Image Courtesy: Tree hugger

Building with the soil underneath one’s feet is one of the world’s oldest practices, with instances reaching back at least 10,000 years in the Middle East and North Africa. Building with mud remains simple, whether it’s rammed, combined with straw, or crushed into blocks, but certain newer technologies have accelerated its progress significantly, most notably with the relatively recent introduction of 3D printing. 

TECLA, a tiny home project started a few years ago and previously documented by Treehugger design editor Lloyd Alter, is a perfect example of this joyful marriage of cutting-edge innovation with an old material. It was eventually printed out of locally produced clay in Massa Lombarda, near Ravenna, Italy, with the goal of demonstrating the potential of creating cheap homes—and maybe entire communities—using the same low-carbon construction methodology.

Despite some reasonable objections that 3D printing is really a technology bandage for what are ultimately socio economic issues, much has been stated about the overall potential cost and speed of 3D printed dwellings. TECLA is no exception, and it even attempts to address some of the challenges that other 3D printed items strive to avoid. 

According to the TECLA team, the building took roughly 200 hours to print and is made up of 350 layers of clay that were nozzled out of a synchronised pair of massive 3D printing arms with 538 square feet of printing area each. 

The outside of the 650-square-foot house has two dome-like structures that are capped with skylights and connected by an arch. The bulbous shape is reminiscent of a wasp’s nest, notably the potter wasp, a species noted for making its nests out of mud and regurgitated water. 

Inside, there are two zones: one is a “living zone” that includes the kitchen and eating room, and the other is a “work zone.” Then there’s the “night zone,” which encompasses the bedroom and also a bathroom. A portion of the interior furniture is 3D printed in place, giving the design a continuous “organic and aesthetically cohesive” aspect while also improving its long-term sustainability.

The TECLA prototype, with appropriate adjustments, may be adaptable to many climes and even built by do-it-yourselfers using WASP’s Maker Economy Starter Kit. The goal of the project is to show that low-waste, climatically appropriate design may be simple and economical.


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