3D Printed Homes: More Disruption Coming
This is a market that worthy of a great deal of monitoring. Over the past year, advancement in the technology has really pushed the change to the forefront.
A couple weeks back, I posted an article about how the first 3D printed home was going on sale in Riverhead, New York. This was a house that was put on the market for 50% of similar new construction in the area.
Like any new technology, things simply do not stop. In fact, they keep marching ahead, in a bigger and broader manner.
It seems this is the point that construction is with 3D printing.
From New York we head to San Antonio, Texas.
There we see the first 3D printing house development going in. It is using ICON Vulcan Construction technology to print the homes. This is what was used to print about 50 low cost homes in Mexico.
Unlike the situation in Riverhead, this is an entire development that is going to utilize the technology. Here we see another first.
3Strands is partnering with Austin-based construction technology company ICON to leverage ICON’s proprietary 3D printing construction technology, software, and advanced materials to deliver the two- to four-bedroom homes in Austin.
“We want to change the way we build, own, and how we live in community together,” says Gary O’Dell, 3Strands’ co-founder and CEO. “This project represents a big step forward, pushing the boundaries of new technologies, such as 3D-printed homes.”
While 3Strands did not give any breakdown in terms of speed and pricing, the ICON system is known to be able to reduce costs by about 50%, time near 40%, and use 75% less materials for the base of the structure. These numbers might have changed with this project.
Nevertheless, it does emphasize the advantage of 3D printing when it comes to construction. The three main benefits are:
- lower cost (mostly in the 50% range)
- drastic reduction in waste
The final one obviously helps the first since reducing waste will help to affect the cost of the structure.
In the United States, the challenge is going to be how to scale up. The home in Riverhead is 1,400 square feet, a rather small home by today's standards. As for the San Antonio development, those are 2 and 4 bedroom homes, yet it is basically the first floor that utilizes the printer. Thus, the advantage is going to only part of the sturcutres.
Nevertheless, much of the world is in need of affordable housing. This actually includes some of the most expensive areas for real estate. For the United States, this tends to be California where housing prices are absurd.
Ironically, what works in California in terms of a housing solution could also apply to India, where they are about 50 million homes short.
Mighty Buildings decided to go small in their question to offer Californians affordable housing. ADUs measuring 350 square feet are 3D printed by this company. The above video shows some of the process as well as a tour of the homes. If the owner wants, two can be coupled to provide more space.
While these are not the biggest structures ever designed, they are comfortable and, I am sure, a lot easier on the wallet than paying for California homes. In some areas, a small, run down structure will run a million dollars.
Of course, to be able to live in these structures, one needs a place to put them. They are small for a reason. California permitted them to go on other people's property (presumably with permission). This way the land is not an issue, another major concern in the crowded areas like San Francisco.
That said, California is just an insane situation for a number of reasons. However, the premise holds strong for other areas of the world.
In many nations, people are still living in the equivalent of a hut. Many of these structures are not safe, especially in areas where earthquakes, hurricanes, and flooding are common. Since they are made out of whatever materials are around, these homes are easily destroyed, devastating to a family.
For this reason, something similar to what Mighty Buildings is constructing is a major step up. The structures are around the size of what people are living in. However, since they are made out of concreate, we see something that is much stronger, fire resistant, and can help to offset some flooding. This is a major step forward.
In India, this is a structure that a company printed out as a model for what they are seeking to utilize as a solution to the housing problem there.
In December 2020, Larsen & Toubro Construction in India 3D-printed a concrete, ground+1, 65-square-meter model residential building at their test facility in Kanchipuram. Larsen & Toubro used COBOD’s robotic 3D construction printers with a concrete mix developed in-house by L&T.
It was, to be clear, only a proof of concept. But the dwelling (pictured above) is also a sign of developments to come.
With this project, there were some challenges along the way but adjustments are being made.
This is not an industry where one simply calls a local construction supply house and orders a 3D printer. All of these companies are designing their own printers. Thus, it is really a bunch of start ups trying to figure out what works best.
The early successes obviously leading to more interest, as is the case with ICON. That will result in more money entering the space, something that will only foster more innovation. Here is how we see things starting to accelerate.
Also, the broad nature of the research and development means we are seeing a grass roots evolution of the technology. It is not the same everywhere, nor does it have to be.
No matter what the approach used, the goal is the same: to build a lot of homes quickly and at a much lower cost than we see today.
Since construction methods date back 100 years, this is an industry that is primed to be disrupted.
What is starting small today could be the common method of construction within 5 years.
Since real estate is a $200 trillion industry globally, we are dealing with a great deal of value.
Once again, progress is taking place right before our eyes.
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