Although the price of lumber skyrocketed and then moderated over the last two years, builders have been reluctant to switch to other construction techniques besides (typically) wood framing. Their reluctance is due to a lack of skilled workers in those alternative techniques and lack of time for retraining, among other issues.
One of those alternative techniques is 3D printed homes. This involves machinery that layer by layer pours concrete that forms the external and, often, the internal walls of the home. According to one real estate agent, “The cost of construction is 50% cheaper than the cost of comparable newly-constructed homes in Riverhead, New York, and 10 times faster.” While others in the construction industry are more conservative on how much is saved, many still mention saving both time and costs.
A wider scale test of this construction technique has started in an Austin Suburb: Lennar, ICON, and BIG’s Community of 3D-Printed Homes Is Underway In Texas. Is this the future of home building? Will it allow builders to bring more homes to the market more quickly at an affordable price? This project may help answer those questions.
If you are unfamiliar with 3D printed homes, here are two videos that show the process.
- 3D-printing a home in Richmond.
- How Concrete Homes Are Built With A 3D Printer.
Although sometimes associated with smaller, lower-cost homes, 3D printed homes can also be upscale. Here is an example in Austin, Texas.
How is a 3D printed home’s construction different from traditional construction? Except for the concrete footing and walls, the rest of the house is constructed using traditional trades. These include the roof, windows and doors, electrical, plumbing, insulation, tiling, etc. The homes must meet building codes and pass inspections, just as any other newly constructed home would.
While many tout the cost savings of this building technique compared to traditional wood frame construction, these homes are also considered more resistant to fires and storms, such as tornados and hurricanes.
One of the limiting factors for 3D printed homes is that since the cost of the 3D printing machine can be quite substantial, few construction companies own them.
This is only one of the alternatives to wood framing, which remains the most popular. Alternatives include steel framing, prefabricated/modular, insulated concrete forms (ICF), rammed earth and a few more.
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