Are 3D Printed Houses The Future Of Affordable Housing?


According to a report done by Grand View Research in July 2022, the 3D construction technology is projected to grow by about 91 percent between 2021 and 2028. With its significant rapid construction speed, 3D printed homes are on the rise today. With 3D printing technology, engineers can construct the wall of a house in barely 2 days or less than compared to traditional construction materials.

So, are 3D printed houses the future of affordable housing? Yes, 3D printed houses are the future of affordable houses as they cost an average of 30% less than traditional housing and are constructed in a much shorter period.

Also, check out our post titled Can I Build My Own 3D Printed House? Hidden Costs & Prices of Construction 3D Printers !

Why 3D printed houses are better in comparison with precast (fabricated homes)

Estimated Cost

3D Printing Is Here To Stay

Not only does 3D printing technology enhances construction speed and versatility, but it also helps lower the cost of construction and is more environmentally friendly compared to present methods. This has made 3D technology an answer to two key challenges apparently facing the world: climate change and shortage of housing.

3D printing technology costs range from $100s to thousands of dollars. It is difficult to estimate the actual cost of any 3D print without a model. Factors such as model complexity, labor, and type of material affect the price. You can save on your expenditure with 3D printed homes. Since they are constructed in a factory, 3D houses can be built fairly fast in a few days or weeks, as opposed to other old methods that take months.

Constructing the same home using 3D printing technology would cost you between 20% and 40% less to build. Therefore, the same 3-bedroom house would cost between $140, 000 and $240,000 to construct using 3D printing technology.     

Durability

3D printed houses are no doubt strong and durable. However, it is not the contemporary answer to a bunker. Between the special pre-engineered truss system and concrete, a 3D-printed house is safe enough to withstand additional force. 3D printed houses are practical, affordable, and can withstand additional forces such as fires and earthquakes.

For more on Earthquakes and 3d printed structures, check out our post titled “Can 3D Printed House Withstand Earthquakes? Design and Foundation Limitations

For instance, concrete blocks typically last for decades, approximately 100 years. 3D printed houses are expected to last even more than this, depending on the material mixture used. Even if you use specific mixtures with lower overall environmental impact, the use of concrete still proves to be an environmentally unfriendly choice.

3D printed houses are expected to last longer than the standard Concrete Masonry Unit (CMU) houses. The houses are built to the IBC (International Building Code) structural code standard.

Material

The most popular material used in the 3D printed housing industry is the 3D printing concrete. However, this is simply a broad term mixture of fibers, and cement among other ingredients mixed with water. Other materials used in 3D printing construction include mortar, regular recycled plastics, synthetic polymers, and even castable clay.  Check out if you ” Can Make a 3D Printed House out Of Clay?” in depth.

Key advantages of 3D printed homes over other construction methods.

3D printed homes are the future! They have a vast range of advantages compared to homes built using other construction methods. Here is a list of key benefits of 3D printed homes:

  1. Easy to build – 3D printers will not stop once started unless you instruct them to stop. Your printer is capable of printing 24 hours if all is set correctly.
  2. – Less workforce is required to construct a 3D printed house. This translates to less amount of money required to complete the project.
  3. – Other methods of construction require big machinery to transport materials from one site to another. 3D printing technology doesn’t require a lot of machinery or carrying materials around during the entire project.
  4. Less wastage – 3D printers are more precise in usage than humans. 3D printers will use the exact number of materials required, as programmed by the motherboard.
  5. True to the design – 3D printers are capable of making an exact copy of the design on computer/paper. It also allows engineers to create more elaborate designs. 

Comparison of 3D printed houses with precast (prefabricated homes)

Here are some of the 10 key reasons why 3D printed homes are the future and why they could be a vital part of how they can help us survive the impacts of climate change.

  1. 3D printed homes can be made much stronger than metals. Modern race cars, airplanes, boats, bullet-proof vests, motorcycles, and bikes, among others, are increasingly built using composites (such as Kevlar or carbon fiber).
  2. 3D printed houses can be designed uniquely to withstand tremors (earthquakes), impacts (debris), and sustained force (hurricanes).  You can build strong structures capable of withstanding very strong winds, floating in floods, and even cheaply and easily movable. 
  3. Current 3D printing techniques enable any design to be made virtually using 3D printing technology. Once the design has been built, you can save the ‘’molds’’ in software to print more again and again without having to re-do the entire design.
  4. 3D printed houses are waterproof and mold/mildew resistant.
  5. Unlike other methods, composites will not lose strength in curves. It gives you an opportunity to build more aesthetically beautiful designs without paying any penalty. Curved exterior shapes, large open rooms, and curved staircases are all plausible
  6. 3D printed homes are truly modular. A house can be loads of total pieces, instead of thousands of houses today. This allows them to be easily constructed on-site, upgraded, and even moved.
  7. 3D printed houses require less energy to produce compared to wood construction. Constructing a wood house requires burning the fossil fuels of composite homes construction many times. 3D printed homes are more stable, require less foundation work, and weigh less. This further reduces the energy consumption required during construction. You can recycle 3D printed homes nearly 100% into anything.
  8. You can build electrical, HVAC, plumbing, and other services right into the structure to reduce the time taken and cost of construction. Composite homes are more fire-resistant compared to other conventional construction.
  9. 3D printed homes are extremely energy efficient. The materials used for composite construction are naturally poor heat conductors (good insulators) and airtight. 3D printing in a controlled environment gives more opportunities for increased heat exchange optimizations and insulation.
  10. The cost of producing 3D printed homes can be 1/10th of the cost needed to construct conventional homes. They are a solution to environmentally sustainable, safe, and affordable housing for those in the bottom pyramid in the developing world. For more on this, check out our post Are 3D Printed Houses / Structures Sustainable? & How Much Does a 3D Printed House Cost?

Final Thoughts

Like many other invented technologies, we are just picking up with 3D printing technology, especially using a high-tech composite. Very few examples of 3D printed structures have been built to scale. However, it looks like all the technology pieces have been put in place to support this approach within the construction industry to be better, cheaper, and faster than the conventional construction methods. The industry is quickly turning to 3D printing technology than expected and very soon most construction firms will have to embrace this great technology!

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