A technology that uses a digital model to construct a three dimensional object, 3D printing has gained significant popularity over the past decade, lowering the cost of this technology. “It’s actually a lot more simple to build a printer than it is to build a house,” said Jason Ballard, co-founder of Austin-based ICON, a construction company that uses robotics, software and advanced materials to build houses.2 These printers can construct a 600 to 800 square foot house in under 12 hours; a traditional house takes approximately 15 days to build, given weather conditions allow.
Building these houses is extremely low cost; a house costs as little as $3,500 when a traditional house in this region costs $6,500 and more time that a nonprofit could be doing other work to maximize its impact. A printer itself costs $100,000 and can construct hundreds of houses and building to transform thousands of lives. The printers are designed specifically for places “like rural Haiti where there is very rugged terrain” and use “locally available materials, [are] very easy to transport, [and are] very easy to operate”3
This technology makes for a much safer building process than traditional construction. Another added benefit is that structures are much sturdier. To save costs, these homes have hollow walls. Surprisingly, these walls do not negatively affect the home’s structural integrity and can withstand approximately 10,000 psi. More sustainable than traditional construction, 3D printing reduces carbon footprint and overall negative environmental impact.
The printer, which is portable and constructs the house on-site, layers concrete floors and walls which dry while the machine builds. The end result is a two bedroom house with a kitchen and bathroom. The printer can deal with “tricky tasks, such as the electrical work, plumbing, tiling, finishing work, and even painting”.4 The only thing the printer does not add is a roof. The resulting home is more energy efficient and resilient than traditionally built homes.
After the earthquake ravaged Haiti in 2010, the Red Cross raised half a billion dollars to rebuild damaged homes. Nearly a decade later, the Red Cross only built six homes when they planned to build 700 by 2013. Yes. That is six homes. In contrast, one charity that uses 3D printing has built 750 homes in Haiti since 2015.5
Knowing where your donations go
A key takeaway from failed Red Cross housing projects in Haiti is to donate to a charity with experience in both development and working the country where it plans humanitarian work. The Red Cross did not have development experience or the “know-how,” as said by Carline Noailles, the project’s manager in DC.6
Bureaucracy was another barrier the Red Cross encountered when it failed to execute its Haiti housing project. The project was micromanaged from DC, according to another Red Cross official who worked on the project, which made it impossible for workers on the ground in Haiti to make any progress. An NPR investigation found that: “Lacking the expertise to mount its own projects, the Red Cross ended up giving much of the money to other groups to do the work. Those groups took out a piece of every dollar to cover overhead and management. Even on the projects done by others, the Red Cross had its own significant expenses – in one case, adding up to a third of the project’s budget.”6
Our Experience in Haiti
Global Education Philanthropists has extensive development experience in Haiti building homes and schools for villagers. We have contacts on the ground and a transparent structure that minimizes bureaucracy. Our trips to Haiti have made it apparent that there is a dire need for housing that 3D printing has a huge potential to remediate. Providing safe and sturdy homes for Haitians will help recipients break out of the poverty cycle. With a good roof over their heads, these people will be less desperate for money and consequently, less likely to give up their children or themselves to human traffickers.
Desperate Need For Housing
There are still many camps of displaced persons throughout the country. One example is Camp Caradeux, which at first served as a temporary home for 20,000 displaced people. In 2018, many of these camp residents were still living in this camp, as housing projects have not materialized and Haiti’s economy is still weak. This camp is “transforming into a village as people build cinder block homes and try to create more normal lives.”7 These cinder block homes cost approximately $7,000–more than sturdier, higher-quality 3D printed homes.
Beyond building homes, 3D printing could bring STEM education to classrooms in Haiti. One “start-up has manufactured a platform to create 3D printed hydroponic systems to grow plants and food,” which also teaches students about agriculture.8 The technology can also create weather stations for as little as $200, when these typically cost over $10,000. Weather stations are incredibly beneficial to communities in developing regions because they warn of incoming natural disasters and help calculate damage severity for aid groups. Using 3D printing, another group has created a water bottle that filters water and clears out harmful microbes.
Clearly, 3D printing offers many exciting chances for us to alleviate poverty. Housing is just a starting point for us to empower many lives worldwide. Change a community today and donate to help us make a home a dream come true for more families or sign up to join us on a trip this summer.