Solution Overview & Team Lead Details

Our Organization


What is the name of your solution?


Provide a one-line summary of your solution.

3D printed earth formwork for materially effecient concrete construction.

Film your elevator pitch.

What specific problem are you solving?

As the rate of global, rapid urbanization continues to grow, researchers and practitioners in Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) are being pushed to explore automation as a means of accelerating the development of new housing and infrastructure. According to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, 90,000 new units of housing will need to be produced each day to meet 2050 global urban housing demand. This goal is radically infeasible with existing construction practice and, if accomplished with currently conventional systems, would significantly increase the climate impact. The construction industry is contributing 11% of global annual carbon emissions, a number projected to grow over the next 50 years. Eight percent of this impact is a direct effect of cement production for concrete, currently the world’s most ubiquitous building material. To address the twofold challenge of rapid urbanization and the climate impact of growing cities, novel systems must be developed to minimize the use of concrete in new construction with globally scalable construction automation technologies. There is an extensive body of research illustrating methods for material reduction in concrete structures through shape optimization; however, fabricating shaped optimized structural elements remains a critical challenge.

What is your solution?

We have created a novel system 3D printing earth as formwork for reinforced concrete. Using additive manufacturing, soil, often viewed as waste on a construction site, can be leveraged to produce infinitely recyclable formwork for mass-customized, shape-optimized, and structural elements. Doing so allows the construction of reinforced concrete buildings with more than 50% less concrete, as validated in years of academic research by the founders. By reducing material usage, carbon impact and cost are also drastically reduced. In addition, the additive manufacturing technology used is far faster than conventional construction practice and allows for greater design freedom to tailor buildings to specific climates and communities needs. Given the direct process of sending a design to a fabrication robot, we do not incur the massive costs typical of redesigning basic building systems for different projects. A further advantage of our hybrid system of 3D printing earth to produce conventional concrete structures is that the end result can be directly code compliant, unlike all other existing additive manufacturing strategies for the architectural scale. Finally, the 3D-printed EarthWork can be directly cycled back into the printing system to produce new molds for concrete elements, making it the first truly circular/ infinitely reusable concrete formwork fabrication system we are aware of. 

Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?

Every human requires shelter, and nearly every community is beginning to experience the impact of climate change while also experiencing rapid urbanization. Faced with this reality, our solution could change the lives of many people and cities worldwide over the next century. 

Around 70% of the world’s population lives in structures that are at least partially constructed from concrete. At the same time, about 30% of the world’s population also lives and works in structures partially made from earth. These structures, both concrete, and earth, exist on every continent. For example, in Germany alone, 50 million people live in earthen buildings. Providing a faster way to build homes and infrastructure that also lowers cost and climate impact through material savings has the potential to benefit everyone. 

In Southern California, where our full-scale research development is currently underway, there is a need for housing that is quick to build, affordable, multistory and resilient to fire. Wildfires have destroyed large portions of California’s housing stock in increasingly urban settings, replacing these structures with buildings made from hybrid concrete and earth systems like those supplied by EarthWorks is an excellent value proposition both for communities and the planet.

How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

Our team includes experts in large-scale additive manufacturing, material science, structural engineering, and building energy performance modeling. Combining and leveraging this deep well of experience is what allowed us to make EarthWorks a reality in the first place. In addition, 

Our founder, Alexander Curth, has worked in the Additive Manufacturing industry for over 10 years and is completing a PhD in the Design and Computation group in MIT’s Architecture Department. Previously he received a Master of Architecture degree from UC Berkeley. He also runs a consulting company (Element R&D) that successfully deploys material savings strategies through computational design for aluminum facade systems on skyscrapers. 

The research team includes MIT Architecture and Structural Engineering Professor Caitlin Mueller and University of Virginia Engineering Professor Moh Ismail, both leaders in the field of low carbon structural design. In addition, PhD students working on building energy performance and building envelope design are contributing to the academic side of the project. With this set of technical expertise and industry experience, and connection, we are well-positioned to scale quickly. 

