Construction 3D PrintingSustainability

First African 3D printed buildings coming up in Malawi to support UN’s sustainability goals

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3D printed buildings are popping up in more and more places, like the recent 3 floors apartment building in Germany but so far Africa has been only marginally on the map. 14Trees are about to change that. Established by LafargeHolcim, a world-leading provider of cement and concrete with 70,000 employees, 14Trees is focused on building affordable houses, schools and social infrastructures in Africa.

Born with the aim to accelerate the production and commercialization of environmentally-friendly, affordable construction solutions in Africa, its approach now includes 3D printing. 14Trees benefits from the support and expertise of LafargeHolcim’s R&D center, one of the leading building materials research centers in the world, to accelerate the use of environmentally friendly solutions such as 3D printing.

“I am very excited about the work of our joint venture 14Trees,” said Miljan Gutovic, Region Head Middle East Africa and LafargeHolcim Executive Committee member, “innovating in 3D printing technology to accelerate affordable and sustainable building, from homes to schools. This is a great example of our commitment to build for people and the planet. Starting in Malawi, we will deploy this technology across the broader region with projects already in the pipeline in Kenya and Zimbabwe.”

African 3D printed buildings

Like the previously mentioned project in Germany and previously yet in Denmark, the construction 3D printing technology for 14Trees is provided by COBOD. For the projects in Malawi 14Trees chose a BOD2 printer from COBOD. The BOD2 3D construction printer is modular and consists of a number of modules of 2.5 m in each direction. 14Trees decided for a BOD2 model 4-4-2 (w*l*h) measuring 10*10*5 meters and with a print area of 9.6*9.6*3.1 meters. The speed of the BOD2 is up to 100 cm/second, equivalent to an output of almost 10 tons per hour. Two operators of the printers are required. COBOD provided training in Malawi to locals that 3D printed the buildings.

Henrik Lund-Nielsen, Founder and General Manager of COBOD commented: “We are very encouraged by the fact, that 14Trees now has brought our technology to beneficial use in Africa, and we are impressed by the speed they manage to achieve for the printing of the walls of the first buildings. Although already impressive, we are confident that we will see a further improvement in this as more buildings are being 3D printed. The shortage of affordable housing and schools in Africa is overwhelming and we do believe, that our technology can play a vital role in solving this, not at least by increasing the speed of execution. We have pledged our full support to LafargeHolcim and 14Trees in their endeavors and look forward to our continued cooperation with these fantastic organizations”.

African 3D printed buildings

CDC Group is the other joint venture partner in 14Trees and the world’s first impact investor with over 70 years of experience of successfully supporting the sustainable, long-term growth of businesses in Africa and South Asia. CDC is a UK champion of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – the global blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. The company has investments in over 1,200 businesses in emerging economies.

“The rollout of 14Trees’ world-class, cutting-edge technology is going to have a tremendous developmental impact on Malawi and the wider region. It is a wonderful example of how we are investing in businesses that can support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals,” commented Tenbite Ermias, Managing Director, Africa, at CDC.

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