Habitat for Humanity recently announced that they have completed, in partnership with additive construction company Alquist, the first 3D-printed owner-occupied house in the world. I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen other 3D-printed homes kicking around, but this is still a big deal and one of the first of such homes for Habitat for Humanity. (It also 3D-printed a house in Arizona this year, but I guess that one wasn’t owner-occupied.)
The 1,200 square foot three-bedroom home is located at 129 Forest Heights Road in Williamsburg, Virginia. And it was “printed” in just 22 hours, which Habitat and Alquist are claiming reduced their construction schedule by approximately weeks compared to a traditionally framed house. Overall, this translated into an estimated savings of 15% on the total construction costs. (Again, according to Habitat and Alquist.)
These kind of savings are particularly important in many rural communities where it is not uncommon for homes to sell below their replacement cost. Not surprisingly, when you have a market dynamic like this, there’s zero incentivize to build new. I mean, why would you when you can just buy something that already exists for less money, and with less risk.
Alquist uses a patented concrete to print its homes. The concrete can be left exposed, or it can be finished with traditional building materials. For any load-bearing or structural walls, I understand that they print two walls with a cavity and then use typical reinforcing bars. I would imagine that this approach is particularly helpful when lumber costs are high, but there’s an obvious question around embodied carbon (concrete in lieu of wood).
Still, it’s hard not to believe that we will be seeing more, rather than less, 3D-printed homes in the future.
There are most definitely a bunch of other 3D printed homes around the world and even some in little clusters (the economics of bringing an onsite “printer” to a particular place) This one was (I thought) was the first one to claim owner-occupied status https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/apr/30/dutch-couple-move-into-europe-first-fully-3d-printed-house-eindhoven but in the end, once all the various types of firsts are claimed, legitimately or not, it does not really matter. We have now got ourselves another technology that has grown up and which can effectively address certain housing issues and costs in certain situations and no doubt the costs will settle down and the technology will improve. And yes it still has the concrete/vs wood issue. Wood is improving too through off-site modular prefabrication.