Solving US housing shortages

A new generation of start-ups wants to disrupt the way homes are built by automating production with industrial 3D printers.

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, uses machines to stack thin layers of plastic, metal, concrete, and other materials, ultimately creating 3D objects from bottom to top. In recent years, 3D printers have been used primarily to make small quantities of special items such as auto parts and artificial limbs, allowing consumers and businesses to use home and work machines to produce only what they need.

Today, a few start-ups around the world are applying 3D printing to home construction, claiming it’s faster, cheaper, and more sustainable than traditional construction.They say these technologies could help address the serious housing shortages that led to rising home prices, overcrowding, evictions and homelessness across the United States.

However, 3D housing construction is still in the early stages of development. Most start-ups in this area are developing new technologies and haven’t built their homes yet. And two of the most well-known and most well-funded companies, Mighty Buildings and ICON, offer less than 100 homes between them.

To move beyond niche markets, construction companies will significantly increase production and convince homebuyers, developers and regulators that 3D-printed homes are safe, durable and pleasing to the eye. is needed. They also need to train workers to operate machines and set up homes.

Michelle Boyd, head of the University of California Housing Institute, said: Turner Center for Housing Innovation in Berkeley. But the seriousness of housing shortages requires many types of solutions, from easing zoning restrictions to building high-rise condominiums, she said.

Proponents say the print shop can save a lot of waste, metal, and other waste construction materials that are thrown into landfills each year, rather than nailing the house.

Proponents say 3D printing reduces the need for manpower when homebuilders struggle to find enough skilled workers to meet housing demand. After the housing-fueled financial crisis more than a decade ago, many construction workers have quit trade and fewer young people are entering the field.

Jason Ballard, CEO and co-founder of a 3D printing construction startup called ICON, said the 3D printing system can do the work of 10 to 20 workers in 5 to 6 different industries. .. Also, unlike humans, machines can run 24 hours a day, saving developers time and money.

“3D printing allows us to print exactly what we need,” said Sam Ruben, co-founder and chief sustainability officer of Mighty Buildings. You can save 2-3 tons of carbon per housing unit.

At the Mighty Buildings factory warehouse in Oakland, California, a 3D printer deposits a thin layer of stone-like material that cures rapidly under UV light and resists fire and water. The wall panels are printed one layer at a time and filled with insulating foam. The robot arm finishes the surface in various designs.

The company said the printer could manufacture the entire shell of a studio house, or individual wall panels that could be easily assembled with simple tools. Mighty Buildings currently manufactures a 350-foot backyard studio known in the industry as an “accessory dwelling unit” that can be used as an additional bedroom, playroom, gym or home office.

So far, the company has delivered 6 units and contracted an additional 30 units, each starting at $ 115,000 and does not include installation and field work costs. You can combine the two units to create a 700 square foot dwelling. According to Ruben, the company’s housing costs are about 40 percent lower than traditional California homes.

Most modules are assembled at the factory, transported by truck to the owner’s property, and placed in place using a crane. The size of the unit is limited by the size of the truck bed and the height of the tunnel and elevated clearance.

Backed by more than $ 70 million in venture capital, Mighty Buildings plans to build more factories with the goal of producing 1,000 homes next year. We are also writing software that allows developers to custom design printed buildings. Ultimately, it plans to produce townhouses and high-rise condominiums, Ruben said.

Mighty Buildings is working with Palari Group, a developer based in Beverly Hills, California, to create a 3D-printed housing planning community in the Rancho Mirage desert resort community in Cochera Valley, California.

The solar development, which is scheduled to be completed next spring, will have 15 plots, a 1,450-square-foot primary home, a 700-square-foot secondary home and pool in the backyard, and will cost about $ 850,000, Paraly’s Baselster. Says. CEO and founder.

According to Star, these parcels are sold out quickly and have a waiting list of 500 homebuyers. He plans similar developments in other parts of California.

Based in Austin, Texas, ICON uses 3D printing technology to manufacture low-cost homes. A printed home for the chronic homeless in Austin and the poor families in Nacajuca, Mexico. Instead of producing a house in a factory, a Balkan printer is run in the field, long concrete tubes are squeezed layer by layer and quickly dry to form the walls of the house.

“The factory will come to you and stamp your house where it should be,” said Jason Ballard, CEO and co-founder of ICON.

According to Ballard, with current technology, 3D printers do almost everything, reducing construction costs by up to 30% and building homes twice as fast as traditional methods.

“The benefits that automation and digitalization have brought to many other industries in terms of speed and affordability were completely lacking in the construction industry,” Ballard said. 3D printing “was like the most powerful automation of all the automations we’ve found,” he said.