Would you buy a 3D printed house? If you think it’s a question for the future — think again. 3D printed houses are popping up across the United States in many other countries. They’re sparking innovative design ideas, addressing housing crises, and presenting an eco-friendlier option for home building.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- What 3D home printing is and how it works
- Benefits and challenges of 3D home printing
- Real examples from around the world
- 3D printed houses are built by industrial-sized 3D printers who “print” the structure of the home layer by layer.
- Construction time for 3D printed houses can be as short as 24-48 hours.
- Organizations around the world are using 3D home printing to combat serious housing challenges like homelessness, affordable housing shortages, and disaster relief.
- 3D home printing enables design flexibility that’s sparking a new wave of architectural innovation.
What is a 3D printed house?
Believe it or not, 3D printed homes are created in much the same way as any other 3D printed item. The difference is that they require industrial size printers, which print homes layer by layer using traditional building materials like cement, sand, soil, and clay. Basically, 3D printers create the main structure of the home, and then builders add finishes like windows and plumbing after it’s been constructed.
See the process in action in the below video from ICON, one of the world’s leading 3D printed house builders:
After decades (yes — 3D printing is older than you think!) of technology advancements in 3D printing, the idea of building homes with this method has gained major traction over the past decade. While they haven’t become mainstream quite yet, there are fully 3D printed homes available on the market in the United States and around the world.
The implications are huge for the construction industry. 3D homes can be built in as little as 24-48 hours for a fraction of the cost required by traditional home construction. Higher efficiency and sustainable materials make 3D printed homes environmentally friendly, aligning with the preferences of many modern homebuyers.
3D printed home building companies even report that these homes are more durable than conventionally constructed homes, designed to withstand floods, fires, and other natural disasters.
3D printed houses also present new and exciting opportunities for affordable and accessible housing. It is estimated that about 1.6 billion people — a fifth of the entire world’s population — live with inadequate housing.
Through partnerships between construction companies and nonprofit and government organizations, 3D printed homes are being built to combat homelessness, ramp up affordable housing, combat housing shortages, and provide disaster relief housing around the world.
The potential benefits of a 3D printed house
Architects and builders have high levels of design flexibility thanks to the layer-by-layer method and total precision offered by 3D home printers. They can work with different building materials and mixtures. They can also build complex geometric shapes and structures that would be difficult to accomplish (especially at scale) with traditional building methods. 3D home printing also allows for rapid testing and prototyping that wouldn’t be possible manually.
3D printed homes can be much more affordable thanks to the speed at which they can be built, low supervision required by the printers, and their reduction in wasted materials. Government and nonprofit organizations around the world are using 3D printed houses to combat housing crises.
Habitat for Humanity recently built its first 3D printed house in Williamsburg, Virginia (pictured below). Tawkiyah Jordan, the organization’s Senior Director of Housing and Community strategy, said the method is saving them about 15 percent on building costs.
The World Economic Forum recently reported on 3D printed houses being built in African cities to combat the housing and classroom shortage. In 2021, the first 3D printed house and school were both built in Malawi (see the house in the video below). Right now, the world’s largest 3D printed affordable housing project is underway in Kenya.
Speed of construction
Home builders and home buyers alike can benefit from the speed and efficiency at which 3D printed houses can be built. Builders can enjoy quicker time to market for new construction homes and communities. The method presents potential for custom homes to be built more quickly, too, allowing the service to be scaled. It also enables quicker government and nonprofit response time to housing crises and disaster relief efforts.
3D printing is gaining major traction with social impact and environmental groups around the world. The 3D homes and schools in Africa, for example, are being built by an organization called 14Trees, named for the number of trees saved by not firing bricks to build. It’s estimated that the carbon footprint of their 3D printed houses is 70% less than traditionally constructed homes.
Overall, shorter supply chains and a reduction in building waste materials make 3D printed houses a more eco-friendly option.
Roadblocks to 3D printed house building
Despite its huge potential, 3D printed houses are not emerging without a few roadblocks. They are navigable, but 3D home construction companies are having to address these challenges in order to continue ramping up production and expanding their reach.
There is a huge learning curve for traditional construction companies and workers when it comes to operating industrial-sized 3D printers and new processes.
It’s not uncommon for government regulations to lag behind new technologies, and 3D printed houses are no different. While regulations vary across the United States and around the world, safety concerns and building restrictions are playing catch up.
3D printed homes are safe, attractive, and customizable. But they’re still different from traditionally constructed homes. It will take time for the public to familiarize with this new method and for homebuyers to fully embrace it as an option.
Are there any other downsides?
As with any new technology, there are some potential downsides that building companies and government organizations are working to address as 3D printed homes reach growing demand.
Limitations on building materials
There is a fairly wide selection of metal and plastic materials that 3D printed houses can be made from. But there are many that can’t be temperature controlled enough to be used for 3D printing. Others can’t be used because they aren’t food safe or recyclable.
Loss of manufacturing jobs
3D printers pose huge potential for cost savings as they automate more and more building tasks. But many of the third world countries where 3D printed houses can be so useful to residents also rely on low skill jobs to keep employment healthy. This is a definite issue that will need to be addressed in many places as the technology is used more frequently.
While the machines that build 3D printed houses are industrial-sized, they still have some limitations on the size of parts that can be printed. That’s why most existing 3D printed houses are of smaller build. In addition, some machines have lower tolerances for accuracy, meaning parts may differ slightly from their original design. This can be fixed after processing, but it does add to the time and cost of building projects.
Where are 3D printed houses available?
3D printed houses are available around the world! The technology is sparking innovation and transforming the way we are able to address housing challenges globally. Here are some of our favorite examples of 3D printed houses:
These 3D printed tiny homes in Austin, Texas were built to help chronically homeless residents get off the streets for good.
Fifty of these 3D printed houses were built in a community in Tabasco, Mexico to replace makeshift shelters and provide affordable housing.
These boulder-shaped 3D printed houses in Eindhoven, Netherlands are just one example of the innovative design concepts being inspired by this new technology.
Riverhead, New York
This 3D printed house sold in 2021 in Riverhead, New York shows the technology’s potential for building traditional-style homes in the future.
Looking for a home in the Dayton area? The team at Oberer Homes can help you find a home you love! Contact us today to get started.
Share this Post