Is 3D printing the future of homebuilding?

One of my favorite Consulting team members, Gina Grover, who has written posts before for our Trending Topics page, has a really interesting one for us today about the potential and future of 3D printed housing. As we look for more sustainable ways of "moving" in this world, this could have some interesting implications...if and when it becomes a reality. Take it away, Gina!

In October, we told you about the efforts underway in Oslo, Norway, as they aim to become a “zero-emissions city” by 2030 and how that may affect the future of global mobility programs. Transportation is not the only source of emissions. According to a Chathum House Report, each year, more than 4 billion tons of cement are produced, accounting for around 8% of global CO2 emissions. And what is that cement used for? Building houses. However, the bold new world of 3D printing may help reduce those emissions.

We’ve all probably heard of 3D printing being used to create everything from cool artwork to amazing artificial limbs, but there is now a new property development being built in Austin, Texas, that will consist entirely of homes that are 3D printed. The development will have 100 single-story homes printed on-site using five 46-foot wide robotic printers which do use a concrete based building material. These 3D printed homes do not require framework (the concrete mold used that cement is typically poured in to), which can significantly reduce the use of concrete. These homes, with their solar roofs, are described as “significant steps towards reducing waste in the construction process, as well as towards making our homes more resilient, sustainable and energy self-sufficient.” These homes are also built using materials that are resistant to things like mold, hurricanes and flooding.

The benefits of 3D homes go far beyond decreasing emissions and waste. Since they are built in a fraction of the time of a traditional building, more homes can be quickly built to lessen the housing deficit in the United States. Quicker builds mean quicker moves. Just think, your relocating employee could only need seven days in temporary housing while their brand new home is being built...I mean printed! There is also research showing that the cost to purchase a 3D printed home will be less than a traditionally built home, which could mean lower home sale/purchase costs for your global mobility program. And let’s not forget about 3D printed furniture. Imagine a day when your relocating employee will only need to ship a few boxes of personal items and all their big, bulky furniture will be custom printed for them when they move into their new home. Good-bye storage costs!

3D printed housing is, for now, considered unique, and we are several years away before we see a 3D printed house popping up down the street, but it’s fun to think about all the endless possibilities and how this will change how we live and even relocate.