Technology makes it possible to offer 3D-printed homes as a property option
For Apis Cor, a construction company based in Melbourne, Florida, the construction of certain types of homes relies heavily on a key team member named Frank.
Frank has an arm that reaches over 16 feet, said Anna Cheniuntai, the company’s founder and chief executive, and can follow a computerized design plan while pushing a steady stream of beaded building materials used to make walls.
Frank, you see, is an important mechanical part of the technology used to build 3D printed houses.
Proponents of the technology in recent years have pointed to 3D printed homes as an innovative step in addressing housing needs in the United States and elsewhere. Several projects are underway as communities face housing shortages and experiment with options.
The non-profit housing organization Habitat for Humanity unveiled its first 3D-printed home in December in Williamsburg, Virginia, and is set to unveil another in Tempe, Arizona in February.
“We’re in the very early days of 3D printing,” said Janet V. Green, general manager of Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg in Virginia. “Hopefully this will help some of the affordable housing crisis we have across the country.”
Other examples exist inside and outside the United States. In northern Italy, 3D-printed domed houses have been made from raw materials, such as clay. And in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, the Dubai Municipality, a government building, stands as the the largest 3D printed structure in the world.
Here are some of what several construction industry officials and observers have described as key things to know about 3D printed housing:
Homes built with 3D printing technology use large-scale equipment for much of the construction, but also rely on traditional techniques for other basic home needs, such as roofing, electrical wiring, insulation and installation of windows.
Andrew McCoy, professor and director of the Virginia Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech University, said a general idea of what to expect in the United States would be a 1,600-square-foot, three-storey 3D-printed house. bedrooms and two bathrooms. which sells for around $264,000 to $330,000. As with any home construction, factors such as the region where the home is built, floor plan design, number of stories, textures and finishes can affect the price of the home.
In September, researchers from the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., also known as Freddie Mac, estimated that the current shortage of available homes in the United States was nearly 3.8 million.
Here are examples of 3D printed home projects underway in different parts of the country:
In Palm Springs, Oakland-based construction company Mighty Buildings is working on a 3D-printed community of 15 homes in the Coachella Valley.
In Austin, Texas, a development of more than 500 homes is underway by Icon Co. The company had already opened a 51-acre development in 2020, called “Community First!” Village,” which is expected to provide 3D-printed housing for around 480 homeless people when complete.
Fabian Meyer-Broetz, 3D construction manager for Houston-based construction company Peri, said his company plans to complete construction of a 3D-printed house for Habitat for Humanity in Tempe by mid -February. Peri officials said the company’s 3D printed projects include an apartment building in Beckum, Germany.
Peri, like several construction companies, hopes to make housing more affordable and viable for a wider range of people, Meyer-Broetz said.
Cheniuntai, of Apis Cor, said one of his company’s overall missions is to complete the construction of a $336,000, 1,700 square foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom home. make it ready to move in in just seven days. Apis Cor has received 25 bookings for 3D-printed homes, mostly in Florida, with construction expected to begin in 2023.
“Today, the average time for a wooden house is at least seven months,” Cheniuntai said. “So with the technology we have, we can build a house in two or three months.”
How could 3D printed houses behave against Mother Nature?
A study conducted by Pew Research in 2020 showed that 63% of Americans live in communities directly affected by climate change, and this number should increase. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has estimated that $145 billion homes and infrastructure were lost or damaged in wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes and other weather-related disasters in 2021.
“Weather is by far your biggest problematic variable,” said Zach Mannheimer, general manager of Alquist 3D, an Iowa City-based construction company specializing in 3D-printed buildings.
Mannheimer said that because 3D-printed homes sit on concrete, they resist threats like hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires.
Alquist 3D was the construction company behind the 3D printed Habitat for Humanity home in Williamsburg, Virginia. The company had built a model house in Richmond before opening the Habitat house a few months later.
What are the concerns with 3D printed houses?
Although concrete is versatile and has high durability compared to other building materials such as wood, it has an unpleasant carbon footprint, emitting a lot of greenhouse gases and making it the third biggest source of pollution. industrial, according to the environmental protection agency.
Virginia Tech’s McCoy said some efforts exist and more are underway in the construction industry to develop options that reduce this environmental damage and create “a better footprint.”
Some builders and contractors are concerned that some jobs traditionally done by people will be handled with the new technology, Mannheimer said.
The United States, however, faces a growing demand for construction workers, with a estimated 345,000 open jobs in construction not filled, according to a November 2021 study from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A survey conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America in September 2021 found that many contractors and businesses struggle to find qualified workers to fill builder and inspector vacancies.
Some analysts said it’s too early to tell if 3D-printed homes will hold up to traditional construction in the long term. Even some of these tech-friendly people said they could see why potential homeowners might err on the side of caution when considering a 3D-printed home.
“For some homeowners, buying a home could be the biggest investment they will ever make,” Meyer-Broetz said.
Timothy Turcich, who lives in Orlando, has booked a 3D printed home with Apis Cor. Turcich said he read the news while on vacation about the 3D-printed house that was built in Williamsburg. The following week he was on the phone with Apis Cor to deposit a deposit for a reservation.
“When I started saying I wanted to build something, it was a fringe idea, but I actually feel like it’s less fringe,” Turcich said. “It offers the lightest friction I’ve ever seen for building a house.”