WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
3D printing houses for a fraction of the cost of building a traditional house will have consequences for the value of neighbouring properties …
The 3D printed houses just keep coming and you’d now be hard pressed to find a country that’s not getting in on the act of being able to manufacture entire houses in just a single day for a tenth of what traditional houses cost to build. From new estates in Mexico, to the wilds of Ukraine, and from the suburbs of Paris, to the streets of Dubai, it’s fair to say that, as predicted, 3D printed buildings are literally popping up everywhere.
Step back a year or two ago and 3D printed buildings were novel and new, but now for the first time ever there’s a 3D printed home listed for sale on Zillow, and it’s unique because it’s a prime example of just how the technology is now starting to move from the conceptual stage to the commercial stage as it continues to edge closer to becoming mainstream – it’s also a sign of things to come. And there are pros and cons depending on what side of the fence you live on, literally …
The house in question is located in Riverhead, New York, an area on the north-east end of Long Island. It’s still under construction, being built by SQ4D, an offshoot of New York-based S-Squared 3D Printers. With 1,500 square feet of living space, 3 bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms, an open floor plan, and a garage all sitting on a quarter-acre lot, the home is listed on Zillow for $299,999.
According to the real estate agent who’s showing the house, “At $299,999, this home is priced 50 percent below the cost of comparable newly-constructed homes in Riverhead, NY and represents a major step towards addressing the affordable housing crisis plaguing Long Island.”
Would you buy this house?
Taking a look at nearby listings on Zillow, the price difference seems to be accurate with smaller, older homes being priced well over $300,000. And this is just another sign of how cheaper 3D printed homes will in time affect the cost of the houses around them as consumers opt to buy the more affordable homes that sit slap bang next to more expensive, sometimes even identical, residences.
The house’s classic design, including a neutral gray color with white trim, give it some nice curb appeal and charm. It’s nothing fancy, but it looks like a perfectly pleasant place to live.
Its footings, foundations, interior and exterior walls are all 3D printed on site, rather than being printed in a warehouse then transported to the intended location, with SQ4D’s Autonomous Robotic Construction System (ARCS). ARCS is a large gantry-style printer on rails that takes six hours to set up, and initially debuted in 2018.
While some worry that 3D printing homes will put construction workers out of a job, the flip side is the technology’s potential to decrease the cost and time of building while increasing safety for human workers. SQ4D’s website claims its process is 3 times faster than traditional construction, brings a 70 percent reduction in costs, and only requires 3 laborers for printing, but keep in mind that several more human workers are needed to complete the roof, windows, interior finishes, and other details of the house beyond its printed concrete components, for now at least.
SQ4D also says its homes have a low environmental footprint; the voltage required for the 3D printer is “about the same as standard hair dryer,” they use sustainable building materials, material usage is calculated to exact specifications for zero waste, and printing 500 square feet worth of space for a home uses less than 10 gallons of fuel.
As the pandemic drags on and more people move out of cities, demand for single-family homes as compared to apartments has gone up. If this trend continues or accelerates, these 3D printed houses could come in quite handy. And there are a few great things about concrete as a building material – it’s sturdy, durable, soundproof, and fire-resistant.
Given its reasonable cost, aforementioned curb appeal, novelty factor, and the fact that people are leaving New York City in droves, Riverhead’s 3D printed house will likely get snapped up off the market quickly, and I have no doubt at all that more of its kind will follow.