Are 3D Printed Houses Affordable?


One of the biggest selling points of 3D printed houses is their affordability. Due to the nature of their construction, 3D printed houses can stand out from the competition as being cheap, efficient, and sustainable.

Rising housing prices all over the world have prompted developers to look for cheaper alternatives, and 3D printed houses have shown great potential.

So, what is the price of a 3D printed house? A 3D printed house can cost anywhere from 1000 USD to 450,000 USD, depending on the square footage, design, location, and materials. This might seem like a large price range, but the prices of houses deviate a lot when these factors are taken into consideration. The lower end of the price spectrum is a lucrative one and that can be the next step to realizing the dream of affordable housing.

3D printed houses are a relatively new concept. The first 3D houses just started to enter the market in the late 2010s. This one in Germany was only completed in 2021 and it is one of the earliest ones to be completed.

3D Printing Is Here To Stay

The technology is in its infancy and is still being developed. There is much R&D to be done and that drives up the cost.

As the technology matures and market-wide implementation is achieved, the prices will automatically drop. This is an important fact that needs to be considered by potential homeowners when comparing prices.

Now, are 3D printed houses actually affordable?

This is a question that looms over the head of every person looking to buy a house. The conventional housing market is a good metric to compare 3D houses against, so let us take a look at those first. (Spoiler: they are really expensive!)

If we take America as an example, the housing prices have been steadily rising, but they have seen a significant bump after the Covid-19 pandemic. (source)

YearMedian Sale price (USD)
2010222,900
2015289,100
2019313,000
2020329,000
2021404,700

As you can see in the table above, in the pandemic alone, the prices bumped up to more than 20% and this is a trend (one of rising prices) that is very unlikely to change.

We have limited space, raw materials are expensive, labor is hard to source, and there is high demand (increasing population). All these add up to house prices shooting up.

Now you might say that a 3D printed house also costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, so what is the incentive for me to buy one? Especially when the tech is new and relatively untested.

Well for that, we need to consider another important metric and that is the price per square foot. This additional piece of information helps the consumer in gaining a far better understanding of the pricing and its variation across the board.

A single-family US house has an average per square foot cost of around 130 USD (source), whereas a 3D printed house of similar specifications can be as low as 10 USD per sq. ft.

American housing prices (per square foot). Credits: statista.com

This is an impressive statistic and goes to show the extent of savings that a 3D printed house can offer. Now we can clearly see that the 450,000 USD figure in the introduction above comes from the simple fact that the house was large.

Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of variation in pricing and several key factors play a role in determining the monetary value of a house. However, in comparison to conventionally built houses, a 3D printed house will always be cheaper.

You may also get informed about the fire and hurricane safety of 3D printed houses in Are 3D printed houses fireproof? and Are 3D Printed Houses Hurricane Proof? and also on the cost of 3D printed houses in How much does a 3D printed house cost?

What makes 3D printed houses affordable?

This is a question that can baffle a potential homeowner. How does a 3D house offer this much savings, in a world where everything keeps getting expensive?

Are these cost-saving measures being implemented at the cost of other aspects of the house being affected? Are these houses even durable?

The last one bothered me as well, so I put together a piece covering all the bases regarding a 3D printed house’s durability. Click here to check it out!

Now that durability is out of the equation, what else contributes to making these houses affordable?

It is the very nature of 3D printing technology that makes it highly efficient. There is little to no waste, every move is calculated and predetermined, and all the processes are either partially or completely automated.

All of these factors add up to a workflow that saves time and raw material and leaves very little room for error (thanks to automation).

There have been examples of 3D printed homes being completed in a few days. There have been examples of 3D printed homes using less than 50 dollars worth of raw material. There have been examples with 0 (yes, Zero!) labor costs.

3D printed houses have shown great promise and even the earliest implementations of the technology (despite their challenges) have paved an optimistic outlook for the future of the technology.

Affordable 3D printed houses across the world

Despite the novelty of 3D printed construction, many companies have already entered the market with a variety of house designs.

In America, quite a few developers have already listed projects on the market, with ranging sizes, locations, and designs.

ICON, a company based in Texas, already has multiple projects underway and has a variety of houses, ranging from 5,000 USD up to 450,000 USD. These will range anywhere from 500 sq. ft up to 3000 sq. ft. and that gives you an idea about the competitive pricing.

They also have a housing project which uses their proprietary printing technology to build affordable and accessible housing for underprivileged communities.

These houses can be printed (completed) in a matter of hours and can be as cheap as 4,000 USD. ICON has already finished projects like these in Haiti, El-Salvador, and Bolivia.  

ICON housing project. Credits: iconbuild.com

SQ4D, another American company headquartered in New York, has also started development in numerous cities and the cost of construction for their houses ranges from 7000-9000 USD.

Using their ARCS (Autonomous Robotic Construction System), they can finish construction in under 3 days, and currently, they have the largest 3D printed home listed on the market.

They are also one of the earliest companies to get permits from housing authorities to list their houses on the market, which implies that they have passed the necessary safety regulations and quality inspections.

Florida-based Apis Cor is also leading the way in 3D printed construction and they have been the trailblazers in the 3D housing market.

In 2017 in Moscow, they completed a 400 sq. ft. igloo style house in under 24 hours, a feat that had never been achieved before this.

In Dubai, they constructed (or rather printed) the world’s tallest and largest 3D printed structure to date (6,900 sq. ft. and over 30 feet tall).

3D printed building in Dubai. Credits: apis-cor.com

Now they are accepting reservations for a housing project based in Florida, and they are offering unlimited design modifications (basically they can build whatever design you come up with). Construction is expected to commence in the 4th quarter of 2022.

In Italy, WASP took another approach to 3D construction. They are building houses made from naturally available materials like clay.

This is said to be the revival of clay as a construction material and due to its suitability as a raw material in 3D printed houses, the prices are really competitive too. Their projects regularly manage to keep construction costs under 1000 USD.

Tecla by WASP. Credits: 3dwasp.com

In addition to these companies, there have been examples of other companies delving into 3D construction. Notable mentions here include Killa Design (based in Dubai) and Winsun (based in Shanghai).

What is the future of 3D printed housing?

Countries around the world are struggling to deal with housing crises. 3D printed houses present an opportunity to solve this issue, so countries are ready to invest.

Companies are popping up all over the globe and they are making use of government incentives to provide affordable housing at a rapid pace. In Dubai, for example, the government plans to construct 25% of its buildings using 3D printing by 2025.

Other countries are also following suit and the industry is expected to be worth over 300 billion USD in a few years’ time.

Over 1.6 billion people do not have access to adequate housing (source). 3D printed houses could be the answer to this crisis and the developments up to this point have shown great promise.

This idea of additive manufacturing is fascinating (and by extension, its application in construction), and even in its infancy, it is making great leaps in innovation. You can only imagine what future advancements will look like and it is something that I look forward to seeing!

If you are interested in knowing more about how these houses are built, I wrote an article covering the use of rebar in 3D printed houses. Click here (add link) to read it!

On a side note, the Cons of 3d printed houses must not be ignored. for more on this, check out our post ” Problems with 3d Printed Houses Listed

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