Yoann Richard
Ingénieur enveloppe du bâtiment, spécialiste carbone
Published on May 25, 2018

Reading time : 4 min

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Social housing: don’t build it, print it!

Building a house using 3D printing might appear to be a totally impossible task. But Nantes University and its partners have just proved to the contrary, building France’s first social housing project using additive manufacturing, in the space of just a few days.

During Nantes Digital Week in September 2017, Nantes University, Nantes Métropole, Nantes Métropole Habitat (NMH) and Ouest Valorisation, assisted by their partners, assembled the know-how and expertise to accomplish the on-site construction of a social dwelling spanning 95 m² in the Nantes district La Bottière, using a revolutionary robotic additive manufacturing technology: BatiPrint3D™, patented by Nantes University.

Credits : © Yoann Richard - Egis

This experimental project, christened YHNOVA™, aims to test new forms of housing and new economic models to imagine the city of tomorrow that works for the benefit of its inhabitants. The project was sponsored by Caisse des Dépôts as part of its support for projects relating to smart cities and the French national programme of “Smart City Demonstrators”.

Credits : © Yoann Richard - Egis

The project provided an opportunity to encounter and solve a range of constraints including technical, acoustic, energy, regulatory, environmental and urban issues, aided by the various experts contributing to this project. As the design consultancy working for the TICA architects practice, Egis conducted the programme management for the Structure, HVAC and Electricity lots, and played a key role in the design of the innovative 3-D printing process. From a structural viewpoint, decisions had to be made as to the reinforcement to be added to the printed walls (application technique, calculation rules). For airtightness and waterproofing, solutions had to be invented to correctly insert external joinery and to interface the walls with the roof. All of this while complying with standard practice for these related structures. This project thus received a technical experimentation assessment (ATEx) from the French building standards body CSTB. Finally, at the end of the job, Egis carried out a carbon footprint assessment of the building’s construction.

BatiPrint3D™ cutting-edge technology for an unprecedented robotic process

Patented by Nantes University, BatiPrint3D™ is the result of joint work between two laboratories in Nantes: LS2N (specialising in the development of robotic systems) and GeM (materials studies, formulation and characterisation). The aim of the technology is to be able to build affordable housing that can be adapted to the building plot, customisable, rapidly deliverable and offering low cost of usage.

This cutting-edge technology consists of laying three layers of materials using a multi-articulated industrial robot: two layers of expansive foam act as the formwork for a third layer of concrete. Once the walls have been constructed, the foam remains in place to insulate the house without any thermal bridges.

The robot’s trajectories are guided by a laser sensor from the dwelling’s digital model, directly on the foundation slab. Fixed to an AGV (Automated Guided Vehicle), it is adapted to the external environmental constraints of the construction site and stable so as to inject the materials in a controlled way.

Credits : © Yoann Richard - Egis

Economic and social benefits

This process reduces construction time, improves heat insulation and reduces operating costs of the construction process. The use of a mobile robotic tool offers a way of rethinking working methods in the building and public works area which, just as in industry, is proving necessary to improve physical working conditions and reduce hazardous job tasks or those which might lead to MSD (musculoskeletal disorders).

YHNOVA assessed and analysed

The YHNOVA house is fitted with a range of sensors and home automation appliances to assess and analyse the behaviour of materials, energy and acoustic quality during the first year of its use.

At the end of this test period, during which YHNOVA will also be a place for education and meetings with professionals and residents, the house will be rented out to a family selected by the NMH social housing award committee according to its usual selection criteria.

YHNOVA BATIPRINT3D™, at the heart of an innovative region

Nantes Métropole supports the Nantes City Lab approach, an initiative which is both simple and ambitious: the metropolitan region portrays itself as a field of experimentation for anyone who wishes to develop and test innovative solutions which contribute to building the city of tomorrow and making everyday life easier. Any start-ups, SMEs, major corporations, public sector figures, researchers, colleges or associations in search of an urban laboratory are invited to take part. Nantes Métropole offers them a range of sites, equipment, data and engineering to test and accelerate their concept in real life conditions.

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1 comment
Darius Frost

At last, I have been saying this for over a year, I am sharing this article