A view of the Habitas flat packed villas on a sea front

Flat-pack hotels promise greener tourism

Could the idea of travelling light soon extend to the hotel we stay in? Start-up Habitas believes so, as it rolls out its concept of building 3D-printed flat-pack hotels as an eco-holiday option for the future.

Investors including Uber founder Travis Kalanick, Ocado chief executive Tim Steiner, and Tinder dating app co-founder Justin Mateen, have backed the plan with cash totalling €18.5m. With this funding in place, Habitas plans to build between ten and 12 hotels over the next two years, in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Their first pioneering hotel opened in Tulum, Mexico, in 2017, comprising 32 rooms built on elevated platforms, with natural palapa (thatched) roofs and canvas walls, all constructed by local tradesmen and designed to avoid disturbing the local environment. The hotel is described by the company as a “sustainable sanctuary,” but the way in which Habitas plans to expand the idea into other countries has been criticised by some.

“Sustainability is a core belief in our approach, our design and how we integrate with local communities,” says Habitas co-founder Oliver Ripley. “We focus on low-impact construction, using local materials to minimise environmental impact.”

Manufacturing a 3D object by incrementally adding material until the object is complete has significant advantages in construction, with an ability to create buildings from scratch, quickly, involving lower labour costs and achieving greater accuracy, which produces less waste.

Assistant Professor of Additive Manufacturing Management at Nottingham University, Dr Martin Baumers, said 3D-printing enables building designs that can “produce energy savings over the life of the structure”. Moreover, if the raw material is sourced locally it can mean the process generates a smaller environmental footprint, he added.

Habitas internal shot of a flat pack hotel
Habitas flat-packed hotel interior

Habitas currently prints its flatpack rooms in Mexico, to be sent to different locations where they can be constructed and customised “like Lego”, according to Ripley. As a result, the start-up can manufacture 100 rooms per month and construct a whole hotel within six to nine months. 

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