Are 3D Printed Houses Feasible Enough to Provide Affordable Housing Solutions to Poor Areas?

Three-dimensional printing or “3D printing” is slowly but surely becoming a must have in a vast number of different industry applications. From the liquid metal fixtures for space crafts, house hold decorations to live tissue, 3D printing the technology is clearly becoming popular, especially now with the concept of 3D printed houses.

Recently, a charity organization dedicated to providing shelter for impoverished and distressed communities surprised the global community when they partnered up with ICON – a printing company, to come up with one of a kind, 3D printed house to be built in under a day at just $4000 dollars.

The printing company came up with the astonishing innovation under the premise that they had found a solution to global housing problems. The 600-800 square feet house made its debut early this year and is actually the first livable 3D printed house.

A Dutch construction company called Van Wijnen is also embracing 3D printed houses and also building the first commercial homes that are able to pass home inspection as habitable. The project which has been dubbed Project milestone will have futuristic 3D printed homes near Eindhoven City.

Many designers, architects and printing companies have been toying around with the idea of 3D printed houses for the last decade. They have produced numerous 3D printed houses prototypes in recent years as researchers continue to develop and refine the technology. Some early prototypes can be traced in Russia, China as well as Netherlands-with their first ever 3D printed concrete bridge.

The minimal  man power used, the little time taken to construct a full livable house as well as the minimal material used make the 3D printed houses can be  a good solution to housing problems especially in urban areas.

3D printed homes can essentially be printed in pieces off-site, then transported to their final destination, only requiring a man power of less than 5 people and can be done in just 24 hours. This results into a streamlined process especially compared to the traditional and cumbersome brick and mortal structure which can take more than six months to complete.

Construction of a 3D printed house

While some people have really bought into the idea of 3D houses to solve housing problems especially in urban areas, some however are still skeptical about the innovation and would rather opt to stick to the traditional houses arguing about durability and safety concerns. Here are some of the main Pros and Cons that have been cited about the idea of 3D printed houses to solve housing problems.

The PROS

3D printing of concrete is a game changer in the building and construction industry.  It will give architects the ability to construct buildings of any shape and with very fine structures. Architectural features such as curved walls, normally expensive and difficult can be done effortlessly with a 3D printer.

A 3D printed house with curved walls

3D printed houses can be able to address housing shortages in poor areas. With 3D printing technology, people can build houses faster, cheaper and qualitatively enough with a small number of people. The process requires less workers, keeping costs down and accidents to a bare minimum. This in turn will allow housing developments to provide affordable housing to many people in a short period of time.

It is also expected to improve environmental sustainability. This is because much less concrete is needed in construction of these house houses; this in turn translates to minimal carbon dioxide emitted to the environment originating from cement production.

The CONS
As with many new innovations, there are always those doubting Thomas’s who don’t want to give the product the benefit of the doubt. Some critics have sighted some problems in the idea, on a technical level. They argue that the idea has been around for a while now but, architects cannot fully rely on the printers to produce sound structures as the printers or the houses always turn into hardware problems.

Another faction of people don’t believe the idea as feasible. This is because 3D printed houses may go against the various building code laws set about by different countries. Many at times when a new construction alternative or optional form of building comes up, the various codes cities have eliminate this type of construction.

The purpose behind building most of the 3D printed houses is to provide a cheaper and temporary solution to impoverished communities. First  the idea to build homes to  homeless people to boost them back to society maybe a good one but  building affordable 3D printed housing developments is paradoxically extremely expensive.

Second, the houses may be pretty decent for one to temporarily move into as they readjust themselves into society, however not many people would consider raising their children in a house built by 3D printers. 3D printed houses have not been around long enough to inspire confidence in many people.

Clearly, there is a lot of excitement and cautious optimism behind 3D printed houses.  Despite the excitement and reservations, it’s still unlikely that this unconventional building method will completely replace traditional construction method in the near future.  But what most people agree on is that, if the technology is perfected, no one wouldn’t mind living in safer, more environmentally friendly and cheaper houses.

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