3D Printed Housing

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Witold Rybczynski

Author of Paper Heroes


  • A breathless article in the New York Times writes: “Mr. Hernández and his family are moving to a new home on the outskirts of Nacajuca, Mexico: a sleek, 500-square-foot building with two bedrooms, a finished kitchen and bath, and indoor plumbing. What’s most unusual about the home is that it was made with an 11-foot-tall three-dimensional printer.” Housing crisis? No problem, high tech comes to the rescue! The report is rather sparse on details, but as far as I can make out, the 3D printer spits out the walls and partitions using “Lavacrete,” a concrete-like material. That’s it; the foundations, concrete slab, roof, doors, windows, the “finished kitchen and bath, and indoor plumbing,” and so on, are produced conventionally, so it’s hard to see where the vaunted savings come in. Even if the walls are cheaper—which is far from clear—that would make a minuscule dent in the overall price of the house. In a North American production home, total construction cost accounts for only about one quarter of the selling price, depending on land cost. One quarter.

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MJ Sez: True. And walls are also only 20% of the construction cost of a house. Thus, 3D printed walls can save one only up to 5% on the selling price -20% of 25% savings. If the 3D printed walls had built-in utilities, insulation, sheathing, interior walls - then the savings can be larger.