Next Up in the Printer Queue: Social Housing

Next Up in the Printer Queue: Social Housing

Affordable housing is a key challenge in many cities and one of the concerns addressed in Sustainable Development Goal 11. Especially in low-income environments, it is often hard to find housing that is both stable and affordable. However, there might be a solution: 3D printing is now at a level where entire houses can be printed within a few days with costs as low as 5,000 USD per house. Could this be a solution for housing inequality?

How do you print a house?

In California’s Coachella Valley, the first 3D-printed neighborhood of the country is set to be printed soon. A real estate group and a construction technology company have come together to offer affordable housing to middle-class people who normally could not afford to buy a home. But with 3D printing, up to 80% of the construction can be automated, reducing labor hours by up to 95% percent.

Massive 3D printers are in use all over the world. At the size of a small garage, they are able to print entire houses, using layering technology. A specific cement and adhesives mix results in material that hardens almost immediately but can also be molded into countless shapes such as a roof or an overhang for a house. The technology creates up to 10 times less waste than conventional construction, resulting in 50 percent less CO2 emissions.

In as little as 24 hours, entire houses can be constructed. They are not only cheap and sustainable but also very resistant, meaning they withstand even extreme climatic conditions and hazards such as earthquakes. Since the urban poor are often particularly affected by environmental risks, a robust and affordable 3D printed house could be an ideal solution.

3D models of cities are easy to print, but even entire houses can be printed in just a few days.

3D printing in practice – still stuck in the printer queue?

Countries such as Russia, China, and Mexico are already experimenting with printing affordable 3D houses that can be offered to poorer communities and to the homeless. In Mexico’s state Tabasco, a 3D printed community funded by an NGO and two construction companies has allowed 50 families that earn less than 3 USD a day to move into 3D printed houses that are earthquake-proof. Each house offers two bedrooms, a living room, and a bathroom, significantly improving space and security for families.  

But can 3D printing really be a larger-scale solution for the housing crisis that countless cities are experiencing? Social housing is affordable housing, meaning that it costs a third of a family’s income or less. Cheap houses such as those coming from a printer can indeed meet the affordability challenge. The question is who provides them. For now, private housing developers and non-profit organizations are interested in using the technology. There is little to no interest from governments, resulting in a lack of funds.

Even if these challenges can be overcome soon, there remains another worry: Affordable houses alone cannot tackle housing inequality. Liveable, attractive cities that can make sure that “no one is left behind” are something that cannot be printed or fabricated. Good public spaces, sustainable mobility, short routes, safety for women and children, and equal employment opportunities are crucial elements for better urban living.

This means that we will need a holistic approach which could consist of integrating 3D printing of social housing into other efforts to improve our cities. Local authorities, municipal governments, non-profit organizations, and for-profit companies need to work together in order to provide affordable, sustainable, and equal housing solutions, supporting not just houses but also entire neighborhoods.

Handing the printers over to local communities

A potential approach for integrating 3D printing into upgrading entire neighborhoods is Fab Labs. These urban laboratories became popular in 2011 by a project in Barcelona that focused on fabrication cities. Urban making is at the core of this idea, challenging cities to fabricate everything they produce themselves. All over the world, Fab Labs are popping up. They invite local makers to learn how to use 3D printers and many other fabrication technologies. A focus lies on communities: Fab Labs are open spaces that often offer community-driven workshops that go beyond technological issues – for example in Mexico City.

Participatory processes shape the planning in Fab Labs. New employment is created, and funded equipment is available to anyone. Ideally, this places the manufacturing of 3D houses in the hands of local communities eventually. The idea that locals know best how to upgrade their neighborhoods is powerful. While some external guidance can be helpful, 3D printing templates can indeed lead to a shift in affordable housing, making better cities a reality.

Hand in hand with community education, uncomplicated permission processes, plans for entire urban environments, and sufficient funding can lead to a much better quality of life in many cities. While 3D printed houses are currently still something new and adventurous, Fab Lab initiatives can help to bring their many opportunities to life.

