3D printing was first described by a short story writer in 1945 and has come a long way since then. By 2020, 3D printing became affordable enough that most people could participate in it if they wanted. The process of 3D printing is when a variety of materials (such as liquids, powder, or plastics) are deposited, solidified, or added together using computer control to create a finished three-dimensional object. These objects are based on three-dimensional models. 3D printing has been helpful in creating prosthetic limbs and body parts (like ears and noses), but it hasn’t been applied to the housing industry…until now.
In order to create the first 3D printed house, Habitat for Humanity turned to Alquist 3D, a company that specializes in printing houses. The company printed the house using concrete, which is an efficient insulator and more weatherproof. The house, based in Virginia, took 28 hours to print, cutting the construction schedule by at least a month. The cost of the construction also decreased as the concrete used saved an estimated 15% per square foot in overall cost. The final product was an l,200 square foot house with three bedrooms and two full bathrooms.
This house was gifted to April Stringfield, a local of Williamsburg. Her mortgage on the house will go towards helping to give homes to others in need. President of Habitat for Humanity, Janet Green, stated: “Many people think Habitat gives homes away; we don’t. We sell homes to families with low to moderate incomes.” According to the organization, Habitat homes are sold for no profit with a zero-interest 20–30-year mortgage. Stringfield’s house also comes with its own 3D printer, so she can print any parts that may need replacing in the future, such as doorknobs.
The cost and time effectiveness of printing houses could help to solve America’s housing crisis. According to an article in Forbes Magazine, 2.1 million homes would need to be built every year for a decade to give enough homes to the population. Big cities like Denver, Los Angeles, Seattle, and other areas are feeling the tension as there are too few homes on the market and too many buyers. This causes prices and rents to significantly increase, leading to other problems. 3D printed houses would be an easy way to solve this issue, as the houses would be extremely affordable, could be printed basically anywhere, and could be completed immediately.
There are many companies within the U.S. that specialize in 3D printed houses. One of these companies, SQ4D, has reported that the largest house they ever printed was 1,900 square feet, with three bedrooms and one bathroom. The house took around 48 hours to print and cost a total of $6,000. These significant savings in price, time, and materials suggest that 3D-printed houses may be the future trend for the real estate market.
Kenna Castleberry is a staff writer at the Debrief and the Science Communicator at JILA (a partnership between the University of Colorado Boulder and NIST). She focuses on deep tech, the metaverse, and quantum technology. You can find more of her work at her website: https://kennacastleberry.com/