10 FAQs about 3D-Printed Homes
3D printing has taken the world by storm! Trailblazers are using it to create everything from human organs to artwork to replacement machine parts. In each case, a printer extrudes layer after layer of material into whatever shape is programmed into the printer’s software.
3D printers are also being used to construct homes and other buildings, potentially including structures that could support human exploration on Mars.
The possibilities are limitless, but so are the questions. Here are ten things potential buyers often ask about 3D-printed homes.
1. Is the entire house printed?
Currently, 3D printers are only used to form foundations, slab floors, and exterior and interior walls. Once these structural elements are complete, workers add roofs, windows, doors, and other finishing details using traditional building techniques.
2. What material is used?
Most 3D-printed homes use proprietary concrete blends with additives to improve strength and drying time. Additionally, some builders have developed eco-friendly printing systems using recycled plastic, recycled glass, and clay comprised of soil and agricultural fiber waste.
3. How long does it take to build a 3D-printed home?
Since each extruded layer dries quickly, 3D concrete printing (3DCP) doesn’t require forms, eliminating a time-consuming step. Additionally, since printers can operate continuously, structures can be erected in as little as 24-48 hours.
4. Are printed homes sturdy?
Compared to houses that rely entirely on wood framing, homes with concrete-printed walls are substantially more capable of withstanding high winds, fires, extreme temperatures, and floods. In addition, builders conduct various tests to ensure their materials are durable, and reinforcing rods may be incorporated for additional structural integrity.
5. What about energy efficiency?
The walls of 3D-printed homes are thicker than traditional building materials and less likely to transfer heat or cold. Additionally, the walls often include cavities for plumbing, electrical wires, and insulation. These qualities contribute to a highly comfortable and quiet home that costs less to heat and cool.
6. Is 3D-printed construction environmentally friendly?
Operating a concrete-printed home may be eco-friendly, but it’s harder to make that claim about building one since cement production contributes substantially to global CO2 emissions.
However, builders are developing ways to modify their formulations, so less concrete is needed. Further, since 3D printers only use as much material as necessary to complete a home, there’s no construction waste.
7. Does it cost less to build a 3D-printed house?
Since foundations and walls are built by robotic printers instead of construction crews, labor costs are dramatically reduced. Plus, less construction waste provides additional savings.
But 3DCP is an emerging technology that requires substantial investments and is in limited use. Once this building approach becomes mainstream, total savings should become more evident.
8. Do 3D-printed homes offer other advantages?
One notable aspect is that 3D-printed walls can follow curved lines easily, opening up design possibilities that would be difficult and expensive to construct in a stick-built home.
9. What obstacles stand in the way?
Builders must invest substantial time and money to develop optimal 3DPC equipment and materials, which can impede progress. On top of this, they often face considerable hurdles in getting their projects approved by local authorities enforcing building codes that are incompatible with printed construction.
10. Can you share some examples of 3D-printed homes?
Single residential structures and several small communities have been built worldwide. Recent examples include:
- ICON unveiled a 3D-printed luxury house called House Zero at Austin’s 2022 SXSW event. The company is also breaking ground on a 100-home community in Austin in partnership with Lennar homebuilders.
- In Williamsburg, VA, Alquist completed Habitat for Humanity’s first 3D printed home. Alquist is also planning to build 200 homes across Virginia to help the state meet housing demand in its growing manufacturing and technology hubs.
- Apis Cor is headquartered in Florida but operates around the world. It built the world’s largest 3D-printed structure, a 2-story administrative building in Dubai. It recently announced partnerships to create affordable homes in Florida, North Carolina, and Louisiana.
While 3D-printed homes are still rare, the technology is heralded as an affordable and eco-friendly solution to today’s housing inventory challenges. Watch for more developments!