Fab Labs invite the community to experiment with new technology, resulting in economic opportunities as well as ownership.
Emerging urban food governance: the case of London

Emerging urban food governance: the case of London

Food policy has not usually represented a mainstream domain for urban planning. However, as Professor Kevin Morgan argued now ten years ago, this “puzzling omission” is not justifiable anymore given the multifunctional character of the food system with his effects on different policy sectors and the now recognized belief that it cannot be automatically relegated to the rural policy domain (2010: 341). Accordingly, Thomas Forster et Al. collected best practices from cities around the world to demonstrate the breadth of food policy and programmatic work that is occurring in urban areas, proposing a wide range of solutions for Mayors (2015). Their collection of policy solutions showed how “cities are moving towards an integrated approach to food systems and there are wide interest and experimentation in inter-departmental institutional mechanisms” (Forster et Al. 2015:17)

London Mayor Sadiq Khan buying food in a London Market (source Sustain)

In this context, the city of London shows a complex governance system (Travers 2002: 787) which at a first sight does not seem to leave much space to food policy. Thus, London has a two-tier structure with 32 boroughs plus the City of London representing local interests and the Greater London Authority (GLA), consisting of the Mayor and the Assembly, in charge of the London region (Travers 2018: 340). The London boroughs are responsible for local services delivery. In terms of policy competences, they run social care, environmental policies, road management, public health, social housing, waste management and they can supervise local schools (Travers 2018: 348). Whilst the Mayor establishes the strategic framework for the boroughs and the London plan, he also holds executive powers over transport – chairing the executive board of Transport for London – policing, fire, emergency services, London’s growth and economy. He even has a shared competence in housing and regeneration policy (Burdett and Rode 2015). By contrast, food policy in the UK appears fragmented amongst different policy sectors and layers. In particular, the multilevel nature of the food sector led food to be considered a “wicked issue” for policymaking and apparently unable to fit the policy system (Parsons, Barling and Lang 2018: 212). Consequently, an evident policy opportunity emerged for urban food policy, with the city of London experimenting new policy structures and promoting policy change.  

In the last years, the city of London has strengthened its commitment to food policy. The increased powers of the Mayor and the GLA enabled them to find new policy opportunities and address relevant issues for the capital, even in absence of strategic responsibilities. And food is one of these cases. Indeed, the Mayor and the GLA “consult widely and work closely with London organizations – boroughs, the private sector and voluntary bodies, in a new inclusive style of politics” (Pilgrim 2006: 226). Moreover, the Mayor has to enhance residents’ health and wellbeing, by also promoting social and economic development (Halliday and Barling 2018: 186). Hence, food policymaking can be enlisted within this duty. However, the creativity of Mayors in using their powers (Blick and Dunleavy 2017: 4) explicitly manifested concerning food. In fact, the current Mayor Sadiq Khan promoted a very interventionist policy campaign banning junk food advertisements from Transport for London, relying on its strategic direction over transport policy (Hawkes and Parsons 2019: 5). This policy action was firstly developed on-the-ground knowledge released by London boroughs (Hawkes and Parsons 2019: 5) and it showed how the complexity of London governance provides several policy opportunities encouraging the emergence of a complex urban food governance system. Additionally, the current London Plan provides support for food growing, local food production, encourages food waste management, aims to improve Londoners’ access to quality and healthy food (GLA 2016). Moreover, the plan intends to tackle food poverty by increasing the provision of land for food growing in London (GLA 2016: 323). Finally, it calls for the implementation of a new London Food Strategy (GLA 2016: 323). This strategy exemplifies the pan London commitment to food policymaking. The most recent – promoted by Mayor Sadiq Khan – was finally approved in 2018 (Hawkes and Parsons 2019: 4). It openly aims to guarantee that “all Londoners have access to healthy and sustainable food” (GLA 2018: 9) and “highlights how food is connected to everything we do as a society: it affects the environment, it drives our economy, affects our health and it is a central part of our cultural life” (GLA 2018: 7). Among its policy objectives, it differs from past food strategies in its promises to “tackle food poverty, child obesity and unhealthy food environments” (Hawkes and Parsons 2019: 4).

