While technology is having a major impact on how properties are managed and sold, it’s also having an impact on how properties are created. 3D printing, which allows people to create three-dimensional objects with digital files, is changing the way that we design and create homes and other buildings. With lower cost for materials and a healthier carbon footprint, 3D printing is set to make housing more accessible and design structures previously impractical using current methods.
If you’d like to understand more about how 3D printing will affect the future of buildings, read on.
1. Creating more housing
While still in the early stages, 3D printing has the potential to quickly build more housing. This can have a major impact on markets that face a housing shortage. In 2016, Baylor University student Alex La Roux created a concrete, livable structure built in just 24 hours using a 3D printer. Today, La Roux is a co-founder of ICON, which is working on 3D printing homes for “half the cost,” according to the company’s website. ICON built its first home earlier this year, at a cost of under US$4,000. With more housing supply available, 3D printing can make housing more affordable, an ongoing issue in major cities across the world.
Countries are already taking advantage of 3D printing; in the next 10 years, Dubai expects that 25 percent of its housing will be 3D printed.
2. Pushing the boundaries of buildings
According to JLL, 3D printers of the future will be able to work with a wide variety of materials. This means that shapes not possible with current construction methods can be built, and buildings can be created with more precision. In the case of ICON’s US$4,000 home, the team wanted to show off the potential of 3D printing by building a rectangular structure with curved corners, giving it a unique look.
3D printing also means buildings can be created more quickly. Scientific American explains that, currently, construction workers mix concrete poured into plywood molds called forms in order to create buildings. Meanwhile, 3D printers use quick-setting concrete and create structures by layer, guided by a computer. This means that the same printer can be used to create wildly different structures, removing the need to create new forms for every project.
Another impact of 3D printing is that cheaper materials can be used to build structures, reducing the overall cost of construction.
3. A positive environmental impact
Since 3D printing reduces the time spent working on a job site, companies reduce their carbon footprint. And, since 3D printers use electricity, there are no direct emissions. At the same time, the ability to use local materials reduces the need for lengthy transport in CO2 emitting vehicles. For example, DUS Architects, a Dutch architecture studio that has been 3D-printing houses since 2012, has built a 3D printer that can build using local recycled materials.
4. Easy upgrades
3D printing can allow homeowners to print upgrades to their home without having to do expensive renovations. And, the wider availability of 3D printers will allow people to create home decor that more accurately reflects their personality.
For the early adopters that already own 3D printers, there are many places to get inspiration; Pinterest already lists some ideas, and there are companies that specialize in creating 3D printed household items if you don’t have immediate access to one.
5. Bring designs to life
In a similar way that virtual reality is already used to provide virtual showrooms of spaces, 3D printed models of spaces can allow homebuyers to get a physical interpretation of what they’re buying. Architects can also get a sense of how the building can take full advantage of the space around it, such as afternoon shade or amazing views, according to White Clouds.
For real estate operators, having a physical model can also be an important addition to a portfolio that promotes their expertise.
Let us know how you think 3D printing will change the industry in the comments.
Jessica Galang is a tech journalist who has been tracking the Canadian tech ecosystem for the last several years. In the past, she was news editor at BetaKit and a reporter at The Logic, interviewing hundreds of entrepreneurs in emerging industries.