Building a new home isn’t cheap. By getting creative with materials and utilizing 3D printing techniques, a team of researchers in Estonia figures they could cut construction costs by 90%.

These 3D-printed structures could be erected in just one day. It all starts with a material that was used in home building more than 10,000 years ago: peat.

Nearly a quarter of Estonia is covered by wetlands, but only a very small amount of the peat found in them is used. The uppermost layer of the peat, which is drier, is pretty much all that’s used. The rest is left to decompose.

Researcher Juri Liiv notes that peat can be a tricky to work with, however, because it “prevents many materials from hardening.” That’s a pretty obvious downside to something you plan to use to build a house.

The team found another waste material that let them solve that problem, however. They turned to Estonia’s ready supply of oil shale ash. It’s a hazardous substance that has a pH of nearly 13 when it comes in contact with water — roughly the same as oven cleaner. Oil shale ash is not the kind of stuff you really want sitting around outside in large piles, but that’s often what happens.

When it’s mixed with peat and a bit of nanosilica and left to cure, the resulting material becomes strong, light, and totally harmless. It also boasts a low heat transfer coefficient, which is a great thing. Its ability to do double duty as structure and insulation is one of the ways it saves time and reduces cost. On top of all that, the peat-based material also doesn’t transmit sound which would make it an excellent fit for multi-dwelling units.

Liiv and his team figure that they can reduce the cost of a 1600-foot home’s skeleton from €50,000 or so down to just €5,000. That’s a huge win in the face of skyrocketing home costs.

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