SPAIN’s first earthen 3d printed prototype

Valldaura Living Prototype is the first prototype of a building made through 3D printing with earth in Spain, within to a research project developed by the team of students, professors and experts from the postgraduate program in Architecture and 3D Printing with earth (3D Printing Architecture) of the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC), in Barcelona.

We had the chance to be part of this team as earthen construction experts in the last three editions, and the Valldaura Living Prototype is the arrival point of a long and interesting research process focused on building with natural materials available at zero kilometers.

The project was developed in collaboration with the Italian company WASP, and within the framework of Living Prototype, an international project funded by the Zunkunft Bau program of the German Federal Institute for Building Research, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (BBSR)


The printing process

The prototype was printed through a printer with a crane-type robotic arm, with a radius of 3 meters. The printer’s nozzle has a diameter of 2.5 cm, which limits the size of the aggregates that can be used. This makes it necessary to sift the excavation soil to be able to use it for printing; in this case a cylinder mechanical sieve was used. The priming soil layers, once dry, are approximately 2 cm high.

The significant amount of water necessary for the mixture to pass through the pump to the printer makes it necessary to print in stages, to avoid deformations and collapses: no more than ten layers per day were printed.

Additive manufacturing and 3D printing conditioned the morphology of the prototype, compatible with the printing radius of the printer and with the logistics of printing planning. A team of 18 students, who made the prototype in a little less than 2 months; The data necessary to develop the planning was obtained during a printing test workshop at the beginning of the course.

A significant input of labor is required to 3D print with earth, a technique that allows complex and precise details to be developed.

Zero kilometers Materials

Located on the hills of Barcelona, the prototype is built with 100% sustainable materials, sourced within a 500m radius of the site. The walls were 3D printed with the excavated soil from the foundations, without chemical stabilizers of any kind. This guarantees the complete recyclability of the material, and its very low carbon footprint.

Sisal plant fiber was added to the excavated soil to reduce shrinkage problems.

For the base of the earthen walls, which are not stabilized and have to be protected from soil water, it was decided to print a lost formwork with earth and to pour inside the excavation earth stabilized with geopolymers.

Natural additives such as egg white and linseed oil were used to improve the water resistance of the exterior layers of the walls.


The prototype has a surface area of just 9m2, but its details and performance were studied in depth, through an intensive two-week design phase where students synthesized the lessons learned from the research phase to develop the design details.

The 3D printed walls feature many cavities, which were designed to create passive ventilation or an insulating closed air chamber, depending on the need.

The design of the openings uses parametric geometry to generate a size gradient.

Structural performance was monitored through simulations and load tests, and extensive field investigation; observing the drying, shrinkage and tensile strength of the soil.

The proposed layout of the scheme takes into account structural considerations: the walls are designed to be tied through T and L joints, rather than straight lines.

Creditos> Gregori Civera

Monitoring and next steps

As an ongoing contribution to 3D printing earthen architecture research, the IAAC team continues to collect and analyze data from inside the cavity walls using temperature and humidity sensors.

For the 2022 edition, with the team of the IAAC postgraduate program in Architecture printed in 3D with earth, 3D Printing Architecture, we will continue advancing in experimental research and on a real scale, to provide solutions to the environmental impact of construction materials and their transportation.

Project credits

IAAC (Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia)

In collaboration with : WASP

With the support of: Zunkunft Bau Program of the German Federal Institute for Building Research, Urban Affairs and Territorial Development (BBSR).

IAAC faculty: Edouard Cabay, Alexandre Dubor, Lili Tayefi, Eduardo Chamorro, Vincent Huyghe, Ashkan Foroughi, Francesco Polvi, David Skaroupka, Bruno Ganem Coutinho, Marielena Papandreou, Guillem Baraut, Gloria Font, Lukas Fertig, Nikol Kirova, Josep Alcover

Earth construction expert: Elisabetta Carnevale (Arquitectura de Terra)

IAAC students: Adel Alatasi, Aslinur Taskin, Charles Musyoki, Deena El-Mahdy, Eugene Marais, Hendrik Masjosthusmann, Juliana Rodriguez Torres, Leonardo Bin, Mariam Arwa Al-Hachami, Marwa Abdelrahim, Mehdi Harrak, Michelle Bezik, Michelle Antonietta Isoldi Campinho , Mouad Laalou, Nareh Khaloian Sarnaghi, Nawaal Saksouk, Orestis Pavlidis, Seni BoniDara

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