Lotus House; the 3D printed solar house

University of Washington
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As part of the Solar Decathlon China 2018 competition, students designed and built a 3D printed solar house called the Lotus House. The Chinese symbol of purity, the lotus flower, inspired this house designed to achieve optimum energy efficiency.

The main objective of the Solar Decathlon China 2018 competition is to build a one- or two-story solar house containing all the necessary household appliances. Organised this time in Dezhou, it brings together several students who imagine an energy-efficient housing prototype. This year, a project stood out because of its use of 3D technologies. The Lotus House joins the many architectural initiatives that combine 3D printing and traditional methods.

Lotus House and new technologies

The team from the University of Washington is the origin of this 3D printed house of 198 m2. It was realised in 8 months, though still in the prototype stage for the time being. Project Manager Kinga Pabjan explains, “We were inspired by the beauty, the delicacy and the cultural significance of the lotus. But we did not start with the lotus. Our initial intention was to use emerging technologies, particularly additive manufacturing, to create an organic form.“

She goes on to say that 3D printing has allowed them to create a lighter and more environmentally friendly structure. The technology reduces the use of materials and therefore waste. An advantage that particularly appealed to students given the initial objective of the competition.

The exterior of the house, composed of curved and superimposed panels, have been arranged around a central axis. In a manner similar to the petals of a blooming flower. According to the team, these panels were made using 3D printed molds in which the concrete was poured and could be used at least 100 times. To compare a wooden formwork would only be able to be used 2 times. In addition, the 3D printed molds produce less waste and offer more geometric complexity.

The project manager concludes: “We wanted to challenge the possibilities of 3D printing and they are almost limitless!” A construction method that could revolutionise the sector. Initiative to do so was taken in Austin, Texas earlier this year when its first 3D printed house was build. This house, created specifically to show how concrete 3D printing can help developing countries build affordable housing, is believed to possibly help the 1.2 billion people worldwide without proper housing. Just last month in France, a social housing project opened up to its first family. When the family settled in to its new home, the first to do so in 3D printed social housing.

This circular Lotus house is for the moment only a prototype, and is not yet ready to accommodate residents. But this is a good example of the possibilities that 3D technologies offer in the architectural and construction sector. You can find more information on the official website of the University of Washington.

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Lotus House; the 3D printed solar house