American construction company Alquist 3D is set to build 200 3D printed houses in Virginia in the next five years. It is the largest 3D printed construction project in history and will be completed by 2027 and aims not only to be futuristic and reliable, but also cheap.

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin at a construction site in Pulaski. Image credits: Alquist 3D

With your ‘Virginia Project‘, the company is committed to offering affordable and sustainable homes to people living in remote and underserved regions of the United States. The first demonstration of the project took place on April 29 in the town of Pulaski in Virginia. Alquist 3D selected the cities of Pulaski and Raonake for their project as demand for affordable homes has skyrocketed in these areas since the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an interview with TIMECEO of Alquist 3D, Zachary Mannheimer said:

“As migration patterns change due to the pandemic, climate and economic challenges, there is a huge need – and an amazing opportunity – for small communities like Pulaski to build affordable housing for new residents. By 3D printing these homes, Alquist and our partners will enhance Pulaski and Roanoke’s ability to embrace current trends and attract new workers to this exciting community in southwest Virginia.”

Why do we need 3D printed houses?

Affordable housing has become a distant dream for people living in many countries. A recent study by researchers at King’s College London shows that 48% of young people in the UK consider affordable housing a myth. They think that because of their regular expenses they unable buy your own house.

Image credits: Breno Assis/Unsplash

Over the past six months, buying a home in the US has also become 50% more expensive. Fixed mortgage rates for 30 years and the average home purchase price highest since 2008. The situation is no different in developing countries such as India, where house prices are expected to see the fastest growth in the coming years. Obviously this is a shock to anyone currently living on rent but looking forward to buying their own home.

3D printing companies are looking to reduce at least some of these costs.

While working on their previous home 3D printing project for the non-profit organization Habitat for Humanity in Arizona, the Alquist 3D builder team realized that 3D printing technology made it possible to build homes. with 15% less per square foot construction cost. The number of workers and the time required to build such houses are also small compared to modern construction methods.

In addition, 3D printed buildings use less lumber (lumber prices have come down). skyrocketed after COVID-19 however, due to high demand, they are now declining). All of these factors make 3D printed homes an attractive and much more affordable alternative to traditional homes. Alquist 3D’s website, emphasizing the company’s mission of affordable housing, mentions:

“The American dream has been shattered. For too long, the housing economy has forced developers to build homes at market prices and above instead of ensuring that all Americans have a chance to increase their wealth by owning a home. Ahlqvist believes that a home is first and foremost a home, not an asset. Homes are essential to the fabric of every community. Alquist’s solutions make home building affordable for developers and homeowners alike, giving everyone equal access to the American dream.”

How to print at home?

For Project Virginia, Alquist 3D is partnering with Black Buffalo, a New York-based industrial 3D printer manufacturer. The construction company will use Black Buffalo NEXCON printers, which are capable of building multiple 3D printed houses together, producing reinforced concrete in layers and fixed patterns. The NEXCON printer weighs about 19 tons (17,236 kg) and can be used to build even three-story buildings.

Layers of concrete emerging from the nozzle of a NEXCON 3D printer. Image credits: Alquist 3D

Similar to 3D printing of plastic products, the process of printing a concrete house also starts with a computer program that is used to first develop a digital model of the house. The 3D printer then prints layers of concrete, and these layers are arranged in rows according to the design of the model. The process continues until all the rooms, walls and other concrete parts of the house have been built.

The Alquist 3D team claims that their construction approach is faster than the traditional house building process as they can complete a house about two to three weeks earlier than usual. The price of a 3D home built by the Virginia Project is likely to fall between $175,000 and $350,000 depending on its location and built-up area or size. The company hopes its 3D printed homes will meet the affordable housing needs of low-income people living in rural Virginia.

However, home 3D printing technology is still in its infancy. To implement it on a large scale, companies like Alquist 3D need to overcome the various challenges associated with integrating electrical units and appliances, constructing high-rise buildings, and installing plumbing systems in 3D-printed homes. In addition, such houses also have to comply with the rules and regulations of local urban planning authorities, which can be difficult.

A 3D printed house sounds like a promising technology, especially when it comes to affordable housing. It would be very interesting to see how scientists and companies like Alquist 3D deal with the various limitations of this technology and turn home 3D printing into the mainstream approach to building.

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