An Estonian team has developed a composite construction material for 3D printing that could produce houses for a tenth the cost of a conventional dwelling.
Researchers from the University of Tartu have found that milled peat can be combined with fly ash to form the shell of a house.
Peat, which has been used in housebuilding for thousands of years, can hold heat well, is safe for the environment, and is cheap.
A 100-150 sq m shell would cost around €5,000 to print, according to website Research in Estonia.
The material is also strong, with reinforcements only needed for openings and arches.
The peat mixture takes a day to set in place and is naturally insulated and air tight.
JÃ¼ri Liiv, an Estonian Peat Research Centre researcher, said: "It is a breathing material that does not need separate vapour or wind barriers. There should be no issues with mould. Furthermore, it is a good noise blocker.
"Building a house from our material could look something like this: the foundations are laid and a vehicle with the printer drives to the site, bringing with it two or three loads of peat, oil shale ash and other additives. A two-storey house could be printed from these materials in one or two days."
The Estonian University of Life Sciences is waiting for funding to continue testing the material and to fund the printing of a structure.
An article on the subject will be published in the September 2018 edition of Sustainable Materials and Technologies.
Image: Test pieces of the material (Merilyn Merisalu/Research in Estonia)