Architecture has always harvested a close relationship with technological advances. Although this relationship had somewhat stagnated, over the more recent past Architecture has began to adopt technologies that are already well established in other fields, one of these being 3D Printing.
The Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC), based in Barcelona, has been, for some time now, exploring and investigating the potentials of additive manufacturing (3D Printing) applied to the architectural field, therefore implemented on a larger scale (eg. Minibuilders). With the interest of further developing the potentials of this technique on the large scale, and in view of the environmental and economic crisis, IAAC has been investigating the possibility of on site additive manufacturing and fabrication with local and 100% natural materials. The objective was to develop a technique that went beyond the robot – relying only on its mechanical properties – and allowing a design research based exclusively on the material properties and behaviour. This research process included the optimisation of material mix, using only natural additives, as well as optimizing fabrication times.
The Pylos research project develops 3D printing as a large scale construction method, moreover developed with natural, biodegradable, recyclable and locally found materials, an undeniable interest particularly in this time of economic and environmental crisis.
This material can not be other than soil. The project focuses on the natural properties of soil. Earth, or Soil, as a construction material has been used since Neolithic times. The advantages of an earth – soil structure are primarily related to both the environment and economy, being secure and friendly to our environment. Soil also offers the benefits of natural insulation, fire protection, air circulation, low first cost, 100% recyclable structures, stiffness, great strength, thermal flywheel effect, low greenhouse emissions, regulating the climate and providing a healthy Indoor environment.
The project focuses on the behavior of the soil for 3D printing when mixed with other ingredients, towards a better understanding of the material, and potential composites.
The material results obtained through the development of the first phase of this research project are extremely promising a new, more than 96% based in soil, material that has 3 times higher tensile strength from industrial hard clay.
The importance of the material chosen for this additive manufacturing research is not related only to the unlimited existing quantity but also to decrease the emerging degree of embodied energy within the fabrication process, transportation hazards and production independent of electricity, fuel availability and greenhouses effects.
The project is also inspired by one of unbaked soil properties. Soil can be recycled an indefinite number of times over an extremely long period. Old dry loam can be reused after soaking in water, so loam never becomes a waste material that harms the environment.
In a moment in which there is a boom in global population growth and urbanization, with a high percentage of this population living in low quality housing conditions, it becomes imperative to push for affordable architecture and housing: low cost quality solutions for developed and developing countries. Pylos has proven significant possibilities in terms of design variations, ensuring a sound structural quality, low energy consumption, and undeniable affordability (0.50€/kg). This project provides sustainable, low-cost, large scale solutions for the architectural scale through the digitalization and advancements of vernacular architecture and traditional techniques, creating a new vision for the future of the construction sector, architecture and the city.