To Grow a Building project: Organic 3D printing using seeds and soil

‘To Grow a Building’ project uses 3D printing to create organic architecture made of seeds and soil. Images © Dor Kedmi

A new project, known as the To Grow a Building Project, is re-imagining the possibilities of organic architecture. In today’s world, architects design buildings and structures with materials like wood, concrete, and steel that can harm the environment. As more of these resources become scarcer and the world’s ecological crisis becomes more severe, traditional building practices may no longer be an option.

The To Grow a Building Project focuses on devising a sustainable building method that would cause minimal environmental harm. To achieve that goal, the team of engineers has combined technology with nature in hopes of creating a greener tomorrow.

About the project

The project recently made its way onto the scene at the Jerusalem Design Week in June. The designers revealed for the first time its sustainable building method: 3D printing with organic material. But they don’t use just any kind of organic material; it’s a mixture of soil and seeds that will germinate, bloom, and create a live structure – interesting idea, right?

3D printing has become a more accessible and popular design method over the last decade and, as the To Grow a Building Project shows, can be an important resource for the future. One of the key benefits of using a 3D printer is that it can produce objects without needing tools. It creates a more flexible creation process and greatly reduces expenses.

For the To Grow a Building Project to actually produce complex structures with an organic filament, the team had to design a robotic arm that could accurately distribute layers and layers of the material. Once the 3D printing is complete, the organic structure takes on a life of its own. As the seeds sprout and roots form, the integrity of the structure gets stronger – organic architecture at its finest!

To Grow a Building Robotic Arm Organic Filament
A robotic arm linked to a computer builds small structures out of a mixture of soil and seeds.

Impact of traditional building materials

Harvesting and collecting traditional building materials can be a precarious business. Take lumber, for example. If counties harvest their forests quicker than they replenish them, they will eventually run out of material. The good news is that lumber is 100% sustainable, as more can be grown; however, a supply shortage would halt construction endeavors and severely impact the economy.

It also takes a lot of energy to collect materials. Trucks, machines, and tools used in the collection process emit an immense amount of CO2 into the air, creating a massive carbon footprint. That’s why the To Grow a Building Project is taking the first steps to make organic architecture using a sustainable building method a reality.

To Grow a Building Seeds Sprout
Seeds sprout to transform the walls into a green facade.

What have they built?

So far, everything the project has built with its organic filament and robotic arm has been on a small scale. At the Jerusalem Design Week, the team showed how its machine could produce symmetrical structures of different shapes, but they were only a couple of feet high.

Because the project is so new and just getting its feet off the ground, people can expect more ambitious creations to be on the horizon.

Source: To Grow a Building Project