Bridging and finance

3D printing is one of those technologies that holds much in promise, but little in terms of concrete delivery. However, this month we see the completion of a (literally) concrete landmark structure using the technology. At over 26m, the bridge built in Shanghai, is a replica of the sixth century Zhaozhou Bridge and comprises 44 printed units. The cited competitive advantages of 3D printing lie in time, cost and fidelity. All three are in evidence here. The costs of the design are reported as 33% less than a traditional construction technique (saving on steel, unused templates and engineering costs). Perhaps more importantly, assuming the 450 hours of printing were continuous, the structure took fewer than 20 days to develop. Bridges are one thing, but houses are another. However, progress is also being made in that regard. New venture: We Print Houses, is launching a system in Texas next month that promises the construction of homes in ‘a matter of weeks’. Using geopolymer concrete, apparently similar to that used in Rome’s Colosseum, the homes are described as earthquake proof, eco-friendly and energy saving. With the cost of finance and speed to market being high up the risk matrix for development, a genuinely mainstream method of housing construction that significantly abbreviates the construction period would have positive impacts on land value.