The current project is also supported by Lynda Weinman, a successful tech entrepreneur who created She has provided grants and a large warehouse in California to scale the research to market.

Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Reduce emissions from multifamily housing during construction, operation, and end-of-life while addressing barriers to local adoption.

In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?

Boston, MA and Santa Barbara, CA

In what country is your solution team headquartered?

  • United States

What is your solution’s stage of development?

Prototype: A venture or organization building and testing its product, service, or business model, but which is not yet serving anyone

Please share details about what makes your solution a Prototype rather than a Concept.

Multiple full-scale building elements have been manufactured and tested. These elements have been sized for multistory residential construction, the most pressing area for development in global construction.

How many people does your solution currently serve?

The solution is in the prototyping stage, full-scale building elements have been produced. However, none are currently part of inhabited structures.

Why are you applying to Solve?

To scale EarthWorks to a market-ready building technology requires capital and business guidance. Construction, especially in the US, is extremely expensive. While our system vastly reduces many construction-associated costs, building and testing full-scale wall and floor systems requires space, money, and labor. We have demonstrated a “minimum viable product” but require more business, legal and financial resources to implement such products in buildings that meet building code and can be permanently inhabited. Navigating the design and construction industry requires legal guidance and expertise to establish government approval for new construction systems. Solve offers opportunities to connect with experts who can guide our developments and could help us establish a robust business model that will attract larger funding sources.

In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Business Model (e.g. product-market fit, strategy & development)
  • Financial (e.g. accounting practices, pitching to investors)
  • Legal or Regulatory Matters

Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Alexander (Sandy) Curth

More About Your Solution

What makes your solution innovative?

EarthWorks is a novel building system currently under review for a patent.

What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?

Our one year goal is to produce a full scale, multi-story housing prototype. We are working towards completing the first section of this building over the summer.

Our five-year goals are to produce multiple, to building code, housing units that are inhabited. These could be in California, Mexico or India where we have construction industry partners.

Both of these goals require establishing a company with multiple employees and a robust business model for interacting with major players in the global construction industry. (What we need Solve's help with!)

Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?

  • 3. Good Health and Well-being
  • 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • 9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • 10. Reduced Inequalities
  • 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  • 15. Life on Land

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new technology

How do you know that this technology works?

We have produced and tested multiple full-scale building elements for multistory residential construction.

Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Imaging and Sensor Technology
  • Manufacturing Technology
  • Materials Science
  • Robotics and Drones
  • Software and Mobile Applications

In which countries do you currently operate?

  • United States

In which countries will you be operating within the next year?

  • United States
Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

For-profit, including B-Corp or similar models

How many people work on your solution team?

1 full time (founder), 3 researchers willing to contribute seriously

How long have you been working on your solution?

1 year

What is your approach to incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusivity into your work?

From a design perspective, EarthWorks has the potential to be a democratizing technology that allows communities to build what they want the way they want. This is a major shift from current industry practice and one that has the potential to be far more equitable. Democratization and access to affordable housing continue to be a driving force behind our work. The development of this project has included a wide range of students and supporters and will continue to be home to a diverse group of people as we scale. There is no way to build for everyone without engaging people from all backgrounds for their input and guidance.

Your Business Model & Funding

What is your business model?

We don't have one. We are considering a software as service approach to enable existing companies to license our technology or a larger scale effort to build a construction company that does the actual work of producing buildings.

Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?

Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)

What is your plan for becoming financially sustainable?

We would love guidance on this topic as we are in the early stages of developing a business model.

Share some examples of how your plan to achieve financial sustainability has been successful so far.

We secured $100,000 in research funding from a technology company founder to initiate the research last year. Moving forward, investment could come from investors in the real estate development and construction industries as well as from large government grants for infrastructure renewal. With nearly 10 years of experience in the architectural scale additive manufacturing space (essentially since the beginning), our founder is well positioned and connected to plug into growing monetary investment in large-scale 3D printing technologies.

Solution Team

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