3 Examples of How 3D Printing Can Help Rebuild the Nation’s Housing Supply

Sustainability and Green Building

Housing affordability remains a struggle amid rising housing costs, and shortages of housing supply and skilled labor. Inventory was already limited prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and has remained tight as the nation rebuilds.

3D printing is gaining traction in the marketplace as one potential solution. The controlled environment and amount of materials utilized help save costs and time on building projects, and drastically reduces onsite materials waste. Today’s 3D-printed designs are showcasing the innovation that this technology can afford builders and designers in creating homes to match consumer interests.

Here are a few examples:

  • 3D printing company ICON has made headlines in recent years with its neighborhood projects in Mexico and in Texas. And it is making a splash again at SXSW with the unveiling of House Zero — a modern ranch constructed using both 3D printing and traditional building methods. The energy-efficient home combines curved concrete wall structures constructed through ICON’s printing technology with warm wood tones to create a natural, biophilic design.
  • Low- and middle-income families have been among the hardest hit by rising housing costs, with 87.5 million households (or roughly 69% of all U.S. households) unable to afford a median priced new home in 2022. To help combat this issue, Habitat for Humanity launched an initiative last year to begin using 3D printing to construct more homes for families in need. Its first successful project — a 1,200-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath home in Williamsburg, Va. — was completed at the end of last year, with the family able to move in just ahead of the winter holidays.
  • 3D-printed homes overall tend to trend smaller than traditional stick-built homes and generally feature concrete. Backyard studio and accessory dwelling unit options from Los Angeles-based Azure, however, are utilizing recycled plastic instead to help cut down on the amount of waste in landfills. More than 60% of the materials in its projects are plastics typically found in water bottles and food packaging.

As more companies continue to explore this arena, expect to see more innovative designs and materials emerge — especially in the wake of recent supply-chain issues and rising material costs.

To stay current on the high-performance residential building sector, with tips on water efficiency, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and other building science strategies, follow NAHB’s Sustainability and Green Building team on Twitter.

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