Editorial Feature

Are 3D Printed Houses the Future of Affordable Housing?

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This summer, a housing project began in an undisclosed location in Latin America. The project is the brainchild of a partnership between homebuilding technology company ICON and nonprofit organization New Story, who hope to demonstrate that 3D housing is the future of affordable housing through constructing an entirely 3D printed neighborhood.

Demand for Affordable Housing

The problem facing communities around the world is that as well as providing enough housing space for growing populations, new housing needs to be affordable to accommodate the lower-income families who need housing.

The homes being built as part of the project will take only two days or less to build to completion, just a fraction of the time that current homes take to construct, which can be months. They will also cost just between $4,000 - $7,000 to build. While this wouldn’t be the final retail cost, it still makes them far more affordable than the average American home, which according to CNBC costs around $200,000. The project plans to ask residents to pay a monthly fee to cover the cost of their homes, which have been designed to be affordable for families making under $200 a month.

Dealing with the U.S. Housing Crisis

What’s happening in Latin America is a demonstration of how the US can confront its own housing crisis. Currently, the stats estimate that only 37 affordable homes are available in the US for every 100 extremely low-income renters. There is a desperate need for increased availability of homes that can be paid for by low-income households.

A recent report found that the country is lacking around 7 million available and affordable homes for this demographic. ICON and New Story’s project is the perfect example of how 3D printed homes could address the problem.

Urban Village Project

There are other alternative solutions on the horizon. IKEA, for example, has embarked on a project to provide a solution to creating sustainable, well-designed, low-cost homes for the future. This summer, IKEA unveiled to the world its Urban Village Project, which displayed the developments it had made with its partnership with SPACE10 and EFFEKT Architects.

The project’s main goal was to offer a housing solution to improve quality of life. In true IKEA style, the project is based on building homes using flat packed, prefabricated kits that are recyclable and easy to assemble and disassemble. The project hopes that its prefabricated designs will be scalable so that in the future, entire cities could potentially be put up in a short time frame for a fraction of the cost of today’s construction work.

Citizen-Centric Apps for Affordable Housing

Another viable option for future housing projects comes in the form of iBuild, a citizen-centric app that aims to give empowerment to citizens in communities where self-built homes are the only affordable option.

The app connects people with contractors to find the right price from trusted workers. It also facilitates safe and secure payment for services, as well as ensuring that government subsidies are being used correctly.

World Bank has highlighted iBuild as being a promising development for the future of affordable housing as it encourages citizens to take control of their own homes, improves transparency and competition in an informal construction sector, and boosts policy-making through the formal collection of transactional data.

3D Printing

While there are several avenues to producing affordable housing in the future, such as with prefabricated builds and self-building, 3D printing offers the most sustainable option. 3D printing offers the option to construct homes in less than two days, for less than $7,000 per home, and the ICON/New Story project is demonstrated how costs can be made even more manageable by offering monthly payments for homes, which pumps money directly into the community, helping it to flourish.

While IKEA’s flat-pack option is also viable, we have yet to see a real-world application of this on a large scale; there is no indication that they would be as affordable as 3D printed homes. Recently, plans have been made in the UK to build a community of IKEA homes. However, it is estimated that they will be just 10-25% cheaper to buy than the UK’s average house price.


Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Sarah Moore

Written by

Sarah Moore

After studying Psychology and then Neuroscience, Sarah quickly found her enjoyment for researching and writing research papers; turning to a passion to connect ideas with people through writing.


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