OKALA, FL – For the construction company Apis Cor, based in Melbourne, Florida, the construction of certain types of homes is highly dependent on a key team member named Frank.
Frank has a hand that reaches more than 16 feet, said Anna Cheniuntai, founder and CEO of the company, and can follow computer-aided design while pushing out a steady stream of building material with beads used to create walls.
Frank, as you can see, is a large mechanical component of the technology used to build 3D printing houses.
Proponents of this technology in recent years have cited 3D printing houses as an innovative step toward meeting the housing needs of the United States and other countries. Several projects are implemented when communities cope with housing shortages and experiment with options.
The nonprofit housing organization Habitat for Humanity unveiled its first home, printed in 3D, in December in Williamsburg, Virginia, and is due to present another one in Tempe, Arizona, in February.
“We are at the very beginning of 3D printing,” said Janet W. Green, CEO of Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg in Virginia. “I hope this will help some of the affordable housing crises we have across the country.”
Other examples exist in the United States and abroad. In northern Italy, 3D-printed domed houses were made from raw materials such as clay. And in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, the City of Dubai, a government building, is the largest 3D-printed structure in the world.
Here are some of what some construction business officials and observers have described as key points to know about 3D printing housing:
Houses built using 3D printing technology use large-scale equipment for most of the construction, but also rely on traditional methods for other basic home needs such as roofing, electrical wiring, insulation and window installation.
Andrew McCoy, a professor and director of the Virginia Housing Research Center at the Virginia Technology Center, said the general idea of what to expect in the U.S. would be a 1,600-square-foot 3D printing house with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. sold for about $ 264,000 to $ 330,000. As with any home construction, factors such as the region where the house is built, the floor plan, the number of floors, the texture and the finish can change the price of a house.
In September, researchers from the Federal Mortgage Corporation Home Loan Loan Corp., also known as Freddie Mac, estimated the current shortage of affordable homes in the United States at about 3.8 million.
Here are examples of 3D printing houses sold in different parts of the country:
In Palm Springs, construction company Mighty Buildings of Auckland is working to create a 3D printing community of 15 homes in the Coachella Valley.
In Austin, Texas, Icon Co is developing more than 500 homes. In 2020, the company began building a 51-hectare building called Community First! A village that is expected to provide 3D-printed housing to approximately 480 homeless people when completed.
Fabian Meer-Brotz, head of 3D design at construction company Peri of Houston, said his company expects to complete the construction of the house, printed in 3D, for Habitat for Humanity in Tempe by mid-February. Representatives of Peri said that the company’s projects printed in 3D print include an apartment building in Beckum, Germany.
Peri, like several construction firms, hopes to make housing more affordable and viable for a wider range of people, Mayer-Brotz said.
Cheniuntai of Apis Cor said one of its company’s overall missions was to complete the construction of a 1,700-square-foot two-bedroom, two-bathroom home for $ 336,000 and prepare it for occupancy in just seven days. Apis Cor has received 25 home bookings printed in 3D, mostly in Florida, construction of which is scheduled to begin in 2023.
“Today, the average time for a wooden stick house is at least seven months,” Cheniuntai said. “So with the technology we have, we can build a house in two to three months.”
How can 3D printing houses work against Mother Nature?
A study conducted by Pew Research in 2020 found that 63% of Americans live in communities that have been directly affected by climate change, and that number is expected to increase. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has estimated that in 2021, forest fires, tornadoes, hurricanes and other climate-related disasters have lost or damaged homes and infrastructure worth $ 145 billion.
“Weather is your biggest problem today,” said Zach Mannheimer, CEO of Alquist 3D, an Iowa-based construction company that specializes in 3D printing buildings.
Mannheimer said that because 3D printing houses rely on concrete, they are resistant to threats such as hurricanes, tornadoes and forest fires.
Alquist 3D was the construction company behind the 3D-printed house Habitat for Humanity in Williamsburg, Virginia. The company built a model house in Richmond before building Habitat a few months later.
What are the problems associated with 3D printing houses?
Although concrete is versatile and has high strength compared to other building materials such as wood, it has an unpleasant carbon footprint, emitting a lot of greenhouse gases and making it the third largest source of industrial pollution, by data from the Environmental Protection Agency.
McCoy of Virginia Tech said some efforts are in place and others are underway in the construction industry to develop options that reduce such damage to the environment and create a “better footprint”.
Some builders and contractors are worried that some work that is traditionally done by humans is being done using new technology, Mannheimer said.
However, according to a study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in November 2021, the U.S. is facing high demand for construction workers, with approximately 345,000 job vacancies in construction unfilled. A survey conducted by the Association of General Contractors of America in September 2021 found that many contractors and firms are struggling to find skilled workers to fill vacancies for builders and inspectors.
Some analysts said it was too early to say whether 3D-printed homes with traditional construction would survive in the long run. Even some of those people who are in favor of using this technology have said they can understand why potential homeowners can easily act when considering a 3D printing house.
“For some homeowners, buying a home can be the biggest investment they will ever make,” Meyer-Brotz said.
Timothy Turcic, who lives in Orlando, has reserved a house with 3D printing at Apis Cor. He said that during the holidays he read the news about the house printed on 3D printing, which was built in Williamsburg. The following week he spoke by phone with Apis Cor to submit a deposit for the booking.
“When I first started saying I wanted to build something, it was my big idea, but I really feel it’s less,” Turcic said. “It offers the easiest house-building friction I’ve ever seen.”