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Civil Engineering Assignment: 3D Printing for Housing Shortage in United Kingdom

Question

Task: Prepare a well-researched and detailed civil engineering assignment presenting a research proposal on the topic 3D print as a method of construction to tackle the housing shortage in the UK housing sector.

Answer

Statement of the problem
According to research on civil engineering assignment, the UK has a housing shortage of about one million units. There has been steady population growth, but reduced numbers of housing units being built each year. Houses built in the UK have become less in the in the last 30 years. Compared to 7,449,160 houses built between 1959 and 1988, only 3,328,850 were built between then and 2018. This suggests a shortfall in housing provision of 3,120,310 homes in the last 30 years.

The costs of acquiring a house have likewise grown astronomically within this time. This has been contributed by government policies that have made it harder for young people to access funds to buy houses. Attempts by the government to stabilise the prices have not been successful because land is privately owned and the success of their plans depend on the willingness of private owners to part with their land.

Currently, most of the houses are built using traditional methods which have concrete and plaster as raw materials and involve manual workmanship. These methods are generally labour intensive and take a long time to complete. It is also more costly to construct a concrete house in the conventional manner. Additionally, simple construction methods usually result in wastage of materials which is not only economically imprudent but also bad for the environment.Therefore, because there us a housing shortage and new dwellings need to be constructed to accommodate all the housing needs, other construction methods should be considered. New methods have been adopted to reduce wastage of materials at the construction workplace, and they include using prefabricated construction parts and applying 3D printing at the site.

This research proposes 3D printing as a method to deal with the housing shortage problem. Prefabrication, though a great innovation in construction which is used in other countries like Japan, is not viewed in a positive light in the UK. Prefabricated parts were used to build structures post-World War 2.In fact, construction companies do not make prefabricated homes because it is possible that buyers for them might not be found. Due to the poor perception of this method in the public’s eye, it shall not be the focus of this research.

A 3D printed house is one that has been built layer upon layer by 3D technologies. The printing material is usually a special formulation of cement. It is only possible to use 3D printing to make the frame of the building, and not the roof. There are three ways to use 3D production in construction: using it to prefabricate parts that are then transported to the site, or bringing the machines to the site and printing the walls of the building there.

Background and history
The cost of houses in the UK began to rise when demand for them outweighed the housing assets being created. There was however an increase in the number of housing services and they outweighed demand. This means that even currently there are more housing units than family units in the UK. The report by Mulheirn, (2019) suggests that increasing the supply of houses will lower the cost of houses by 7 to13 percent over 20 years. For this reason, it is necessary to find a way to create houses cheaply and quickly. 3D printing presents a solution for this which if viable will have housing units being constructed in days and at a low cost. 3D printing was first created in the 1980s, and was used to fabricate parts out of a wide range of materials. It has found use in many industries such as the medical and pharmaceutical field. For example, exact models of bone and teeth have been created in the medical field, and automotive parts have been made by printing. 3D printing also enables the creation of intricate complex shapes that would be difficult to obtain in other ways. This makes the possibilities for its application very diverse. Additive production has been lauded as a method that might in future revolutionize all of production. While the idea of 3D printed buildings primarily exists in models, there are some success stories that show that they are a viable option for making residential buildings. In Europe, the first residents of a house fully made by 3D printing moved into it this year. In the US, a 3D printed village is being created to hold elderly people and homeless people, and people have moved into them.

There are even plans to make two-storey houses using two separate materials, with the first storey being 3D printed and the second made of timber. There are governments such as El Salvador and Dubai who have agreed to embrace 3D printed buildings and to even use them for residential reasons. This is to say that the UK can use 3D printing, a revolutionary technology, to solve its housing problem while still not being experimental cases.

This technology has been viewed critically because of the exclusivity of information about it. Even as it is adopted by some countries, the construction is being done by start-up firms which have done research on the technology and are running a business.

In most cases of conventional construction, the end result of a building does not match its design. However, the technology of 3D printing allows for the printing of intricate shapes that would not have been achieved otherwise. As long as the digital design guiding the printing is precise, then the printed product shall be precise.3D printing has been presented by its proponents as convenient, more affordable, and waste-free way of building houses.Questions are however raised about how reasonable the proposed buildings are for habitation (Morley, n.d.). There have been concerns that 3D printing companies are selling an unreasonable dream, and that their adoption could give rise to another crop of problems.

Most of the construction in the UK is presently done using concrete and cement. Residential building projects usually use manual labour which makes the construction process take up a lot of time. Furthermore, construction is recognised for being one of the most polluting industries in Britain and the entire world, and this is contributed by construction waste which often has to be composted.

The proponents of 3D printing have cited that since it is done by machines, construction can go on for longer hours because machines do not exhibit fatigue as humans do, and they do not have to go home. Also highlighted is the fact that round edges can be achieved by printing. As has already been proven by its use in industry, 3D printing is versatile and can be used with different types of materials. The proponents of this method even claim it can simultaneously print using different materials (Flemming, 2021).

As a construction process, 3D printing is not applied alone; it is often used in conjunction with other conventional construction methods. This is seen in the project by the 3D printing company icon which is setting up structures in Texas (Flemming, 2021). 3D printing has further been cast in doubt by stakeholders who think it might be difficult to input fixtures such as plumbing and electricity in such a building.

Justification of the problem
Putting up buildings using the conventional means such as concrete and timber construction is not economical. Not only are the costs for this very high, but they also result in a lot of wastage in materials. They require a lot of labour to accomplish and they are not efficient timewise. Because there is a housing shortage, the buildings that are needed should be constructed a fast as possible and cost as little as possible as well, because cost is the major reason why there is a shortage at all.

