It is spring and around the globe, more and more are sprouting, and it’s easy to understand why people would choose to have one. After all, they are inexpensive, fast-growing, attractive — and green.
No, you haven’t clicked on the wrong link; this is not a gardening blog and we’re not talking about herb gardens nor home-grown radishes. All of those descriptors apply nicely to houses constructed via additive manufacturing.
Sadly, in many countries, rising manufacturing costs mean home ownership has become only a hope and a dream for many families. Inexpensive options do exist — mobile and tiny homes, for example — but they can be difficult to mortgage and don’t always provide adequate protection from the elements. Natural disasters and political turmoil only add to the mix, displacing thousands each day and exacerbating the housing crisis.
Enter 3D printing. What a remarkable solution to many of these concerns. A small house can now be printed for just a few thousand dollars. In each of the housing developments discussed below, homes have been completed at considerable cost savings – up to 50% the cost of a comparable home traditionally constructed.
But the merits of additive manufacturing in home construction go beyond the need for affordable housing. As you can see from the photos below, such houses can resemble those in a typical neighborhood, or they can be a designer’s dream. Sure, you can still have a house with flat walls, 90 degree angles and a white picket fence around it. But for those who want to, departing from the norm to create something truly unique is easily possible and also affordable.
And fast! Even without hiring an architect to draw up plans, having your traditionally constructed home built could easily take a year. But the houses below arose with astonishing speed. Naturally, printing time will vary with design complexity and size, but construction times as abbreviated as 24 hours from start to finish are not unheard of.
As the industry continues to develop, 3D-printed housing might just become the new norm. Read on for summaries of some recent news reports.
A Milestone Project
The Netherlands are in a serious housing squeeze. This small country is only one third the size of Florida but has over 17 million people. Hundreds of thousands of new homes are needed to accommodate its growing population — and soon.
The house you see to the right was printed out of concrete the consistency of toothpaste. The house is made of 24 hollow concrete pieces that were printed in a nearby factory and trucked to the site. Pieces were filled with insulating material and finishing details, such as the roof, were added. The 1,011 sq. ft house complies with all Dutch construction codes and took just 120 hours to print.
Everyone seems pleased. The current tenant is delighted with the acoustics when he listens to music in his home, and equally content with the peace he can enjoy when music is not playing, thanks to the concrete walls. For his part, the designer is impressed with additive manufacturing as a sustainable practice: 3D printing houses can use 30% less material.
Fittingly, this house is located in a city known for its innovation: Eindhoven, and is part of “Project Milestone” — a collaboration of construction companies with Eindhoven and the local technical university. And this little house is really just the starting point in Eindhoven. Multi-level homes are envisioned in the future.
Housing for all 50 million?
It’s quite a challenge to be the Prime Minister of such a populous country as India. Narendra Modi has committed to a jaw-dropping 50 million new housing units by the end of 2022 under his “Housing for All” plan. Such solutions are sorely needed. In addition to the 1 to 3 million urban homeless, 65 million people live in poorly constructed slums. Living conditions in them are poor, disease spreads rapidly and the low quality homes in which they reside are vulnerable to natural disasters like earthquakes and cyclones.
Indian housing experts are touting 3D printing as the answer. A good quality house that withstands tropical weather conditions can be constructed inexpensively in just five days, and can be customized to suit the unique needs of the region and tenants.
The 600 sq. ft. single-storey home to the left was built by Tvasta Manufacturing Solutions in the southern Indian city of Chennai, in collaboration with home-building charity Habitat for Humanity’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter. By the end of 2022 it may be one of many millions in India alone.
Two Firsts and a World’s Largest
See that vinyl siding on the new house to the right? Think again. What appears to be siding is cleverly printed concrete. What you are looking at is the demo model of the first 3D printed home to be granted an occupancy permit in the United States. At 1900 sq. ft. it is also the world’s largest 3D printed house with such a permit, to date.
A slightly smaller model was listed in Riverhead, NY for $299,990 in early February 2021 — said to be the first 3D printed house listed for sale in the American real estate market. It’s hardly a bare-bones offering: the house features over 1,400 feet of living space, including 3 bedrooms, 2 washrooms, and a spacious 2.5 car garage. The house was constructed by the manufacturer’s Automated Robotic Construction System. Layer by layer, the foundation, exterior and interior walls and utility conduits are built out of concrete. The manufacturer, SQ4D Inc, says it costs 50% less than comparable houses in the city and is ten times faster to build.
As of May 2021, only about a dozen companies are working on 3D-printed houses worldwide. Yet the global market for 3D-printed construction is projected to grow to more than $1.5 billion within three years, according to recent research studies.
Looks like homes like these are really only the beginning!