3D Printed Buildings

3D printed houses

Instead of ink, 3D printers for construction deposit building materials, like wet concrete, bricks or even wooden pieces, using a print head or nozzle that can move in 3 dimensions.

The whole structure of a house can be printed in hours or days. Hardly any labour is involved, so the cost is limited to the materials cost – plus, of course, the costs for transporting and using the printer.

Many news articles mention only the cost of the raw materials, or even the “expected” cost of materials. These can be as low as 44-5000, but that’s a bit misleading. As long as most other parts of the house need to be built traditionally (foundation, windows, roofs, plumbing…) 3D printing will only reduce the cost of the structure.

3D printed building is smart

  • Very fast to build structure
  • Low labour cost
  • Little wastage

Limitations of 3d construction

  • So far, only builds the shell
  • Surfaces can be hard to finish, or insulate, requiring more labour and materials in the rest of the building
  • Installations may become more difficult

Barn House Passive House

Passive House


LSF Light Steel Frame

Light Steel Frame

Steel is strong and resists extremely well to traction; that’s why you see it anywhere from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Eiffel Tower.

That’s why it’s often used to create the structure of a house – the “bones” that keep it standing; while other, more insulating, materials are used for the walls.

Building in Light Steel Frame

This can be done with either just a few, heavy beams and posts – then it’s called “steel frame”; or with a larger “grid” of much thinner profiles, who work together to create a network structure.

This is called light steel frame; it’s logic is comparable to the traditional wood framing used in the USA and Australia.

Although it resembles the profiles often used for drywall, a LSF profile is thicker and stronger and calculated to bear much larger loads.

These days, more and more light steel frames are pre-fabricated (often robotically!) in a factory. Frames can be produced for entire walls and floors, with openings for windows and doors already built in.

Finishing panels then are easily screwed on both sides of the panels – from fibre concrete to plasterboard – and the result is fast, cheap construction.

Light Steel Frame is Smart

  • easy to assemble,
  • light, so little foundation is necessary
  • can be pre-built in factories
  • little or no waste
  • works with any kind of finish

Limitations of LSF

  • like most “light” building systems, by default it has little sound proofing. This cán be compensated by adding insulation or double skins of plasterboard/fibreboard etc.
  • by default, has little thermal insulation or thermall mass, so insulation and mass must be added where necessary

BuildBoxx Ratings

Every material has pro’s and con’s. But most websites are driven by providers that only want to show you their strengths.

BuildBoxx gives you easy, objective and visual clues that tell you how good – or bad – any building system scores on your criteria.

1 Cost efficiency

Up front cost

Some building systems cost more in the beginning, but end up saving you money in maintenance or energy.

Long term cost

Will this building system cost you money in the long term, for repairs, maintenance, etc?

Energy cost

Will this building system cost – or save – you money by increasing, or reducing, the need for energy?

2 Comfort

Thermal Insulation

A well insulated house keeps the temperature

Building Systems Sandwich Panels

Sandwich Panels

Like a sandwich you’d eat, sandwich panels are made by putting a filling (usually insulation) between two “sandwich” panels, often some kind of metal.

Often one of the two sheets is ribbed or “corrugated” in a shape that makes the panels stiffer. Being light ánd stiff, they can easily cover large spaces which makes them quite popular as a roof system.

Because most of them contain insulation material inside the sandwich, they are also known as insulated sandwich panels.

Some – less strong and non-structural – panels are also used to build cooling rooms, labs, temporary offices or garages.

Although they may look deceivingly simple, insulated sandwich panels do several great jobs: they offer structure, protection, waterproofing and insulation in one single, light and easy to place material.

An IsoPan sandwich panel, corrugated, for roof use

Sandwich panels are a smart building system

  • very light and stiff, makes them easy and fast to install
  • provide good thermal insulation
  • large range of colors, some of which reflect the sun and minimize heat transfer
  • all-in-one system; even an internal finish is sometimes not necessary

Limitations of sandwich panels

  • you must buy quality panels; if not, under extreme heat, the outer skin can come loose from the filling (“delaminate”)
  • due to the lack of mass, they have limited sound insulation
  • you can not just “drill through” them without precautions to maintain waterproofing

Hospitality Buildings Tiny Homes Weekend Homes

UnTiny House

UnTiny house gives builders on a “tiny” budget the best, and largest house possible. Because the real objective of most tiny house clients is not to live tiny – just to reduce the financial burden that comes with today’s homes.

Most UnTiny Houses are built around a pre-built “container” block that houses kitchen, bathroom and all installations.

Unlike most “pods”, this UNtiny house block is structural so it serves as a base to which the roofs and walls are easily attached.

As a result, UNtiny houses are easy to build an having an amazing cost:benefit ratio! It’s simply a lot of house for the money.

