For some reason I always loved architecture, ever since I was a child. So, when I was task with developing a digital transformation strategy for a world leader in modular construction fifteen years ago, I felt pretty lucky. That was also my first engagement in management consulting. Defining and delivering a strategy by harnessing the power of the new digital economy in the early 2000s was, of course, thrilling. So was the modular construction space.
Modular buildings are sectional “pre-fab” buildings or houses that consist of multiples sections called modules. In other words, those are incredibly similar to LEGO blocs. They are usually constructed off-site, under controlled plant conditions, using the same materials and designed to the same codes and standards as conventionally built facilities, but in about half the time. Back then, I really admired how those modules allowed new design concepts that pushed how modern day construction was executed.
Today, the same can be said about the 3D-printing technology that is becoming widely available, including in the construction industry. Few weeks ago, a Chinese developer came up with a way to reduce the time it takes to build a house from weeks to just a few days. All of the six modules to construct the home were printed in a factory ahead of time and then put together on site in Xi’an, China in only three hours. Overall, it took just about ten days to build and deliver the house, and despite this incredibly fast speed of construction, the house is capable of withstanding strong earthquakes.
This project is just one testimony to the efficiency and creativity of 3D printing technology. Last year, another Chinese company was able to 3D-print ten houses in one day. Other similar projects have demonstrated that 3D printing can reduce labor costs by 50-80% and construction waste by 30-60%. To my mind, there is no question that three-dimensional printing will take things a step or two further in reshaping construction and design sectors. More than just a new type of construction, 3D printing is a structural revolution that solves the many problems of the construction industry.