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Half Of Madagascar's Future Minds Untapped:

5 In 10 Children Missing Out On Education

Explore The Challenge

Widespread Child Illiteracy and Educational Barriers:

In Madagascar, about 45% of children are not in school due to economic hardship, resource scarcity, and inadequate infrastructure, reflecting a broader crisis in sub-Saharan Africa with 34 million children out of school.

Impact of Natural Disasters:

The country faces the highest frequency of cyclones in Africa, with significant damage to educational infrastructure, highlighting the inadequacy of traditional construction methods in ensuring safe learning environments.

Logistical and Climatic Challenges in Remote Areas:

Difficulties in material transportation, scarcity of skilled labor, and cyclone vulnerabilities necessitate innovative construction methods for durable and quickly deployable educational facilities.

Need for a Paradigm Shift in Education Infrastructure:

Madagascar requires  a transition to building techniques that are resilient against its unique challenges to provide every child the opportunity for a quality education in a safe environment.

MISSION: To dismantle the barriers to education in Madagascar by leveraging innovative 3D printing technology and global partnerships, building sustainable and accessible learning environments for underserved children. Through collaborative efforts, we aim to transform communities by providing the foundation for a brighter educational future.

VISION: Envisioning a Madagascar where every child has access to quality education within a stone's throw of their home, powered by the pioneering use of sustainable architecture and technology. Our goal is to ignite a cycle of learning and opportunity that propels communities towards economic empowerment and environmental stewardship, setting a global standard for educational infrastructure development.

CHALLENGE - Bridging Gaps

Pioneering Access to Education for Madagascar's 34 Million Out-of-School Children

OPPORTUNITY - 18 Hours to Opportunity

How Madagascar's First 3D Printed Classroom Opens Doors for Millions


The inception of Madagascar's first 3D printed classroom marks a pivotal leap forward not just in educational infrastructure development but in community transformation at large. This groundbreaking initiative transcends the conventional boundaries of construction and education, offering a sustainable and replicable model to combat the critical challenge of educational access. With over 34 million children across sub-Saharan Africa deprived of educational opportunities, the implications of deploying rapid, cost-efficient, and environmentally friendly construction methods extend beyond the realm of academia. This project ignites hope, fosters community engagement, and catalyzes economic opportunities by creating jobs and enhancing local skills in innovative construction techniques. It embodies a holistic approach to development, where each classroom built is a step toward a future where every child in Madagascar, and eventually in similar contexts globally, can aspire to an education that empowers them to change their world



The Journey Begins

From Models To Realiy

The Design Unveiled

Drawings, Delivery & The Digital Twin

Pilot Prototype Development:
Defining Humanity and its partners trialed 3D concrete printing technology with a prototype near EMIT University of Fianarantsoa to address the construction challenges of K-12 schools in remote areas, demonstrating the technology's suitability for areas with limited infrastructure and labor resources.

Hexagonal Design Efficiency:
The prototype featured a hexagonal design to optimize space and material use, with 3D-printed planters that enhance outdoor learning and community engagement, showcasing the potential of 3D printing in educational infrastructure development.

Robust Construction Techniques:
Utilizing the BOD2 printer, the walls were constructed with dual layers of 3D-printed concrete for improved structural integrity, thermal efficiency, and durability, ensuring the classroom's resilience against natural disasters.

Sustainable and Energy-efficient Features:
The project incorporated a solar energy capture system, high insulation values, and sustainable materials, setting a new standard for educational infrastructure that is quick to deploy, cost-effective, and environmentally sustainable.

Bringing The Design To Life

International Collaboration:
The project to construct 3D printed schools in rural Madagascar showcases a unique international partnership, with funding from Karmagawa and Thinking Huts, architectural and project management by Defining Humanity in the US, and technical execution by Denmark's COBOD and 14Trees, demonstrating a global collaborative effort.

Cross-Continental Expertise:
Contributions include structural engineering from Italy, financial planning from China, and local engineering and management by SECOA in Madagascar, highlighting the diverse international expertise and cultural understanding integrated into the project.

Innovative Solutions in Challenging Environments:
Utilizing the BOD2 printer, the walls were constructed with dual layers of 3D-printed concrete for improved structural integrity, thermal efficiency, and durability, ensuring the classroom's resilience against natural disasters.

Global Community and Knowledge Exchange:
Beyond constructing educational facilities, the project fosters international cooperation, cultural respect, and knowledge sharing, setting a precedent for addressing global challenges through united efforts and highlighting the importance of community in global project success.

Empowering The Community

Community-Centric and Sustainable Approach:
The Pilot Hut initiative integrates community engagement and sustainable practices, using 3D printed construction to both meet educational facility needs and promote self-reliance and environmental stewardship in Madagascar.

