s construction sector and develop 3D printing technology across the continent. 

A render of the front of one of the 3D printed houses. Image  via 14Trees.
A render of the front of one of the 3D printed houses. Image via 14Trees.

The 3D printed Keynan neighborhood

14Trees’ 3D printing construction project utilizes Holcim’s proprietary ink, TectorPrint, combined with a BOD2 robotic 3D construction printer provided by Danish 3D printing construction firm COBOD. The combination reportedly reduces the environmental footprint by more than 50 percent compared to traditional construction processes, and emits lower CO2 emissions than standard methods of cement production. 

TectorPrint gives the 3D printed walls the structural function to bear the load of the building, while the BOD2 is capable of printing concrete structures up to 10 meters in length and width, and three meters in height. 

COBOD’s robotic construction 3D printers have previously been deployed for several high-profile 3D printing projects, including the first 3D printed commercial apartment building in Germany, and the first “record-tall” 10-meter concrete wind turbine tower base alongside LafargeHolcim and GE Renewable Energy.

The new complex in Kenya, called Mvule Gardens, will see 52 affordable homes built using 14Trees’ 3D printing technology. The complex has been purpose-designed by the US-Africa-based architectural firm MASS Design Group, which seeks to provide modern and replicable housing units adapted to the needs of underserved communities among lower-income households.

14Trees ability to provide a rapid and economical method of solving Africa’s housing deficit, which is estimated at some 50 million units, will also help to create locally-based skilled jobs within sustainability and 3D technology, as well as other areas. 

The project has won the IFC-EDGE advanced sustainable design certification, which recognizes resource-efficient and zero-carbon buildings, with construction starting in the first quarter of 2022.

“14Trees is pioneering the use of leading-edge technology to address one of Africa’s most pressing development needs – affordable housing – to create life-changing infrastructure for whole communities,” said Tenbite Ermias, Head of Africa and Africa Managing Director at CDC Group.

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Featured image shows a render of one of the homes in the Mvule Gardens complex. Image via 14Trees.