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    Will large 3D-printing technology reduce housing prices?

    Gabriel Bustos
    Mar 13, '21 1:07 PM EST

    3D-printed home

    Diane Olick | CNBC

    3D Printing has been around for over 40 years.

    In 1986, commercial rapid prototyping was started by Charles Hull when he founded 3D Systems in Valencia, California. Charles Hull realized that his concept was not limited to liquids and gave it the generic name “stereolithography” 3D printing. It was not an instant success. Valencia, California, was supposed to be the new mecca for 3D printing technology. Yet, it never succeeded like Solyndra in Fremont, California, for solar panels. Today, thanks to advanced computer technology, 3D printing technology has caught on to relatively large-scale projects with a large array of material to print. How could this 3D technology change the landscape of older tract home designs?

    The First Tract Houses Sold in 1947 for $8,700 to $9,200.  

    Early housing development, Levittown, N.Y. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

    On July 1, 1947, Levitt & Sons created the post-war tract housing type of residential development in which many identical or nearly identical dwellings are built adjacent to one another. Each house sold at about $8,700 to $9,200 today; the same homes are sold at $799,100 in Levittowns, New York. These tract homes are almost three-quarters of a century old. This older tract home style has been copied by many countries that are creating large deforestation in those countries as demand continues with population growth. Another alternative to the housing crisis was companies that did tract homes in assembly-line style ways, also called off-site construction. Companies like Entekra in Modesto, California, have not made a great impact on housing construction. Off-site construction was supposed to alleviate the bloated housing prices and reduce building time. Another factor that off-site construction is not doing so well is the consumers' perspective to any sudden changes to their single-family dwellings. People question the reliability of any new construction, especially when it comes to an individual's sanctuary (home sweet home) that strikes a chord with everyone. Almost every person shares the same level of comfort to a four-wall space. Making it difficult to changes in designing a different style of a tract home. All amenities from cabinets down to the furniture are designed to fit perfectly to a four-walled home. Is it possible to convince the public to change their home architectural design preferences?

    3D-Printing Housing Designs are Starting to Make an Impact.

    ICON's Vulcan II 3D printer for homes on a job site in Austin, Texas, where 3D printing a series of six homes for formerly homeless individuals. If using other frames could offer info about Vulcan II 3D printed three homes simultaneously as part of the same print job/design file, the mobile printer moved onto the second slab to begin printing the next set of three homes. (N/A/x)

    According to Diana Olick from CNBC, "Barely a month ago, SQ4D listed a 3D-printed house for sale to the public for the first time in the U.S., and a few 3D-printing development companies in Texas are beginning to see profits. More companies in California are also in the works. In other words, 3D-printed real estate is taking off in a big way. That first home that went up for sale hasn’t even been built yet. SQ4D printed a model home at a concrete yard on Long Island, New York, and hosted more than a hundred showings. SQ4D will print the new 3D home on a lot nearby." SQ4D sold these 3D-printed houses for approximately $299,000 vs. their traditional counterparts of $478,380. This three-bedroom, two-bathroom house with a two-car garage in Riverhead, New York, is made of 3-D-printed cement. The asking price makes the property a steal on pricey Long Island, where a home of the same size would typically cost $478,380, according to market data.  The hope is to find a cheaper alternative to housing for every household income, including homeless government programs to subsidies and reduce building time. However, the many goals should be sustainability. The consensus is that building material for a single-family dwelling has a high carbon footprint. Yet, most developing countries suit American home-style housing when building their homes with wood. Deforestation around the world is the blowback. 3D-printing housing development could potentially tackle three solutions design, sustainability, and lower pricing. As designers, this could pave the way to finding solutions to eco-friendly materials to implement 3D printing materials. 


    • midlander

      no. if it ever comes close, zoning codes will be revised to prevent it from affecting housing prices.

      i don't think people get how little housing expenses are due to the costs of building a minimum comfortable house. it's entirely land costs, zoning limitations, and the economic behavior of asset markets in an age of depressed interest rates.

      there is no technical solution to "problems" originating in laws and economic policies. i put that in quotes because expensive housing prices is a goal and not a side effect of many such policies.

      if it were merely a technical issue, mobile homes already provide excellent quality basic housing at affordable prices. their limited adoption is specifically due to the perception they are cheap and therefore socially inferior.