Involvement and Skill Development:
Local community members actively participate in all project phases, gaining skills in advanced 3D printing technology, while local materials are prioritized, fostering cultural resonance and sustainability.
Educational and Environmental Integration:
The schools function as living labs for sustainability, featuring community gardens and innovative roofing with solar energy capture, enhancing learning through practical environmental management.

Technological Efficiency and Broader Impact:
Leveraging 3D printing reduces resource use, enhances building thermal efficiency, and shortens construction times, setting a sustainable model for empowering communities and extending impacts beyond traditional educational roles.

The Finished Structure

Innovative and Functional Design:
The prototype school showcases a hexagonal structure that optimizes space and functionality, inspired by biomimicry principles, which not only enhances the learning environment but also integrates well with the local landscape to minimize ecological impact.

Artistic and Practical Facade Treatment:
The facade features a distinctive appearance with horizontal striated lines from 3D printing, coated with white elastomeric paint to protect against elements and serve as a canvas for local artists, blending functionality with community-specific artistic expression.

Enhanced Learning Environment:
Thoughtful landscaping with strategically placed 3D printed planters introduces green spaces within educational settings, while interiors emphasize natural light and ventilation, creating inviting, conducive spaces for learning.

Community-Centric Aesthetic Appeal:
The use of vibrant colors and local materials in the school’s design not only elevates its aesthetic appeal but also fosters a strong sense of community pride and belonging, demonstrating how architecture can be a catalyst for educational and social development.

Reflections & Future Visions

Proof of Concept and Global Potential:
The 3D printed schools project in Madagascar proves the feasibility of using 3D printing technology for educational infrastructure, offering a scalable model that can be adapted to various global regions experiencing similar infrastructural challenges.

Customization and Scalability:
The adaptability of 3D printing technology allows for tailored educational facilities that consider local cultural, climatic, and resource conditions, making it an effective solution to address the global education infrastructure gap.

Sustainability and Technological Advancements:
Future developments in 3D printing are expected to enhance the sustainability and efficiency of construction materials and processes, including the integration of solar technology for greater self-sufficiency and reduced environmental impact.

Local Empowerment and Socioeconomic Impact:
By training local communities in 3D printing techniques, the project not only builds schools but also develops a skilled workforce, contributing to broader community development and socioeconomic growth.

From Pilot to Paradigm: Pioneering a 3D Printed Campus as Our Next Leap Forward


In Collaboration With:
defining HUMANITY -
Architectural Design and Engineering
SECOA - Civil Engineer and Local Construction Team
14Trees - 3D Printing Contractor
COBOD - 3D Printer Manufacturer
HOLCIM - 3D Printing Materials Consultancy and Supply
Matteo Pietrobelli - Structural Engineer

Under The Patronage Of:
EMIT Universite de Fianarantsoa
Thinking Huts

Photography Credits:
EMIT© 2022 Mattea LinAe, all rights reserved.(
Andry Niaina
Thinking Huts


Explore how it's built

What We Did:

The proposed plan for the Prototype 3D printed pilot hut for Thinking Huts reflects the innovative use of 3D printing technology to create educational spaces in Madagascar’s rural regions. The structure's hexagonal design is not only aesthetically pleasing but also aligns with the project's focus on efficiency and community space. The compact yet functional layout suggests a mindful approach to utilizing space effectively for educational purposes, potentially offering a transformative solution to educational infrastructure challenges in the region

General Layout:

The plan shows a hexagonal structure, aptly chosen for its efficient use of space and materials. Each side of the hexagon measures 10185mm x 910 mm (approximately 33’-5” x 29’-10”). The hexagon's corners have additional cut-out areas for windows and an entrance. The interior space, has an area of 66 m2 or approximately 712 SF (square feet). There are 4 planters that flank all the corners of the foundation, each of which is 3D concrete printed into a unique shape that helps define the space as the prototype classroom might be deployed in rural areas sometimes as a single unit. The planter has an integral wood bench that allows the students to sit outside in small groups for outdoor learning or activities. The planters would be filled with local flora and fauna and will most likely be used to grow vegetables.


Spans 12040mm by 12040mm, providing a robust base for the classroom. Its core is a concrete slab on grade, reinforced with an integrated network of 8mm transverse and 10mm longitudinal steel rebars, ensuring strength and stability with a density of 350kg/m3. Placed on the native clay soil, the foundation begins with a compacted soil base, enhancing load-bearing capacity and forming a resistant barrier to water ingress. A gravel course above this compacted layer serves as a critical capillary break, preventing groundwater from wicking upwards. A 6-mil polyethylene moisture barrier is then placed over the gravel to rigorously protect the slab from moisture. The subsequent sand layer functions to regulate the concrete's hydration, ensuring a smooth curing process, essential for mitigating cracks and structural weaknesses. The outer grade beam, measuring 200mm in width and 600mm in height, and an internal beam of 380mm by 600mm, trace the hexagon's perimeter, effectively distributing the structural load.

