First-time homebuyer Tiffany Terrell was almost ready to give up looking for a home before she visited a 3D-printed home for sale on Carnation Street in South Richmond.
It had what she wanted for her and her 14-year-old daughter Makayla Terry in their price range: an island countertop kitchen, a beautiful backyard, and an updated interior. After six months of searching, she now has a 3D printed house, the first of its kind in Richmond, under a $235,000 contract.
State and local officials say they hope more of these homes can be built to address the housing shortage that is pushing up house prices across Virginia.
“I knew nothing about 3D printing. I came to see him when he was naked. … It was like a brand new house. After that, I did some research and thought, “That’s pretty cool,” Terrell, 38, said at Thursday’s open house. “When you find what you want and it has everything you wanted, it’s great.”
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The 1,550-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath home is the result of a partnership between Virginia Housing and Virginia Housing Research Center at Virginia Tech.
A government agency has awarded a $500,000 innovation grant to a university research group to obtain a modular 3D printer from Denmark to construct the concrete exterior walls of a home.
Susan Dewey, CEO of Virginia Housingsaid the idea came from Virginia Tech experts, who said new methods of building houses could help solve a growing housing shortage across the state.
“You have to look at the cost of land, labor and materials. And I think the big payoff will be on the labor side,” she said of building a house with 3D printing. “Whenever you can cut any of those costs, it makes them much more affordable.”
Chris Thompson, director of strategic housing at Virginia Housing, said the building is something of an experiment. The printer was used to make two layers of an exterior wall with an insulation gap between them. He said the project is designed to make the house energy efficient and reduce traffic noise on Gvozdichnaya Street.
Construction and development group RMTThe project’s builder used traditional construction methods to complete the concrete slab foundation, roof system, and interior walls.
“Because it was the first time, and not wanting to go crazy, we decided to be more traditional on the inside and put drywall everywhere,” Thompson said.
Other partners involved in the building project were Project: Homes and the Better Housing Coalition, two Richmond non-profit organizations that helped provide land for the building, home ownership services, and construction management.
Andrew McCoy, director of housing research center Virginia Tech, said cutting the cost of other traditional building materials like drywall could lower building costs, but firms need more experience with new technologies like 3D printing.
“The more we can automate some of these jobs, the better they will understand the process and drive change in the industry,” he said. “It’s important to just have options for that.”
As Terrell prepares to close the house next month, Thompson said Alquist, the Iowa homebuilder that built the house, has pledged to build about 200 more 3D-printed homes in Virginia. Last year, the company was built in James City County in partnership with Habitat for Humanity.
McCoy said his center will continue to advise Alquist as it is built. He said research areas could include finding ways to use other materials to make the 3D printing process more environmentally friendly.
Ninth District Councilman Michael Jones, who represents the area in which the new home is located, said he was pleased to see innovation coming to the community.
“It’s important,” Jones said. “His [not just happening in] Fanatic or museum district. This is also Richmond.