Nonprofit to Build World’s First 3D-Printed School

We recently told you about the first 3D-printed home to hit the market in the United States. The method uses less expensive materials, and comes with lower construction costs, all while providing the same amenities and stability (if not more) of traditional homes. It represents a future where 3D printing makes it possible for more people to own their own place. But our problems go beyond better access to good, affordable, safe homes. We also have a need for good schools, especially in places where the necessary funding isn’t always available. That’s an issue one company is setting out to solve. It plans to build the world’s first 3D-printed school in Madagascar.

University of Colorado senior Maggie Grout was just 15 when she founded Thinking Huts (which we learned about at Smithsonian magazine). The nonprofit organization is “on a mission to increase global access to education through 3D printing dedicated,” and is starting by building the first-ever 3D-printed school. It will go up in the south-central region of Madagascar in Fianarantsoa at the EMIT University campus. The 765-square-foot building will serve 20 engineering students. It will cost $20,000 to build; that’s half of what other nonprofits have spent to build schools in the region.

The organization employs a hybrid design that uses 3D-printed walls, a vertical farm, and solar panels. Giant robots create the walls by squeezing a cement-like substance out of bags. The process looks like something a pastry chef would do to ice their cake. The polygonal rooms will have electricity and plumbing. Doors and a roof made from local materials will complete them. Just as impressive is that it will be completed in less than a week. A far cry from the months or even years it could take using traditional methods. This approach also reduced the entire endeavor’s carbon footprint.

Additionally, Thinking Huts’ multiple pod design configuration provides for easy expansion for a growing student body. These schools can quickly adapt to an influx of students.

An artist rendering of a 3D printed school with solar panels, set among trees in a desert localeThinking Huts

The benefits of a 3D-printed school are obvious. These buildings can go up quickly in hard-to-build areas that really need them, at a fraction of the price. And they’re far better for the environment, all while addressing a worldwide problem.

There’s not a country in the world that isn’t in need of affordable housing and better schools. Clearly there’s not a country in the world that wouldn’t benefit from investing in 3D-printed buildings of all kinds.

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