The implementation of the London Food Strategy has been supported by the London Food Programme, which is part of the GLA Regeneration and Economic Development Policy Unit. The Food Programme team also cooperates with food partners in the private, public and third sectors to deliver and monitor a wide range of projects which may concern public health, social welfare and environmental policy issues. It also works closely with the London Food Board. The board counsels the Mayor on food priorities for London and it is composed of experts from academia, the third and the private sector. Finally, London boroughs’ voice is heard through the Borough Food Sub-Group of the London Food Board (BFSG), which is primarily composed of officials from London boroughs’ public health teams (Hawkes and Parsons 2019: 5). It aims to strengthen the relationship between the GLA and London boroughs as regards food policymaking and reduce policy fragmentation. Since the Mayor has limited powers on food-related issues and boroughs have no obligation to follow his recommendations, the subgroup offers a more democratic arena for discussion (Halliday and Barling 2018). Moreover, the London Food Programme works in partnership with Sustain, an alliance of food and farming organizations, which supports London boroughs developing Food Poverty Action Plans (GLA n.d.). Sustain also releases every year the report “Beyond the Food Bank” to assess boroughs’ signs of progress in meeting food objectives over the year. The report shares every year what each London borough is doing on food to generate positive competition among each other. 

In this context, London Boroughs – like other local authorities in the UK – have a wide range of policy levers to produce long-term food policy change, and address social, economic and environmental issues as well (Marceau 2018: 3). Food Poverty Action Plans represent one of these levers through which local authorities can work with local partners to tackle food poverty at the local level (Marceau 2018: 3). Here, the limited Mayoral powers and resources as regards food policymaking explain how several food policy networks and partnerships emerged, especially in London, to fill the gaps that neither city nor local politics managed to compensate. Thus, a food partnership represents a consortium of organizations, ideally from the public, voluntary, faith and community sectors, who locally commit to working together and tackling food poverty (Sustain 2020). In 2017 around 50 cross-sector food partnerships have been set up in the UK as part of the Sustainable Food Cities movement (Davies 2017: 3). Once established, they are generally constituted by cross-sector bodies. Davies reports that food partnerships may take different shapes, relying on a more formalized or more informal structure. Some are directly housed by public sector organizations and are generally staffed by government’s employees. Others may be staffed and funded by third sector organizations or even fully independent, with minimal available resources and mostly composed by volunteers (Davies 2017: 3).  

Ultimately, the complexity of London’s urban governance represented a fertile environment for food policymaking, especially considering the policy vacuum left by the UK central Government as regards food. Thus, food policies have been recently added to London’s local and city-region agendas. Firstly, the Mayor made food a relevant component of its London Plan and launched the third London Food Strategy. Then, London boroughs started implementing local food policies as food poverty action plans and cooperating with local food partnerships. Evidently, if urban planning neglected food policy for a long time, the case of London shows how an increasing number of local actors from the public, private and third sector have finally recognized the strategic significance of the food system for urban areas and, more in general, of food for communities’ health and wellbeing


Blick, A. and Dunleavy, P. (2017), Audit 2017: How democratic is the devolved government of London? London: Democratic Audit UK.

Burdett, R. and Rode, P. (2015), Who runs our cities? How governance structures around the world compare, The Guardian, Available at:

Davies, S. (2017), Food Partnership Structures: Stories from Sustainable Food Cities, Sustainable Food Cities, available at:

Forster, T. et Al. (2015), Milan Urban Food Policy Pact: Selected Good Practices from Cities, Utopie/29 Globalizzazione, Milan: Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Foundation.

