Alquist and Virginia Tech Team Up to Create America’s First 3D Printed House Funded by Public-Private Partnership
Additive construction company Alquiste and the Virginia Center for Housing Research (VCHR) at Virginia Tech have teamed up to design, build and survey a 3D printed single-family home that is the first of its kind in the United States: funded by a public-private partnership grant. Work on the three-bedroom, 1,550-square-foot home began earlier this week at 217 Carnation Street in the Midlothian neighborhood of Richmond. The low-slung bungalow-style house, which greets the street with a covered porch fitted with a swing and decorative gable wall features, is expected to be completed in October.
The grant is a $ 500,000 innovation demonstration grant from Housing Virginie (formerly Virginia Housing Development Authority), a nearly 50-year-old quasi-government organization dedicated to helping Virginia residents obtain affordable housing through a range of programs. The grant enabled Alquist to purchase a modular 3D printer, the powerful BOD2, from the Danish 3D printing plant COBOD. According to a press release announcing the house’s grand opening, the gantry-type BOD2 system can be assembled – or taken apart – in hours and only requires two skilled construction workers on site to operate. While the prototype Richmond house will be built with a concrete mix, the open source nature of the system means that other, more durable materials can potentially be used down the line. For the Richmond project, Alquist, a company with a name that begs no more rumination– will only print exterior walls, although exterior and interior walls will be 3D printed in future versions.
As Alquist noted, preliminary estimates show that using concrete will deliver up-front savings of up to 15% per square foot of building compared to new stick-built homes, which have seen prices in the past. construction soar during the pandemic due to the explosive costs of wood. The speed and efficiency inherent in 3D printed house construction technology further reduce construction costs: with the BOD2 printer, the frame of a house can be built with a team of two in 12-15 days super-fast, reducing construction time by about a month. Long-term savings included lower heating and cooling costs due to the thermal properties of concrete.
Like the others 3D printing construction companies, these savings are at the heart of Alquist’s mission. Although the inaugural Richmond project is not a rural project, the company is particularly keen to bring low-cost, resilient 3D printed homes to rural communities across the United States. While 3D printed houses and other buildings have been tested and built in rural and developing areas outside from the United States of Mexico at Malawi, this is not the case in the United States. Alquist hopes to reverse this trend as the rural housing crisis worsens in part due to “exurban migration away from the coast accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.” Beyond Richmond, Alquis works with a partner company Atlas community studios and has projects planned for rural communities in Arkansas, California, Iowa, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, North Dakota and more. The target cost of future homes built by Alquist is $ 181,000 (with an approximate selling price of $ 210,000), although the construction price and the selling price of the first 3D printed house in Richmond are more high.
“While most 3D printing efforts focus on urban residential areas and commercial buildings, many regions facing the greatest housing challenges exist in rural America,” said Zachary Mannheimer, Founder and CEO of ‘Alquist, in a statement. “That’s why we’ve partnered with Virginia Housing and Virginia Tech to build homes for people who live outside of the places where most of the housing program funds are spent. “
Regarding the role of Virginia Tech, the school has developed a Raspberry Pi-based smart home surveillance system that will be present in all homes built by Alquist. The systems include detection of the indoor environment (air quality, temperature, humidity, lighting, sound, etc.), a security and alarm system, emergency management, including smoke detection and fire protection, optimization of energy consumption, etc.
“The long- and short-term time and cost savings over ‘standard build’ homes have continued to unfold throughout the design-build process, and we are delighted to pass these savings on to the family who eventually called this amazing project ‘home’, ‘”mentioned Dr Andrew McCoy, Head of Virginia Tech at Alquist, who is Director of VCHR and Associate Director of Myers-Lawson School of Construction, where is also a professor of building construction.
In addition to Virginia Teach and Virginia Housing, other project partners for the 3D printed house at 217 Carnation Street include the general contractor RMT Construction & Development Group and Richmond-based nonprofits Project: HOUSES and the Coalition for better housing, who will jointly provide project site and homeownership services as well as regulatory compliance advice, including permitting, zoning and insurance.