The use of 3D printers in residential construction is growing at a rapid pace. While 3D printing has a very long way to go before it replaces traditional home construction methods, builders should know how to protect their business from risk if 3D printing is involved in a project.
NAHB’s Construction Liability, Risk Management, and Building Materials Committee recently partnered with law firm Akerman LLP to publish a 3D Printing Best Practices Guidance document for members.
The guidance provides builders with an understanding of the challenges and basic considerations before using 3D printing on their projects. It also includes a series of checklists to manage potential risks stemming from the use of 3D printing.
The first step in using 3D printing in home building is to decide how to engage with the technology. Home builders have three basic ways to deploy 3D printers on a jobsite:
- Retain a construction company that has its own 3D printing technology.
- Use a subcontractor that specializes in constructing with 3D printing technology.
- Directly invest in 3D printing technology.
Each method changes the risk assessment for the principal company on the project. For example, if using a partner, how involved will they be? Are they directing the printer itself? If investing in 3D printing technology, how should manufacturers be assessed?
Even after risk is evaluated, general contractors must determine how to transfer risk through partner selection, insurance coverage and warranties.
Another consideration is legal risk. With 3D printing in construction still in its infancy, many jurisdictions do not have laws or regulations dictating use. Local building codes also will need to be modified to accommodate 3D printing, and local building and code compliance departments must become conversant in this new building method.
NAHB members are encouraged to review this guidance before engaging vendors, even for trials.