When Barack Obama said at the 2013 State of the Union that 3D Printers had the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything, it seemed like it was just a political hyperbole, but now, more than 5 years later, one of the ways that prove this theory was fair is the advent of 3D Printers to real estate via 3D Printed Homes.
Yes, 3D printing technologies have moved to real estate and we can now print a home. And in a matter of hours! For less than half the price!
Construction 3D printing (C3DP) or 3D Construction Printing (3DCP) is a real estate trend reality. Not only 3D printed homes, but full-size 3D buildings have been built via 3D printing technologies. These gigantic 3D printers – Win Sun, a Chinese maker, has one machine of 150 meters long! – typically use as “ink” cement and glass fiber, but more and more they will likely push for more ecological materials. Tests have already been made printing materials recycled from construction waste and industrial waste through a special handling, processing and separation technology, which will make the method even more affordable.
If there’s one downside to 3D Construction so far is that the printers do not print plumbing, windows and wall insulation; it only deals with the outer structure. And that, most of the times, also excludes the roof. So you have to bring contractors anyway to come in and install them after the structure is done. But still; it’s not like that’s a big deal. You are still saving a lot of money and time, and it won’t be long for the scientists to come up with solutions to those obstacles. It’s quite possible someone’s already working around the plumbing issue, making it possible for printers to accumulate more than one type of “ink” and interchange between it so it can also print the pipes inside the walls etc.
But you must be thinking: if that’s all true, how come I’ve never seen 3D Printed Homes around?
Well, with every major shift, the whole system needs time to adjust. As it should. It needs time to evaluate how to welcome innovation in without disrupting the whole system at once, putting millions out of work in the process. And, especially in real estate, it needs time to evaluate the safety of this innovation. After all, we are talking about the housing of people; we can’t just start printing 3D printed homes and, then, 2 years later, find out the construction is not firm enough and thousands of people are in danger or, at least, in need of a recall. And we don’t mean the house will crack with excessive wear. But how will it deal with fire, floods and other heavy “Acts of God”? Since printing 3D homes is so fast, people would build and then, with the hurricane season coming, learn the hard way their house wasn’t sturdy enough. So, it will take some time for the organizations to adapt (or even create) the necessary 3D printing building code and regulation with the government in order to make sure everything is being built safely.
However, you will, pretty soon, start to see more and more about 3D printing technologies everywhere you look to in Real Estate.
In the tiniest of the spheres, as the technology cheapens, you will have real estate agents using 3D printers for marketing purposes: why not print a keychain with their logos to gift their clients, or, even better, a tiny model of the house once the clients close the deal? Still in the minor league, but a bit less trivial, we can already find several real estate developers – especially in commercial real estate – using 3D printing technologies as a sales ploy to lure buyers in. They do that by printing a big model of the area/building/retail complex they are developing in a way clients can actually see and feel its dimensions and proposals of style. It’s a big improvement when you have it in front of you rather than only seeing it on a computer screen.
Then, moving on to the construction itself, we’ll start to see not only the printing of prefabricated parts to be assembled in traditional construction but also 3D printing technologies in ancillary buildings. Tiny Homes, She Sheds, guest houses, or even dog houses… those will serve as great launching pads for the more audacious construction. Cost-wise, since Tiny Homes and She Sheds are already pretty cheap, it seems it will be a neck to neck race between conventional construction methods and 3D building, but, if time is money, then printing Tiny Homes and She Sheds will definitely be less time consuming than traditional construction, thus less expensive.
Eventually, 3D Building will move on to the big league and we’ll see large scale 3D housing construction in America. That’s not to say that the Construction 3D printing industry is sitting and waiting. There have been important initiatives in underdeveloped third world countries like Haiti and El Salvador, which aims to build 3D printed homes for homeless people. Land is not a problem there and only a technology so fast could make a substantial difference before getting caught by all that political game that cancels good initiatives like that – technicians predict they can print about 10 640 square feet houses a day with a total building cost of $4,000 per home; which means that it would take only $14 million for approximately 10,000 people to have a roof over their head in less than a year.
Plus, it’s a known fact that weather conditions can slow down a conventional construction project. With 3D printing that’s not a problem. All you need is a tent and you will be able to build under snow and rain.
What’s more amazing is that those are viable possibilities that us, mere real estate professionals can envision, but the sky’s the limit for 3D printed homes. Or not even; NASA scientists have been working together with 3D printing engineers because they believe 3D printing technologies are the only viable way if we are to colonize the moon. Imagine the crazy logistics to build something the conventional way in the moon (or Mars, whenever we can send human beings there): we would need to train astronauts to become contractors – or worse; train contractors to become astronauts! And how would we send the materials and big power tools? And how long would it take to finalize construction with the reduced manpower and working conditions in no-gravity zones? Years? Decades? It is bound for failure. But if they can figure out the perfect 3D Printer to endure those adversities and build a perfect 3D Printed Home for men to live on another planet, then this “dream” gets much more close to becoming reality.
Those are just some things we can foresee; once it’s set in motion, you start to come across new possibilities and develop from that; that’s the basis of the scientific process. What matters for now is that there is no doubt that 3D Printed Homes are, if not the future of real estate, in the future of real estate.