Habitat for Humanity Investigates 3D Printing for Faster Affordable Housing


An October 2021 report by the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (aka. Freddie Mac) estimated there is a housing shortage of 3.8 million units in the US, and the deficit is growing. Part of the problem arises from the skilled construction labor shortage. Increases in the cost of construction materials has complicated the situation. In addition, fewer and fewer starter homes are being built – only 7% in 2019, compared to 40% in 1980.

The shortage affects everyone searching for a home and has especially created difficulties for those in need who still dream of home ownership.

Image: Habitat for Humanity, Peninsula & Greater Williamsburg, VA

Habitat for Humanity, an international nonprofit, helps families in need to build and remodel homes. Applicants who are selected help with construction, then apply for an income-based mortgage loan.

Habitat for Humanity is investigating a way to address the affordable housing shortage using 3D-printing technology to shorten the time it takes to build houses. The 3D-printing process involves “printing” walls with an “ink” of liquid concrete or a composite. The ink/concrete is deposited layer upon layer in a process that has been honed over the past 40 years.

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Image: Peri Gruppe, Peri.com

Typically, it would take four to six weeks to frame in a single-story 1,200-square-foot, lumber-based (stick-built) house. For the Habitat for Humanity project in Virginia, the concrete walls were erected using a Build-on-Demand 3D printer by Germany-based Peri Group in twelve hours. The concrete ink is pumped from a specialized nozzle, which makes one horizontal pass at a time at a rate of one-foot per second, giving each concrete layer a chance to cure as it goes.

From groundbreaking to completion, it took five months to complete the three-bedroom, two-bath house. Alquist, a 3D-printing construction company, partnered with Habitat for Humanity on the project. The Alquist website states that 3D-printed concrete houses can be innovative, sustainable and affordable. Another benefit is resistance to tornado and hurricane damage. According to Black Buffalo 3D Corporation, savings can include:

  • 50-80% reduction in build time.
  • 50-80% reduction in labor costs.
  • 50-90% reduction in site waste.
  • 30-70% reduction in materials cost.

Alquist describes the homes they produce as “smart” buildings, each with a proprietary system designed by Virginia Tech that monitors and manages indoor environments for energy efficiency, comfort, security, and emergency protocols.

The Virginia house is the second one Habitat for Humanity has 3D-printed. The first was constructed in Tempe, Arizona. About 70% of that three-bedroom, two-bath structure was 3D-printed, including its exterior and interior walls. That project went from groundbreaking to occupancy in eleven months.

Another Habitat for Humanity 3D-printed house project is in the works in partnership with the University of Montana (UM). Those involved in the UM project are interested in trying out hempcrete, a process recently discussed during an AEC Disruptors Podcast.

If you need a partner to help you navigate through the cutting-edge construction methods coming to a jobsite near you, contact Applied Software today.

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