3D-Printed Houses Are Now Easier To Build, But Don't Expect A Whole Neighborhood Of Them | KERA News

3D-Printed Houses Are Now Easier To Build, But Don't Expect A Whole Neighborhood Of Them

Jan 22, 2019

An Austin-based company is ushering in 3D technology that makes it easier for builders to print homes.

Residential building company Sunconomy LLC and California-based Forge New last week introduced We Print Houses, a system that can be licensed by contractors and builders to construct homes in only a few months.

The system is expected to "completely change [the construction] business model," Larry Haines, founder of We Print Houses, said in a press release. It "immediately removes the common pitfalls of traditional home building – labor shortages, materials waste, construction time."

The houses are printed with a geopolymer cement that hardens at room temperature. According to Sunconomy and Forge New, the homes are more resistant to severe storms, hurricanes, fires, hail, flooding and major earthquakes.

Gregory Takeshita, Forge New's CEO, said We Print Houses allows builders to construct "more durable and cost-efficient" homes.

The first 25 licensees will get training, equipment certification and annual check-ins. We Print Houses said it can ship the 3D-printing system within four months.

"The construction industry is ripe for disruption," Haines said in the press release, "and the We Print Houses system arms builders and contractors with the equipment needed to scale their businesses like they’ve never imagined."

Becky Collins, president of the Home Builders Association of Greater Austin, said We Print Houses offers "cutting-edge technology," but for now the system is just a niche in Austin's housing market.

"It's not a one-size-fits-all product, and we think that in many, many years down the road it may be more mainstream," said Collins, who has worked in development and the home building industry since the '90s.

Construction on the first home using the system is expected to begin next month. The nearly 2,000-square-foot, three-bedroom house in Lago Vista will feature a detached garage and be powered by wind and solar.

It’s expected to cost about $290,000 – factoring in lot, permit and development costs.

Collins said it may be a while before the homes are a common sight, but something similar isn’t too far off.

"I think that what’s more likely is that certain components within a house will likely be 3D printed or more module-created," she said. While a number of home builders are looking into 3D printing, she said, "I think that for the foreseeable future there will be more traditional home building."

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