February 2021—On Long Island, New York, builder Kirk Andersen just made a 900-square-foot model home with 3D printing technology. It’s the first of its kind for sale in the U.S., though other countries have already been using the technology for a range of housing needs. Andersen is working on a second 3D printed home that will be 1,500 square feet and sell for a list price of $299,000, about half the price of a comparable newly built home in the same area. He said demand for this type of home has skyrocketed since the model was finished.

With the cost of lumber spiking recently and increasing consumer home prices, 3D printing offers a much cheaper form of material and labor. The use of a 3D printer drastically cuts labor cost and the primary material used is concrete, which is much less expensive than wood. The aesthetic may take some getting used to. 3D printed homes are made layer by layer with concrete that resembles thick layers of toothpaste. But for brand new construction built at far lower prices, there’s a market for them.

How Is a 3D Printed Home Built?

First a modeling software program creates a blueprint that meets a homeowner’s needs. Once the blueprint is approved, the design is sent to an industrial size 3D printer to process a digital file. From there, workers prepare the platform of the home, fill the printer with raw materials, and prepare for the execution. A robotic arm guides the release of the tube-shaped concrete mixture layer by layer to build the foundation and walls. At specific build stages, workers enter to install electrical wiring, plumbing, and interior finishes.

What Are the Benefits of a 3D Home?

Speed to Build. Since the size of a 3D home must be relative to the size of the printer, the current technology supports smaller homes. Although that is likely to change in the future. The 3D printed portion of a home can be built in as little as a day or two.

Cost. Because it takes less labor, less time, and cheaper material to build, a 3D home is much less expensive than traditional new construction. ICON builders say that it can cost as little as $10,000 for the 3D printed portion of the home. Once the rest of home is completed with finishes, the final cost of housing can stay below $160,000. This is a major attraction for first-time buyers.

Versatility. 3D technology can be used instead of expensive architects to customize the blueprint.

Eco-friendly. The reduction in material waste and time to build makes these homes eco-friendly.

Humanitarian Uses and Construction Feats

Because of its affordability, speed, and practicality, 3D printed housing is definitely gaining popularity in the construction industry. A 3D printed home community is underway in Mexico to serve poverty-stricken areas prone to hurricanes and earthquakes. Austin, Texas, is supporting the build of 3D printed homes for the homeless and seniors in need. Dubai currently boasts the largest 3D printed building for office space, which stands at two stories, 31 feet tall, and 6,300 square feet. And NASA ran a habitat design challenge for 3D printed structures for colonies that could be built on the moon or Mars.

Is it the Wave of the Future?

Demand indicates that 3D printing technology will continue to make inroads into construction of all types. Developers see opportunities to create more communities, some see it as an opportunity to eliminate homelessness, while others see it as a solution to homeownership affordability for the millennial generation and beyond. There are many ways 3D printing technology is already revolutionizing ideas for how we live. Many believe it will expand to the point of disrupting the traditional means of today’s new construction methods.

Real Estate Term of the Week

3D Printed Houses: Are created using very large 3D printers that, unlike smaller hobbyist or other types of industrial units, are able to extrude concrete, plastic, or other building materials through nozzles, in order to gradually build up a 3D object the size of a house.

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