For more info, see

The Untiny House, here the Barn60 with a countryside look
Building Systems Concrete Panels Uncategorized

Concrete Precast

Traditionally, concrete was cast on-site, using rough molds or “forms” that can be used only a few times or (even just once). The concrete is then poured in or on the forms, using heavy concrete delivery trucks and pumps.

Yet in factory conditions, concrete panels can be cast with much more precision.

The concrete can be mixed just-in-time; under perfect conditions, and in smooth molds with vibrator tables so no air bubbles are trapped inside the concrete.

As a result, panels that are cast in factories are smoother, stronger and more precise. They are called “pre”-cast because they are made befóre they are going to the build site.

Transporting pre-cast concrete panels and putting them in place requires heavy transport and cranes. But bear in mind that otherwise the same amount of concrete (plus molds) had to be transported as well.

The factory conditions allow for the concrete panels to be slightly thinner than they would be if produced on site. And insulation material can be sandwiched inside the panels as well, so the panels offer

Pre-cast concrete panel being hoisted in place by crane

Pre-cast concrete panels are smart:

  • smooth, quality concrete, cast to precise measures
  • can be esthetically nice enough to leave unfinished
  • can include insulation in one go
  • quick to install, a house goes up in one or two weeks

The limitations of pre-cast concrete panels?

  • heavy so may require more foundations
  • limits to dimensions because of transport and mold limitations
  • the insulation is usually sandwiched inside; where ideally it should be on the outside
  • the concrete panel exposed to the sun acts as a heat storage
  • you’ll need to drill to hang up anything on the walls
  • installations (electricity, plumbing) usually have to be added inside an additional inner wall layer (like plasterboard on studs)

BuildBoxx rating

  • Cost efficiency: ***
    • initial cost ***
    • lifetime cost ***
  • Comfort:
    • thermal insulation: ****
    • sound insulation: ***
    • air quality: ***
  • Ecology:
    • embedded energy: ***
    • renewable: ***

Pre-Cast concrete

Building Systems ICF insulated concrete forms

ICF Concrete Forms

ICF means “Insulated Concrete Forms”.

Traditionally, concrete was poured into wooden forms, handmade on-site, which are discarded a few weeks later, when the concrete has cured. Others use metal forms, that can be used a couple of times.

A typical ICF, before the concrete is poured in

ICF forms are made of an insulating material, like EPS, that will remain a part of the construction once the concrete has set. This way, one saves on labour ánd

They usually look like very large and light Lego bricks. This makes them extremely easy to stack on top of each other, and an option for self builders.

Most ICF forms have plastic connectors between their two outer walls. These connectors make it easy to put steel reinforcement (rebar) where needed.

They also make it possible to attach finishes by simply screwing them into the plastic connectors.

An ICF from Nudura

ICF insulated concrete forms are smart because:

  • they’re very light to work with, and easy to install
  • they do not have to be dismounted or discarded
  • they provide thermal insulation in one go
  • they result in extremely strong walls, thanks to the concrete core
  • great thermal and acoustical comfort
  • monolithic system without cold bridges
Concrete being poured in a Quadlock ICF

The limitations of ICF

  • the concrete core still makes this a heavy system, requiring sturdy foundations
  • the concrete core makes it very difficult to modify walls later
  • most walls are relatively thick, which may cost you internal space
  • it takes a little planning to hang heavy objects like kitchen cabinets
  • while easy to finish with “dry” materials (like plasterboard, fibre board etc.) that are screwed on the ICF’s connectors, it’s a bit more difficult to finish with “wet” materials like rendering and plastering
  • the builder better have a little experience with ICF, because once the concrete is poured, corrections are very difficult. If the ICF isn’t straight or gets displaced while pouring, walls may end up crooked

Our advice

  • ICF is interesting for self builders and will give great comfort.
  • You may want to consider to internal walls in other, thinner systems
  • Consider lighter systems like SIPs to avoid foundation costs, especially on sloping land or weak soils

Architects & Engineers Build to Rent Architects


RentalBuild is a group of architects and consultants, making life easier for investors that want to build-to-rent.

They offer:

  • a wide range of highly successful exterior designs;
  • a wide range of plans, optimized for easy construction and rental returns
  • know how that helps you minimize risk and optimize returns
  • customized designs for fees that make other architects pale

Choose a few designs and floor plans you like – and within weeks (or days) RentalBuild will put together an efficient design that allows you to get a quote

One of the many RentalBuild façades to choose from

Architects & Engineers Luxury Architects

Modern Villas

Modern Villas are architects specialized in Luxury Villas. Having started in exclusive Marbella, Spain – where the rich from Europe, the Middle East, and Russia all converge – they’ve built an impressive track record of exclusive designs and interiors.

From Spain to Brazil, from Australia to the Caribbean,

modern villas architects
Modern Villas: the Abidjan House