- In America, 3D-printed houses are starting to be used as an affordable alternative to traditional builds.
- The process builds homes faster, cheaper and with less labor, and its structures are more resilient to natural disasters.
– It’s being used an an innovative way to tackle homelessness.
– It’s estimated that the 3D-construction market could be worth $1.5 billion by 2024.
After years of homelessness and hard living, Tim Shea has swapped the sharp corners in his life for the round, flowing design of his new 3D-printed home in Austin, Texas.
In August, Shea became the first person in the United States to move into a 3D-printed home, according to Austin-based developer ICON, in what advocates say is a milestone in efforts to boost the national supply of affordable housing.
This month New York-based firm SQ4D listed what is purported to be the country’s first 3D-printed house to go up for sale, while ICON completed the largest 3D-printed structure in North America – a military barracks.
Shea, 70, said his new house - which he moved into for free and is located in a community of formerly homeless people - has saved his life.
“It’s just phenomenally beautiful ... it just wraps around and gives me a feeling of life security,” Shea told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from his 400-sq-ft (46-sq-m) home.
The house’s high ceilings, large windows and skylights make it feel larger than it looks from the outside, he added.
Shea got to watch his home being built on site by a large new “printer”, developed and operated by #ICON, a process which the company said took about 48 hours and is being reduced further as the technology improves.
Large-scale 3D printing is gaining steam around the world as a quicker, cheaper and more efficient way of building housing, with some projects producing a home in 24 hours of printing time for just a few thousand dollars.
ICON constructed the first permitted 3D-printed building in the United States in 2018 and is one of the few 3D construction firms focusing specifically on affordable housing.
Last year, Habitat for Humanity’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter helped an Indian company called Tvasta build India’s first 3D-printed home, which brought construction times down by more than a third and reduced waste by about 65%.
“3D printing technology has huge potential to boost the affordable housing sector,” said Patrick Kelley, the center’s vice president, in emailed comments.