During the “Dare to Shape the Future” initiative, Swiss students worked with the support of KPMG coaches on bold predictions regarding ESG topics (Environmental, Social and Governance) with an outlook on 2043. The following prediction was developed by Aleyna Lale from the University of St. Gallen and Cléo Greb from the University of Zurich.
By 2043, 3D-printed sustainable homes could be the standard, driven by urbanization, climate concerns, and eco-friendly innovations. Meeting global housing needs while addressing industry conservatism and affordability remains crucial.
In 2043, living in a house built through 3D-printing technologies made of fungus will no longer be the exception but the norm. Natural materials found in nature such as hemp will be used for home insulation to cope with extreme weather events and existing materials considered as waste will be turned into new bricks. The buildings of the future will be an extension of our planet, rather than a burden, thanks to their complete biodegradability. It will be possible to have modular and mono-material houses, which will not only make the economy of the construction sector completely circular but will also make housing more affordable. Innovation, but above all the common use of these techniques, will not only prioritize sustainability but will transform homes from being a place to live to becoming integral parts of a regenerative ecosystem.
Essentially, what was considered a disruptive innovation in 2023 will become the new reality and the new way of living in 2043. Houses will therefore not only be adapted to the needs of the people who live in them but will also continue to evolve according to the needs of our planet, combining technology, ecology, and economy.
Why did this happen?
By 2023, urbanization trends were evident with a growing preference for city living. This required increased infrastructure construction, especially in Asia and Africa, where urbanization was expected to surge by 90%. In addition, the number of people without adequate shelter was predicted to reach 3 billion in 2030. Considering the method of construction at the time and international climate targets, it was imperative to change building methods. Climate change also made events such as high temperatures, earthquakes, or floods more common and extreme, and it was necessary to adapt to develop infrastructures that could be safe and stable in the future. A shift therefore took place, favoring innovative and sustainable solutions, with the goal of making the most efficient use of resources possible.
Companies adapted to meet ESG criteria, favoring sustainable materials like cement alternatives and stronger, lighter wood products such as cross-laminated timber, due to their resilience to earthquakes. The use of 3D-printing has also become increasingly popular. In fact, a New Story project has made it possible for 10 families with an income of less than $3 a day to move into a community of houses built using 3D printing methods as early as 2021. Even completely disruptive innovations, such as fungi or the use of hemp, were able to replace materials such as bricks, which have seen few innovations over centuries of use. For example, the Hy-Fi project, launched in 2014, was the first building to be constructed from mushroom-derived bricks in central Queens, NY.
Sustainable solutions have gained traction over the years, driven by developer and investor interest. In developing countries, these methods will be widely adopted, making them the new norm by 2043.
To meet the demand of the world's population, which in the next 30 is predicted to reach nearly 10 billion, between 10 and 30 million new houses will need to be built each year. The commercialization of innovative methods and materials in building construction will not only have a better environmental impact but will also solve a variety of social problems such as the low security of homes in emerging countries or the rapid urbanization of new agglomerations where the construction industry is struggling to keep up. As early as 2023, it is possible to use sustainable cement that emits 60% less CO2 than the conventional one. Furthermore, with 3D printing technologies it is already possible to build houses in just a few days, a speed that is more than necessary to meet the ever-increasing demand.
Achieving a sustainable and socially acceptable future also comes with many challenges and risks. It is already known that the construction sector is perhaps one of the most conservative industries and it is not always easy to bring innovation. Furthermore, construction costs are still high, and people living below the poverty line simply cannot afford to build a house and as a result continue to live in slums. A further risk factor is that sustainability and climate change is treated as a passing trend and not a reality and is therefore not treated with the necessary importance.
However, considering global agreements to keep global warming within 2°C such as the Paris Agreement; the Sustainable Development Goals developed by the United Nations to also address social causes; but also, the rapid development and accessibility of new technologies and materials, one can remain confident that a change will take place in the coming decades.