GLA (2016), The London Plan: the spatial development strategy for London consolidated with alterations since 2011, available at:

GLA (2018), The London Food Strategy, London: Greater London Authority, available at:

GLA (n.d.), Food Poverty Action Plans , The Greater London Authority, available at:

Halliday, J. and Barling D. (2018), The Role and Engagement of Mayors in Local Food Policy, In Rethinking Food Policy: A Fresh Approach to Policy and Practice. London: Centre for Food Policy.

Marceau, A. (2018), Good Policy for Good Food: A toolbox of Local Authority food policy levers, Sustainable Food Cities, available at:

Morgan, K. (2010), Feeding the City: The Challenges of Urban Food Planning, International Planning Studies, 14: 4, pp. 341-348.

Parsons, K. and Hawkes, C. (2019), Brief 4: Embedding Food in All Policies, In Rethinking Food Policy: A Fresh Approach to Policy and Practice, London: Centre for Food Policy, pp: 1-8.

Parsons, K., Barling, D. and Lang, T. (2018), UK Policymaking Institutions and their implications for integrated Food Policy (Chapter 7), Advances in Food Security and Sustainability, Volume 3, pp. 211-251.

Pilgrim, M. (2006), London Regional Governance and the London Boroughs, Local Government Studies, 32:3, pp.223-238.

Sustain (2020), Help tackle the root causes of food poverty with Food Power, Available at:

Travers, T. (2002), Decentralization London-style: The GLA and London Governance, Regional Studies, 36:7, pp. 779-788.

Travers, T. (2018), London: government and politics in the boroughs, in Dunleavy, P et al (Eds.), The UK’s Changing Democracy: The 2018 Democratic Audit. London: LSE Press.

The fourth module of the interdisciplinary Urban Clinic LabGov 2020

The fourth module of the interdisciplinary Urban Clinic LabGov 2020

The fourth workshop and co-working of the Urban Clinic hosted NTT Data Design on the Luiss Webex platform.

Our guest, Dr. Elena Ciccarelli  and her team explained us how the multinational NTT Data was born and what the “Digital Entity” team is responsible for within the NTT group. Their activity deals with digital transformation, design process and customer experience. Mrs. Ciccarelli highlighted that in her profession open innovation is a fundamental element, especially during this period in which technology is having an exponential growth amplifying its range of action to several sectors and activities of daily life. Mr. Michele Danti, a member of the Digital Entity team remembered us the importance of designing on the basis of big data. To be more explicit, the NTT team exposed some examples of digital innovation processes by exposing Case Studies from previous contracts, for instance, the creation of apps for customers of telephone carriers (TIM and Vodafone) or Internet Banking Services. Once the consulting session, in the field of design, data processing and storytelling has been held, the Team prepared us for Saturday’s co-working with the scope of deepening and applying the theoretical notions learned during the workshop to the realization of the project of the LabGov clinic.

Let’s get started for Saturday’s co-working! The LabGovers have been divided into three groups, with one member of NTT Data leading each group. The students learned with enthusiasm, how to use the Mural platform in order to perform some practical activities. The first group “Trend” focused on creating a solid basis for the digital platform hosting their project. The second group “Feasibility” took care of defining the customer’s priorities and converge them with the project, so as to focus on various assumptions of products and services to offer. Finally, the third group “Economy” began to map the stakeholders of our project and later, they identified the services and goods needed to create value.

After lunch, everyone gathered to share the activities done during the morning. After that, a member of the LabGov team presented the draft version of the investor pitch to the hosts. The NTT data team had the opportunity to express critiques and gave a feedback and some insights and ideas on which to focus in order to develop the project based on collaborative digital innovation. To conclude the fourth co-working, the students are updated on the execution of community gardening hours that cannot be carried out in the Luiss Community Garden but will be employed in the realization of video tutorials of sustainable activities and advices for a sustainable lifestyle that one can perform at home.

During these next weeks, the LabGovers will work on the presentation of the investor pitch to be ready for the next and very exciting module of Legal Design, in which students will reflect on innovative ways to overcome legal barriers on sustainability with a team of experts from Berlin.

Don’t hesitate to check out our progress on our social medias: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram !

The second module of the interdisciplinary Urban Clinic LabGov 2020.

The second module of the interdisciplinary Urban Clinic LabGov 2020.

The “Entrepreneurship Lab” gave the opportunity to the students to present their ideas and be advised by a panel jury composed by practitioners and professors of different academic backgrounds. The final objective of the whole module, which was successfully achieved, was to highlight the strengths and opportunities of each project idea of the students, so to merge it into a single macro idea and continue developing the project in the course of incoming sessions.

During the workshop on Friday 28th, the Urban Clinic hosted Professor Cavallo, consultant expert in national and international online business development, marketing and digital strategy, as well as teacher and mentor at the Luiss Business School. Following a general introduction to the tools needed to execute an appealing pitch that can attract investors and partners, students had the opportunity to perfect their skills of public speaking and if necessary, edit the form and content before the official presentation. Professor Cavallo’s advices has proved to be valuable and fundamental to achieve the consciousness needed. Moreover, professor Cavallo was able yo facilitate the task by highlighting the points needed to develop a functional business model and make it simple but effective. Students understood how important is to highlight the problem creating an empathic feeling with the interlocutor and than expose the solution supported by analysis of target personas, studies on market validation and market size and business model.

In the first part of the co-working on Saturday 29th, the jury was composed by Alessia Simeone Social Media strategist, Arianna Centofanti from the law firm Giplex; Chistian Iaione co-founder and co-director of LabGov and Professor of Regulatory Innovation, Land use, Urban Law & Policy, and Director of the Master in Law, Digital innovation and Sustainability; Luca Tricarico Phd post-doctoral research in Business and Management Luiss; Alessandro Piperno Phd student in Management Luiss; Giorgio Insom, expert and consultant in Business modeling. Moreover there was Giuseppe Allocca former Luiss student and founder of “Lofoio” enterprise of handicrafts and regeneration fabrics from textile waste in Prato; Francesco Malitesta and Lorenzo Pizzo founders of the Artlab Xnovo and Flavia Romei eco-friendly stylist owner of the atelier Cheap Lobster. The participation of each juror was of fundamental importance since that each juror’s comment focalized on their operational field, creating a 360º scenario that has ensured a more detailed and in-depth evaluation.

Panel Jury

In the second part of the co-working students collaborated to synthesize the three ideas so to elaborate a macro idea analyzing the strengths and opportunities that have been highlighted by the jury. For instance, it has emerged that data analysis was a cross-cutting element. Once the brainstroming process was completed, it was necessary to analyse the feasibility and the market trend behind the idea. The students were therefore divided into groups to analyse the various elements mapping the costs and revenues of each project area and creating a survey so to define the target and the degree of interest and commitment from potential consumers.

Next appointment Saturday, March 7th, with the first session of Community Gardening where students will have an open air Lab in the Luiss Community Garden. The aim of the meeting will be to study natural dyes and go forward with the design of the project idea.

Building a social enterprise Lab!

Building a social enterprise Lab!

The second module is about to start! How will students’ initial planning ideas become a final project proposal?

On the 28th of February the workshop “Entrepreneurship” will take place in classroom 305b from 4pm to 6pm in the Luiss campus located in Viale Romania, 32. The Urban Clinic will host prof. Alessandro Cavallo, founder of Cavallo Consulting and lecturer & mentor at Luiss Business School. The focus will be on digital analysis and marketing strategy as well as product design and development.

On the 29th of February the co-working “Building a Social Enterprise” will take place in aula Polivalente from 10am to 5pm in the Luiss campus of Viale Romania, 32. During this session the students will present their planning ideas elaborated during the last co-working session and reshaped during the week in teamwork. The ideas will then be judged by a panel of experts who will highlight the strong points, the feasibility and the originality in terms of social impact, sustainability and innovation of every proposed idea. The ultimate goal is to come up with a final merged idea that will be further analysed during the second part of the meeting so to start building a business model.

Aren’t you curious to find out what the final idea will be? Stay up to date by following us on our social channels Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!