In India, a single storey 3D constructed house took only 5 days to complete and cost 30% less to make that conventional construction (Flemming, 2021). It also resulted in less waste. In Texas, a project called 3 strands aims to build two- to four-bedroom houses by using a combination of 3D printing and conventional methods for the roofing. In Netherlands, a single storey house 3D printed house is the first to have human occupants. This goes a long way to prove the feasibility of 3D printing as a way of creating residential buildings. There are stakeholders in the coinstr4uction industry that do not view 3D printed buildings as serious enough because they have yet to be proved as habitable, but the Dutch project weakens their argument (Morley, n.d.).

The goal of all production in the progressive world right now is to achieve sustainability. Satisfaction of the human need for shelter should not be at the cost of the environment, and should not occupy too much space. It is estimated that by 2030, 70% of the human population shall live in urban centres and they too shall face the same problems being faced now or worse if construction is not undertaken sustainably. The only occupied 3D house in the world currently is single storey. Lack of space has contributed to the house shortage in the UK, with landowners wanting to hold on to the land until it is worth more. Building single storey buildings does not help in space economy, and the possibility of stacking up several 3D printed houses on top of each other is yet to be explored.For 3D printing to be viable as a solution to the housing problem, these are issues that shall have to be resolved. These and more questions shall be explored in this research.

That 3D printed residential houses could pose unique problems that have never been encountered before is a reasonable concern. However, this statement discounts the many issues that conventional construction poses.

Literature review
Since the mid-1990s, house prices in the UK have risen by 160%, thus depriving many people of the ability to own a home. There is a housing crisis in the country that is just now being acknowledged. The fact is that there has been a problem that has lasted for decades. Available data also suggests that there is not enough supply of houses to satisfy the demand that is available. Modelling exercises by the government have shown that if the government’s target of 300,000 housing units were to be reached, the cost of houses will be less by up to 10%.

Government data shows that the number of households have been growing by 147,000 every year, and housing units have been growing by 168,000 yearly (Mulheirn, 2019). This suggests there should be a surplus in housing units. This data also states that there were 660,000 extra housing units in 1996, and by 2018 there were more than 1.2 million surplus housing units. Despite this, there are many people who do not have houses and are having to either depend on others or become homeless. Though it is strange that there is a housing shortage while there is aunit surplus, this presents a problem that needs to be solved. The insinuation from the data is that there are houses for people to live in, but the people they are intended for cannot afford to live in them.

This research shall be aimed at reducing the costs of houses so that they shall be affordable to the people who need them. One way to reduce the cost of houses is to reduce the cost of their construction. Several innovations have been created to make building more efficient. They include smart buildings with detailed building information modelling (BIM), energy saving building systems, prefabrication, robotic automation for repetitive works, cost and schedule modelling with 5D micro-BIM, robotic automation, 3D printing buildings, and much more. These are all innovative methods to make construction less polluting than it currently is, reduce the time taken during construction and to reduce the cost of construction. Prefabrication and 3D printing are the two among them that suggest having all or part of the building framework made by 3D printing (Kaplinski, 2018). In prefabrication, specific parts of the building are made elsewhere and taken to the construction site for installation. This options provides more design freedom in that more details can be included on a part if it is put together at a factory. 3d printing buildings involves bringing the machines to the construction site and creating the framework of the building directly.

3D printing brings to the construction industry an option whose processes are highly mechanised and friendly to the environment. This method can make use of a wide array of materials, from conventional building materials like concrete to polymer composites and widely available materials like soil and straw. Further innovations in this field allow for customisation of the design and colour of the materials such that each building can be unique.

There are shortcomings to this method, however. In most cases, printing has only been used to make the framework of buildings, with other fixtures and the roof being installed conventionally.3D printing often needs to be applied in conjunction with other methods. In addition, the cost of 3D printing that are being stated online do not include the costs of the machines. The costs paint a picture of affordability of the process that might turn out to be erroneous once the cost of the technology has been factored in. There are concerns over the habitability of the houses (Flemming, 2021). The prototypes which have been shared portray a minimalist house that may not be desirable to everyone. There are however plans to make bigger homes using 3D printing, and the implementation of this could quell some of these concerns.

Methodology
So as to investigate the time shall be saved in using 3D printing to solve the housing shortage problem in the UK, text from various sources shall be reviewed. At first, the literature review shall aim at finding out the exact number of housing units that need to be constructed in the country. In addition, the research shall investigate the options that are available in the country as far as residential housing construction goes, and find out their pros and cons. Since 3D printing is to be the focus of the research, it is important that this method is singled out as the best out of many options.

As the research goes further, review shall be done on architectural publications and peer-reviewed journals so that more information on the feasibility of 3D printing in construction is found. From the literature that has been reviewed thus far, it is clear that 3D printing is quite a novel idea in the construction world, and the first habitable 3D printed house was constricted only recently. Literature review is the best method to use for this research because 3D printing is yet to be adopted by architectural firms. The advantages of buildings constructed by this method can be found on online publications.

References
Flemming, S., 2021. ThePrint. [Online] Available at: https://theprint.in/world/faster-cheaper-and-high-quality-these-3-countries-are-embracing-3d-printed-homes/659853/[Accessed 13 June 2021].

Kaplinski, O., 2018. Innovative solutions in construction industry . Review of 2016-2018 events and trends., Poznan: Poznan University of Technology.

Morley, J. B., n.d. Architizer. [Online] Available at: https://architizer.com/blog/practice/details/3d-printed-buildings-future-or-gimmick/[Accessed 13 June 2021].

Mulheirn, I., 2019. Tackling the UK housing crisis: is supply the answer?, s.l.: UK Collaborative centre for housing evidence.

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