The Affordable Housing Crisis in the U.S. has currently turned into a ghost that is haunting the entire economic system of the country as a major fraction of the American population remains homeless. Fortunately, an innovative and advanced architectural technique called “3D Printing” is here to solve the affordable housing crisis.
Some of the major reasons behind the ongoing affordable housing crisis in the U.S. include; high labor and building material (mostly wood) costs, an imbalance in the demand and supply chain in the industry, high time consumption, and a negative climate effect of the traditional housebuilding process. However, 3D printed houses serve as a cost and time-effective alternative to the problem affordable housing crisis in the U.S. and hold the potential to completely change the future of architecture in the near future.
What Are 3D Printing Houses?
The first question that comes to one’s mind after reading this is; what are 3D printed houses and how is it even possible to print houses? The answer lies in the strategy, techniques, and material used to build 3D Printed houses. Unlike what might come to a person’s mind at first thought, a 3D printed house is not a fragile printed house standing on the walls of paper.
In 3D-prineed houses, the builders use advanced 3D printing machines. These machines follow a pre-designed house blue print to lay out the material required to make a house, such as concrete, layer after layer onto the desired land. This creates the outside walls of the house according to a set pattern.
The machine contains a nozzle that releases concrete and spreads it across the area according to the commands added. Layers of material are stacked upon each other to make the walls of the house. That’s just how a house is printed on land from the screen of a computer.
How Can 3D Printed Houses Solve The Affordable Housing Crisis?
The next question is, how can 3D printed houses help solve the affordable housing crisis in the U.S., and if they can help at all? The main reason behind the affordable housing crisis is the high cost of labor and resources. These two factors make it impossible for an average citizen, earning a minimum wage, to own a house of their own. Currently,11 million Americans live in rented houses, spending about 50% of their income on paying rent due to the lack of an affordable housing market. Here are a few ways through which3D printed houses may be able to help solve the affordable housing crisis:
An Affordable Alternative to Wooden Houses:
One of the major reasons behind the failure of traditional house-building techniques is their inability to keep up with the rising costs of materials due to inflation. The prices of wood have significantly increased in the past 2-3 years, with an average rise of about 37% from the past record.
This significantly decreased the number of buyers as well and caused a down fall in the construction industry as well. Now, 3D printed houses came forward as a cheaper alternative to traditional wooden houses. Concrete is the main material used to build 3D-printed houses. Concrete-based 3D-printed houses can reduce the average building costs of a house by up to15% or more. This makes this technique significantly more affordable than wooden houses.
Reduced Labor Cost:
Labor costs contain a major portion of the overall building cost of a traditional house. Laborers are the main requirement for building a traditional house, unlike 3D printed houses. In 3D-printed houses, there is a minimum requirement for a labor force. The work can be maintained and regulated through machinery and does not require a large labor force. A few laborers or experts who know how to run the machine and organize other equipment are all that’s needed. This results in are duction of one of the major expenditures in building a house i.e., the labor cost.
Time Efficient Process:
Building a house using traditional means or structures is usually a highly time-consuming process. The more time the process of house building consumes, the more costly it will be. Because all the work has to be done manually without much assistance from machines, the labor costs will be very high in this process. Time equals money in this process and 3D printing is the best alternative to this time-consuming and ineffective process. What might take 2-3 weeks to build a house through traditional means would be built only within 2 days using the 3D-printing technique. This makes this technique almost 15% more efficient than the traditional house-building method.
An Eco-Friendly Solution:
Another factor that makes this technique far more not able and for the future is its positive impact on the environment. Climate change is a major challenge that the world is facing right now. Most industries, including the construction industry, significantly add to the problem of climate change by disposing of waste materials in the environment. 3D printing reduces the amount of waste material discharged into the environment. It was noted that 3D printing reduced wastage discharge at construction sites by almost tenfold. Similarly, it also reduces Carbon Dioxide emissions by up to 70%. With the changing climatic conditions, 3D printing can serve as the most effective strategy for building houses.
A Revolution in the Job Market:
Unlike most of the technological advancements which destroy the labor market through cutoff on labor, 3D printing has the potential to bring innovation to the job market. 3D printing companies claim that laborers who do manual work on minimum wages can be easily trained to run the 3D printing machinery effectively. This will save them from getting exploited while doing hard labor as well as create new and improved jobs for them. This can ultimately have a double effect on the cost and benefit relationship in the house building and owning market. Moreover, it can increase the potential for participation of women in the construction industry.
How To Help?
Despite having a promising future and the eat strategic value in the longer run, 3D printing is nota popular method of housebuilding in the U.S. yet. The process has yet to be mainstreamed in the U.S. construction industry. There are certain steps that may be taken to mainstream 3D printing as well as solve the affordable housing crisis in the U.S. which include:
- Spreading awareness about the benefits of the 3D printed housing technique.
- Mainstreaming 3D printing as a valid building technique.
- Holding classes for the laborers to educate them about the changing dynamics of the building industry and training them to use advanced equipment and technology effectively.
- Supporting the 3D printing companies on both private and governmental levels.
Providing the 3D printing companies with resources to experiment with building materials to come up with the most cost-effective and efficient building material. The 3D printing house-building technique, despite being new, has bright prospects in the future. 3D printing can be the bright future of architecture. It can prove to be the best alternative to beat the problem of lack of affordable housing. This is specifically true in the case of states like Florida, where the prices of building materials and labor force have skyrocketed after the recent wave of inflation amidst COVID-19. Additionally, the increased population of such states also contributes to the affordable housing crisis and 3D printing might be the only affordable alternative as of now.