13th July 2021
World's first 3D printed school opens in Malawi
The world's first 3D printed school has opened its doors in Malawi, southeastern Africa.
In June 2016, LafargeHolcim (a Swiss manufacturer of building materials) and CDC Group (a UK development finance institution) established a £10m ($13.8m) joint venture known as 14Trees, dedicated to accelerating the provision of affordable housing in Africa.
LafargeHolcim developed a proprietary ink, for use in a new and innovative 3D printing process. This can significantly reduce the time, cost and materials needed to construct housing and schools, while also cutting the environmental footprint compared to conventional methods.
Last year, the team at 14Trees demonstrated their technology in Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi. Here they 3D printed an entire house in just 12 hours at a cost of less than $10,000. The printing process reduces CO2 emissions by as much as 70% compared with a typical house-building project.
More recently, they completed the world's first 3D printed school in just 18 hours, this time at Salima in Malawi's Central Region. The school has now been officially transferred to the Kalonga village community in the Yambe zone of Salima, with children beginning to learn inside the building.
The UN Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) estimates a shortage of 36,000 classrooms in Malawi. It would take 70 years – until 2090 – to fund and construct all these buildings with conventional methods. However, 3D printing could reduce this timeframe to just a single decade, according to 14Trees.
"I am very proud of how our colleagues at 14Trees have deployed cutting-edge 3D printing technology to solve such an essential infrastructure need," said LafargeHolcim's Regional Head for Europe, Middle East and Africa, Miljan Gutovic. "Now that we've proven the concept in Malawi, we look forward to scaling up this technology across the broader region, with projects already in the pipeline in Kenya and Zimbabwe."
"The rollout of 14Trees' world-class, cutting-edge technology is going to have a tremendous developmental impact on Malawi and the wider region. It is a wonderful example of how we are investing in businesses that can support the UN's Sustainable Development Goals," said Tenbite Ermias, Managing Director and Head of Africa at CDC Group.
"Before, we had 12 schools in the Yambe zone; we now have 13, with this new 3D printed school. To increase our supply of education to children, we need a total of four more primary schools in the Yambe zone, but as a district, we need approximately 50 more schools to serve those in need," said Juliana Chikandila, Primary Education Advisor in Malawi. "I am very impressed by the new building – its durability and design provide the space and facilities that students did not have before; teaching and learning can now happen inside and outside the classroom. It is notably different from the schools being built in the Yambe zone and Salima district. This school will attract more students, and those learners that had left will return to education."
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