Building codes have a storied history and largely have been established only after tragic events such as the Great Fire of London, which destroyed swaths of the city in 1666. Since then, codes have been enacted to make buildings more fire resistant, for example, or to increase public safety in dense urban areas (something especially relevant in this challenging time of COVID-19). In the United States, the first national building code was established in 1915, and a winding path of municipal, state, and even international codes has persisted ever since.
This dizzying world of building regulation now has a new challenge: assessing new technologies in the construction industry. With the promise to revolutionize building, 3D printing makes the process faster, cheaper, safer, and more sustainable—that is, if builders can successfully negotiate with building officials, whose most pressing concern is: How can we be confident that 3D-printed buildings are safe?
According to Anna Cheniuntai, founder and CEO of Boston-based Apis Cor, which manufactures specialized 3D printers for the construction industry: “3D-printing technology is very innovative and very disruptive, and the construction industry is a very conservative industry. Because of that, it’s hard to implement 3D printing in the real world. Our biggest challenge today is creating standards so that building officials and authorities can easily certify the process and issue building permits.”
Apis Cor and structural engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti—both residents at the Autodesk Technology Center in Boston—have partnered to create an industry standard for 3D-printed walls, which they hope will be the first step toward creating future-focused building codes.
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