      Mar 13, 21 6:41 pm  · 
      3  · 

      Indeed, housing as investment assets hoovered up by asset managers who need to spend the vast amount of money created over the past decade (And influx of funds from countries entering their next stage of economic development) is a massive factor next to zoning restrictions and of course, the one thing that cannot be manufactured - land.

      Mar 13, 21 9:15 pm  · 
      2  · 

      Developers would not be doing this if it was less profitable than traditional construction.

      AND ... sale price is not a 1:1 comparison. The building plot represents a significant portion of both the cost and the marketing value. SQ4D's first project is in Calverton L.I, near the Suffolk County Correctional Facility.

      Mar 13, 21 11:53 pm  · 
      2  · 

      are you arguing if it's profitable don't question it? Lol! anyway this example in Austin isn't a truly for-profit endeavor; it's still a proof of concept from a tech startup focused on 3d printing technology. when pulte or lennard start doing this i'll trust it's profitable.

      Mar 14, 21 12:44 am  · 

      Not arguing anything, just stating the obvious: profit is the primary concern. And good grief that PR blurb is a mountain of BS. Environmental responsibility, sustainability, and a cement-based mix. And too bad for all the traditional tradesmen unemployed by automation ... but think of the money saved on labor!

      Mar 14, 21 9:45 pm  · 
      1  · 

      i do think 3d printing will start making an impact in commercial and cultural projects though. it might not help much with housing prices, but looks like a fantastic replacement for masonry wall structures. and has some interesting design qualities.

      Mar 14, 21 11:23 am  · 

      Great article. Asking good questions and bringing good info to the surface. Thanks!

      I’m interested in 3D printed architecture. I think it will be more valuable to companies like Space X and Blue Origin, on the Moon and Mars.


      Mar 14, 21 5:09 pm  · 

      Only a crashing economy can bring down housing prizes, not technological innovations...

      Mar 14, 21 9:43 pm  · 
      3  · 

      There are way too many outstanding questions

      Is anything Printed aside from the walls?  

      What is the cost per LF of wall compared to traditional framing?  

      What about compared to Penalization?

      How do these stand up in Seismic zones?  Is it the equivalent of un-reinforced masonry?  If so, that's a no go in a significant portion of the market.

      Do they insulate the wall cavity after the fact?  how is the insulation installed under the window sills?  how do we make sure it filled the cavity completely?

      Can a floor or roof be printed, or are we limited to single story structures?  

      How large were the houses that sold for $499, compared to those that sold for $299?  What was the land cost, was the land area the same?   how much did it cost to build those $499 houses?

      As of now, this is an interesting experiment, and something may eventually come of it, but I am not holding my breath.   It looks like they may have marginally reduced a small part of the construction process.  But possibly no more so than other pre-fabrication methods. also, How do you tie into these for additions & renovations?   I could see these being extremely difficult to remodel down the road.

      I find it interesting & disappointing that none of these articles really seem to ask  these very pertinent questions.   Which was Ok several years ago when it first started becoming available.  However, we are at the point where real answers need to be given.

      Mar 15, 21 8:21 pm  · 
      5  · 

      Thumb up for "Penalization".

      Mar 17, 21 9:29 pm  · 

      I don't want to crap on the author but would it hurt to have somebody proofread this? The spelling and grammar gave me a headache. I know, I'm missing the point... but the article skips over all of the important questions that should be asked in the year 2021 (see Jeremy Miller's post above mine).

      3D printing has not, and will not, solve anything to do with construction. In fact, it may cause more problems than it solves. The limiting factor in housing construction isn't ONLY the labour and materials, as has also been pointed out. 

      This is a solution searching for a problem, and I don't buy it. I live in an area of the world literally surrounded by billions of trees, and very little aggregate. Concrete is horrible for the environment and there's no way around that, short of somebody setting up a solar-powered kiln (good luck).

      Mar 17, 21 6:07 pm  · 

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