Wall Thickness and Height:

In designing the walls for the 3D-printed classroom, we focus on structural integrity, thermal efficiency, and durability. The walls are constructed using the COBOD’s BOD2 3D printer and stand at a max printing height of 11 feet, with an overall thickness of 7”, meticulously crafted for both strength and insulation. The construction features a dual-layer of 3D-printed concrete, each 2” thick with a layer height of 3/4", encompassing a 3-inch air cavity designed for blown-in insulation, aiming for an R-value of 15. 3D printed walls are considered to be a very high-performance wall system as they significantly reduces thermal bridging, bolstering the classroom's energy efficiency.

The masonry ties embedded within the wall fortify the connection between the layers, ensuring structural cohesiveness. Above the doors and windows, a 5mm thick metal span plate is strategically placed, functioning as a lintel to bear loads over the openings and providing a reliable shelf for the 3D printer to continue extruding concrete. For durability and reflectivity, the 3DCP walls are coated with an elastomeric white paint. This specialized coating serves multiple purposes: it protects the concrete from the elements as it hardens into a flexible, watertight covering, bridges minor surface cracks preventing water ingress, and due to its reflective nature, it significantly reduces solar heat gain, keeping the interior of the classroom cooler and more comfortable in Madagascar's sunny climate.

Drawing on the advanced properties of Holcim's TectorPrint concrete mix design, the walls possess an estimated compressive strength of 4,250 psi and an estimated shear strength of 320 psi, exceeding the structural resilience of the typical single wythe brick masonry construction used on the island. The thoughtful design encapsulates the confluence of technology and material science, ensuring the classroom stands resilient against the demands of its harsh stormy environment.

Entrance and Glazing:

The glazing system features aluminum operable casement windows. These windows are equipped with low-emissivity insulating dual-pane glass, filled with argon gas, aimed at maximizing thermal insulation and minimizing heat transfer. The glass is much more energy efficient than typically used ensuring a comfortable interior environment, critical in Madagascar's climate. The windows incorporate mesh insect screens, providing essential protection against insects while maintaining natural ventilation and daylight penetration. All the glass is protected by generous overhangs from the roof providing proper shading throughout the year. The exterior entrance doors are high-performance, full glass aluminum doors. Offering a much higher energy efficiency and weather resistance than the typical thin gauge metal doors used in rural schools. Together, the entrance and glazing components of the classroom not only contribute to the building's thermal efficiency and sustainability goals but also foster an inviting and protective atmosphere conducive to learning and exploration.

Roof Assembly:

The roof assembly is designed with meticulous attention to sustainability, structural integrity, and climatic resilience. It features a shed roof with a subtle 4% pitch, equating to a 1⁄2” per 12” pitch, optimized for water runoff and architectural appeal. This roofing system comprises standing seam metal roof panels, recognized for their durability and ease of installation. Beneath these panels lies a 1/2" hat shape sub-girt, an innovative layer that supports the overall structure and attachment of the roofing material.

Directly underneath the sub-girt is a high-performance roof membrane, providing an additional barrier against water infiltration. This is layered over 3 inches of rigid insulation, a significant thermal enhancement uncommon in traditional Madagascan roof assemblies, thereby markedly improving the building's thermal efficiency.

The assembly is supported by 3/4" exterior grade plywood sheathing, offering a robust base for the insulation and waterproofing layers above. The interior finish of the school is beautifully designed with exposed tongue and groove decking, forming the underside soffit of the roof and the finish ceiling, lending a warm, natural aesthetic to the interior spaces.

Structurally, the roof is supported by glue laminated roof beams, an elegant and strong solution that spans the full 42 feet of the classroom. These beams provide a substantial 6-foot overhang, designed to shade the building and its glazing effectively from Madagascar's intense sunlight. Due to the regulatory and research environment surrounding the structural use of 3DCP walls at the time, these beams are instead anchored to cast-in-place concrete columns using CBPC column base to beam connectors. These connectors are engineered for a flush finish with the concrete, ensuring a secure and tested capacity for structural integrity and resistance to being torn off by cyclones.

The roofing system also incorporates provisions for solar energy capture. The standing seam metal panels offer an ideal platform for attaching solar panels without compromising the waterproof integrity of the roof. Options include both traditional solar panels, which clip onto the standing seams, and thin-film panels that adhere directly between the seams, allowing for a seamless integration of renewable energy solutions. The solar power system includes a 7.6KW inverter with 4 power point trackers and a solar battery storage capacity of 13.5KWh, ensuring backup power of 5.8KW continuous and 10KW peak, making the school a model of sustainability and energy independence.


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