3D printed houses could be the future of living

   What if you could have your dream house built in under a week for less than the average cost of a car? 3D printing could be the sustainable, fast, and affordable technology that brings that dream to reality.

   Housing costs, especially in quickly growing cities like Raleigh, are hitting all-time highs. The median yearly sale price for Raleigh homes is currently up by 15.7 percent while the median days on market is down by 26.2 percent according to Redfin. While a major part of that cost is the land, the actual construction of the house is still significant. “The cost to build an average-sized 3-bedroom house with conventional building methods is from $250,000 to $320,000. Building the same home with 3D printing technology would cost… between $140,000 to $240,000,” explained online 3D printing publication 3DRIFIC. Using this technology could help bring the high housing costs of rapidly growing cities down.

   Tied to its quick growth, the gentrification of south and southeast Raleigh has been an ever-growing issue. This problem has been prominent for a very long time. “In the African-American neighborhoods near downtown Raleigh, the playfully painted doors signal what’s coming… the doors accent newly renovated craftsman cottages and boxy modern homes that have replaced vacant lots… to longtime residents, the doors mean higher home prices ahead, more investors knocking, more white neighbors,” The New York Times reported in April of 2019. Instead of these lots being filled with expensive and large homes, 3D printed housing spaces could be built. 

   So how does the technology work? A majority of 3D printed houses are printed in a material consisting of “a concrete base, consisting of cement, sand, and other additives,” according to All3DP, a 3D printing magazine. These materials, as a liquid, are laid down by an extruder, a special type of nozzle. The extruder is pulled across a metal beam by belts in one direction. That beam is pulled back and forth on another axis by two more beams, and those beams are pulled up and down along a set of pillars. Sometimes, for smaller printed structures, the extruder rests on an arm attached to a large machine in the center of the print space. The arm is rotated, pulled in and out, and raised to complete the print. While the house is being printed, construction workers monitor the site and add extra materials.

   3D printed living spaces can also be a viable solution for providing shelter for the homeless and impoverished. The price for a small one-bedroom house constructed using 3D printing “comes out to be around $15,000, ” estimated by 3DRIFIC. With construction prices that low, charities that support the homeless and impoverished may have an easier time building more affordable housing spaces. Mobile Loaves & Fishes, A homeless serving organization, has been developing Community First! Village in Austin, Texas, an affordable and permanent housing development. The project has taken advantage of 3D printing technologies by partnering with3D printing company ICON, to produce a home for Tim Shea, a senior in Texas who has struggled with affordable housing. “I feel like it’s going to help people in every situation in life,” Shea said to The Washington Post “It’s one of the most innovative steps — not just for the homeless — but for affordable housing. It’s pretty amazing.”