Housing prices are one of, if not the most important factor that homeowners have to consider when making their purchase. With the rise of housing prices all over the globe, 3D printed houses have the potential to be a viable alternative.
The technology makes use of modern techniques and automation to reduce building costs. This makes the houses cheaper to construct and the price reduction is trickled down to the consumer. This makes 3D printed houses an enticing choice for potential buyers on the market.
So, how much does a 3D printed house cost? The cost of a 3D printed house can vary anywhere from 1,000 to 500,000 USD and above. This variation in pricing is influenced by a variety of factors including material costs, square footage, design, and location among others. The lower price range has the potential to bring a massive shift in the housing market.
Another important factor that we need to take into account is the infancy of technology. 3D printed houses are a relatively new concept and with that comes the high price of developing the technology in its early iterations.
With time, as the technology gains market-wide implementation and acceptance, the cost will come down due to economies of scale. (It’s fancy economics, but in layman’s terms it means that the more of something you build, the cheaper it gets.)
Before we take a deep dive into the factors that affect the pricing of these houses, let us look at 3D printed houses that have already been developed. You will see how competitive their prices are.
Affordable 3D printed houses
3D printed houses, despite being relatively new have shown great potential.
There has been extensive research done by engineers all over the world that proves that not only are they safe to live in, but they also have considerable durability. (We’ll discuss this later in the article. For more details, you can read our articles Is a 3D Printed Home Structurally Safe? and How Long Do 3D Printed Homes Last? Materials Used, Durability & Lifespan, where we talk about the safety and durability of 3D printed houses.)
Since the technology is viable and has great merits for future success, developers all over the world have been started implementing it.
In America, several companies have built prototypes to showcase the potential of their printers. In addition to reduced costs, the time and materials required to construct these houses have also proved to be a great way to market them.
Also check out our post titled : Can I Build My Own 3D Printed House? Hidden Costs & Prices of Construction 3D Printers !
ICON (based in Texas) has already developed several housing projects and has plans for more. Their houses range anywhere from 5,000 for 500 sq. ft. to 450,000 USD for 3000 sq. ft. This price variation also takes into account materials, design, location, and complexity of the structure among other things.
ICON has also used its printing technology to build prototypes for as cheap as 4000 USD. These projects are more catered towards temporary shelters and housing projects for underprivileged communities.
Other US-based companies like SQ4D and Apis Cor have also been paving the way into making 3D printing more accessible to the American market. Their proof-of-concept houses have construction costs of under 10,000 USD.
In Europe, companies like WASP (based in Italy) have taken innovative approaches to reduce their costs. They have made use of materials like clay to build sustainable and cheap housing.
Clay (due to its plasticity in the wet state) is a perfect material that can be used for 3D printing. It is cheap and is much more eco-friendly than other alternatives. WASP has managed to keep the construction cost of their houses under 1000 USD in many instances. For more on this, check out our post Can You Make a 3D Printed House out Of Clay?
These examples and many more go to show how affordable 3D printed houses can be and with time, as implementation widens, these prices are expected to go down even further.
If you want to know more about how affordable 3D printed houses are, go check out this article I wrote, explaining just that.
How much do the materials cost in a 3D printed house?
Materials constitute a majority of the total cost of a 3D printed house which is why the kind of material used can affect pricing significantly.
Many materials have been tested and used for 3D construction over time. These include concrete, wood (or its pulp), and clay.
Concrete is the most common material used for 3D printing. It is cheap, widely available and its flexibility in its wet state makes it so that it can be layered by the printhead with ease.
Since concrete is widely available (the raw materials used are abundant), the price is also really low.
In the US, a metric ton of cement costs around 120 USD (source), and it being the main (and most expensive) constituent of concrete determines its cost. (You can make 5 to 10 tonnes of concrete using a ton of cement.)
It should be noted that in 3D printing some additives might be used to facilitate faster drying, but they have very little contribution to the overall cost of the concrete mix
So concrete is cheap, but what about other materials?
Clay is also cheap and is recyclable as well. So, it can be used repeatedly, which can contribute to cost reduction as well.
Wood pulp can also be manufactured using recycled wood and organic fibers, but it is more expensive than other materials that are used in 3D construction (due to the processing and chemicals required to make the wood pulp).
Why are 3D printed houses cheap?
This is a natural question to ask. The materials used are almost identical to the ones being used in conventionally built homes, so what makes these 3D houses cheap?
The answer to that essentially boils down to a few factors that help with the cost savings.
The primary reason and the biggest cost-saver is the reduction in labor costs. A 3D printed (although quite expensive) is a one-time purchase and only requires electricity and pre-built programs to run.
So, the entire need for a construction crew is eliminated and that cuts down on labor costs, which are a significant portion of the costs of a normal house.
In addition to that, 3D printers can be programmed to be highly efficient in terms of material used. They can build shapes and structures in a way that does not compromise on structural integrity, while also maintaining minimal material use.
You can read more about the structural soundness of 3D printed houses here!
What factors affect the cost of a 3D printed house?
Time is an important factor that helps drive the costs down. Where a normal house can take years to build, 3D printed houses (or at least their basic structure) can be completed in only a few days.
Apis Cor built a 3D printed house in under 24 hours back in 2017, and since then this feat has been achieved multiple times.
As for the operational costs of a 3D printer, there is the maintenance of the equipment like any other machine and a supervision crew needs to be on-site to inspect the progress.
They also scrutinize the quality of the layering process to ensure that the resulting structure will perform as expected.
These costs are minimal in comparison to a construction crew that can have personnel in the hundreds, depending on the size of the project.
The easy repeatability of design is also a feature of 3D printed houses that helps save costs. For instance, a 3D printhead can easily replicate the same design multiple times over in a short space of time due to the reduction in the number of variables.
It is essentially a computer that draws in 3D, and it has no difficulty in drawing the same shape again and again.
All these factors, in addition to some very smart technological advancements, help drive down the cost of a 3D printed house. This makes them a very lucrative choice for potential homeowners.
In a world where spending a fortune on your house is considered normal, the prospect of buying is cheaper than your car excites many people, including me.
Not only that, but technologies like 3D printed construction have the potential to solve global issues like housing crises. According to one estimate, over 1.6 billion people across the world do not have access to affordable housing (source).
Most of these people live in developing countries and their governments do not have the capital to build affordable housing using traditional means. 3D printed houses have the potential to solve this problem.
Although 3D printing technology is new and yet to be tested in global markets, the prospects seem bright. With enough time and development, I hope to see it being implemented worldwide and I am also eager to see what new development has the potential to take it to the next level.
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“