Architecture

3D-printed home envisioned as blueprint for affordable housing

3D-printed home envisioned as ...
An architectural sketch depicting what the finished home will look like
An architectural sketch depicting what the finished home will look like
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The 3D-printed house is expected to be completed by September and occupied as soon as October
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The 3D-printed house is expected to be completed by September and occupied as soon as October
According to Habitat for Humanity, around 70 - 80 percent of the home will be 3D printed, including all internal and external walls. The rest of the work, including windows and doors, for example, will be fo
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According to Habitat for Humanity, around 70 to 80 percent of the home will be 3D printed, including all internal and external walls. The rest of the work, such as windows and doors, for example, will be finished by human builders
The 3D printer used in the construction of the home extrudes a cement mixture out of a nozzle in layers, building up the basic structure
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The 3D printer used in the construction of the home extrudes a cement mixture out of a nozzle in layers, building up the basic structure
The home is being built using the German BOD 2 3D printer, which was also recently used on a German 3D-printed housing project
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The home is being built using the German BOD 2 3D printer, which was also recently used on a German 3D-printed housing project
The house will have a usable floorspace of 1,738 sq ft (161 sq m)
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The house will have a usable floorspace of 1,738 sq ft (161 sq m)
An architectural sketch depicting what the finished home will look like
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An architectural sketch depicting what the finished home will look like
View gallery - 6 images

Is 3D printing the future of affordable housing? It certainly seems possible. The burgeoning technology has the potential to construct houses faster and cheaper than with traditional building techniques, and has already resulted in a low-cost housing project in Mexico. Now global housing nonprofit Habitat for Humanity is creating a 3D-printed home that it hopes will become a blueprint for affordable housing.

The prototype house is currently under construction in Tempe, Arizona, and is expected to be completed by September and serve as home to a low-income family. It will have a usable floorspace of 1,738 sq ft (161 sq m) and will contain three bedrooms and two bathrooms, as well as a living room and kitchen, plus a garage.

More ambitiously though, Habitat for Humanity aims to build on its experience making the home to produce a series of affordable 3D-printed houses. How affordable? We reached out to the nonprofit and received the following statement.

"We've not yet tallied the complete cost of the home because almost everything from the slab to the lighting was in-kind donated as is often the case with Habitat homes. This first one will not be cheaper simply because the lead time and costs around a 'prototype' process like this. Our hope is that because we’ve been able to prove the technology, others can help us scale it to be more efficient and more cost effective."

The 3D printer used in the construction of the home extrudes a cement mixture out of a nozzle in layers, building up the basic structure
The 3D printer used in the construction of the home extrudes a cement mixture out of a nozzle in layers, building up the basic structure

The home is being created in collaboration with formwork and scaffolding firm Peri using the same BOD 2 model of 3D printer used in Peri's other 3D printed housing project in Germany. The build process is essentially the same as other 3D-printed architecture projects we've covered, involving the 3D printer extruding a cement mixture out of a nozzle in layers, building up the basic structure, with humans doing the rest of the work, such as fitting windows and doors, for example.

It will be wired ready for solar power and is slated for the LEED green building standard, as well as an IBHS Fortified Home designation, which was established to prove a building's resiliency to severe weather.

"This is really a moonshot opportunity for Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona," says president and CEO of Habitat Central Arizona Jason Barlow. "When we consider the housing issues facing Arizona, the need for affordable homeownership solutions becomes clear. If we can deliver decent, affordable, more energy efficient homes at less cost, in less time and with less waste, we think that could be a real game-changer. Just think of the implications."

The house will have a usable floorspace of 1,738 sq ft (161 sq m)
The house will have a usable floorspace of 1,738 sq ft (161 sq m)

Though affordable housing seems like the most obvious fit for 3D-printing tech, it's also worth pointing out that there are some projects exploring the opposite end of the market too, like the development in Austin, Texas, which includes luxury 3D-printed homes starting at a cool US$450,000.

Source: Habitat for Humanity

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9 comments
9 comments
Matty E.
It makes little sense to call 3D printing "low cost" housing. OK, it *may* lower the cost of the walls a little bit, but it does not lower the cost of the land, the foundation, the plumbing, the electrical, the doors, windows, floor coverings, paint, cabinetry, fixtures, roofing, or financing.

But the smaller 500 square foot example, with low land and financing costs, and hopefully minimal hvac, electrical, and plumbing, along with slashed govt. regulations - that would truly make building homes more affordable.
paul314
One the one hand, cheap housing is good and important (and especially cheap housing that's durable for decades). On the other hand, this looks like eliminating a lot of jobs for laborers and other less-skilled workers. Which will mean more people in need of cheap housing...
Don Duncan
What did the cement mixture consist of? Could on-site earth be used? What was the R-value, the resistance to moisture? The picture appears to show a double wall with insulation, but no mention of gap distance? Instead we get "floor space"?
I have been reading about printed houses for years. I had no idea they still needed research, proof of feasibility. How flexible is the design? Can it be changed to accommodate personalization? For example, in extreme temps or severe weather I would eliminate windows, using skylights for daylight and have ultra-insulation. Isn't heating/cooling the major maintenance cost? This would cut the cost of photovoltaics, a must for energy independence, leading to economic independence, leading to personal freedom.
RoGuE_StreaK
For low cost housing, you first and foremost need low cost land.
Worzel
Low cost housing would of necessity, be in a low cost economy. How will this with its high-tech, high cost equipment and labour match that?
Peter Forte
I followed the link to the article from Habitat in Tempe. What is impressive is the flexibility. All of the walls are 3D printed, everything else would then be constructed - roof, doors, you name it. The level of fittings and furnishings is determined by the constructors/users. Because 3D printing is computer controlled, design and construction is limited only by budget and structural considerations. I have read of adobe based 3D construction, so the choice of building materials can be tailored to local availability also.
As costs of printers and energy become cheaper, 3D printing stands to revolutionize the construction industry.
Aross
The first thing that needs to happen is that municipalities will allow this type of construction and low cost housing. In Canada many communities have a minimum value and size restriction that prevents the construction of small inexpensive houses or even prefab homes. Obviously their objective is to maximize property tax income.
Jeff7
So the earthquake testing has been done? Just wondering about the window detailing to make them actually waterproof. Lots of concrete and SEP homes have issues with plumbing and wiring through and in the walls - this solved in a 3D house how? These issues should have been addressed before universities keep building bigger extruders.
Didacus Ramos
This is a technique and technology...but is not a policy.
The essential question for any policy is How are you going to pay for that?
This technology does lower costs in several ways, time being the most important. Electrical and plumbing are inserted during the printing saving a lot of time. A complete unit can be erected in a matter of days, not months.
Still if there is no policy to build a complete community, then this is merely a quick means to continue the present problem.