Construction

Innovative 3D printed ‘fungi home’ and Apis Cor’s ‘Impreza’ score big at architecture awards

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Australian architecture firm Simulaa and Boston-based construction company Apis Cor have gained prestigious local awards for the innovative designs behind their latest 3D printed housing projects. 

Known as ‘Impreza,’ Apis Cor’s exotic $750,000 home, complete with loft, decking and a water feature, has been recognized by the Home Builders & Contractors Association of Brevard (HBCA). Simulaa, on the other hand, has 3D printed a fungi-infused structure which is designed to decompose, signifying the slow passage of time, a metaphor that has won it top prize at the Tallinn Architecture Biennale.

“[Our] project curates an uneasy alliance between biological transformations and the performance of a generative algorithm,” said the Simulaa design team. “Through this measured process, the project seeks to heighten this state of flux, expressed in the object’s material decay that is in the tension between its emerging and eroding form.”

Simulaa's 3D printed mushroom-infused 'Burlasite.' Photo via Simulaa.
Simulaa’s 3D printed mushroom-infused ‘Burlasite.’ Photo via Simulaa.

Living on the ‘U.S. Space Coast’ 

Featuring a distinctive, flowing organic-inspired outer structure, Apis Cor’s Impreza is the first home of its kind to be 3D printed along the ‘U.S Space Coast,’ an area famed for its aerospace innovation. Inside, the firm has continued this nature-led theme, fitting the house with an eco-friendly interior that allows natural light to flow freely between its rooms. 

The Impreza itself was built using the company’s ‘Frank’ robotic 3D printer, which can be moved freely around construction sites, in a way that enables it to erect buildings up to three storeys tall. In the past, the technology’s rapid pace has seen it construct entire buildings in one day, and Apis Cor says that it has the potential to address the time, cost, waste and inflexibility of normal construction methods. 

Although it is currently unclear whether the Impreza build has begun in earnest at its Brevard County site, the unique 3D printed home will reportedly be listed for $750,000 on the U.S. market once finished. In the meantime, Apis Cor has already gained the Diamond Award for the creative approach it has taken to its luxury building’s design, as part of the HBCA’s wider annual Parade of Homes competition. 

Apis Cor's technology was previously used to 3D print a house in Stupino. Photo via Apis Cor.
Apis Cor’s technology was previously used to 3D print a house in Stupino. Photo via Apis Cor.

Simulaa’s biodegradable building

Over in Estonia, Simulaa has also partnered with design engineer Natalie Alima to 3D print a mushroom-infused piece of architecture called ‘Burlasite,’ that’s built to decompose over time. Comprising a timber frame, that’s been imbued with tiny mycelial fibers, the structure’s fungi is designed to grow and encompass its wood base, before decaying in an algorithmic process leaving behind a tree-like ‘stump.’

Constructed entirely from mushroom and the timber industry’s waste byproducts like offcuts and sawdust, the building has been designed from the ground up to be an ideal habitat for mycelial growth, and is said to feature a sculpted external ‘wall’ which facilitates this, much like clinical bio-scaffolds do.

“The initial design has been adapted to the needs of the mycelial colony, in the same way it would for the human occupant of a building,” said the Simulaa team. “Subsequently, during construction and over the course of its exhibition, the mycelia will augment the design, making changes to its form and the environment, feeding on the structure as it grows and ‘consumes’.”

Having erected their fungi den in August 2021, the Simulaa team is now expecting it to reach full growth at some point this month, before it begins to decompose due to on-site seasonal changes. In doing so, the researchers hope that “its heightened state of flux expresses the tension between its emerging and eroding forms,” in keeping with their plans to transform it into a “both non-human and human” home.

Built using an undisclosed 3D printer-integrated robotic system, as an entry for Estonia’s Tallinn Biennale, the structure is tailored to address this year’s “Edible; Or, The Architecture of Metabolism,” theme. Now that curators Gwyllim Jahn, Cameron Newnham, Soomeen Hahm Design and Igor Pantic have awarded the Burlasite top prize for the contest, it will remain on display at the exhibition until 2024. 

Simulaa's 3D printed 'Burlasite' at the exhibition.
Simulaa’s award-winning 3D printed ‘Burlasite’ design will be exhibited until 2024. Photo via Simulaa.

Eco-friendly AM at scale 

As construction 3D printing firms continue to scale the capabilities of their technologies, many are beginning to deploy them as a means of creating more sustainable infrastructure. In Italy, WASP has partnered with design firm Mario Cucinella Architects to build its TECLA 3D printed eco-house, which is constructed entirely from locally-sourced ingredients. 

Researchers at Texas A&M University, meanwhile, have developed a unique phase-change material (PCM) that can be 3D printed into buildings capable of internal temperature regulation. Using the team’s wax-filled resin, it’s possible to create internal structures which change shape in order to absorb thermal energy, reducing the overall cost of heating any building they’re fitted to. 

On a wider scale, Mighty Buildings has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2028, and hailed the potential of its technology as a means of helping other construction firms strive for the same. When the company raised $22 million in funding earlier this year, it pledged to deploy this to unlock sustainable housing at scale, as well as accelerating its sustainability roadmap and extending its capacity. 

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Featured image shows Simulaa’s 3D printed mushroom-infused ‘Burlasite.’ Photo via Simulaa.

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