Just hit ‘print’ and home can become a reality
Published Date 7/20/2021
In a wildly competitive real estate market some homebuyers are seeking alternatives. Rising home prices, labor shortages, and tight inventory seem to be speeding up demand for 3D printed homes. And those companies poised to provide it are working harder than ever to bring this new phenomenon to the marketplace.
Oakland, CA-based construction technology company Mighty Builders has gotten a foothold with small (tiny) 3D-printed houses with ambitious plans for the future.
Founded in 2017, the products they provide were a well-kept secret for a while. Realtor Magazine’s Catherine Mesick, writes, “The company began in ‘stealth mode,’ developing its technology before emerging on the market last August with $30 million in backing. In February, the company announced that it had raised an additional $40 million.”
She goes on to say that Mighty Buildings accessory dwelling units (Mighty Pods) are designed to be set up on the same property as an existing home, ranging from 350 to 700 square feet. The larger dwelling prototype, Mighty Houses, range from 400 to 1,440 square feet, with each home manufactured on a prefabricated model and then shipped and installed on the purchaser’s land.
It may not sound like much right now, but it’s the future. “To date, five units have been delivered to customers, with two additional units awaiting delivery, and 30 more units have been contracted and are in the production pipeline,” says Mesick. “The products’ low prices—Mods start at $187,250, Houses at $221,500—follow the company’s vision.”
Mesick adds that the company aims to make construction more sustainable, efficient, and affordable using a synthetic stone the company invented called Light Stone Material, making it possible to assemble most of the structure in the company’s factory. “Mighty Buildings’ Big G printer creates 3D-printed panels that are applied to a steel frame. Robots add insulation and interior woodwork. Finishes that look like siding or brick can be applied to the outside. Workers add items that are too complex for robots to assemble, such as cabinets, HVAC systems, and appliances.”
Helen Chong, Mighty Buildings’ head of marketing and public relations, says a 350-square-foot home can be printed in under 24 hours with virtually no waste, since the process entails printing only what is necessary. This means the process is 30% to 40% cheaper than traditional construction.
Other companies in the 3-D printed home mix are Beverly Hills–based developer Palari and Austin, TX-based ICON, both of which have lofty plans to build entire communities with printed houses. “In a field full of firsts, Patchogue, N.Y.–based construction tech company SQ4D has one of its own: the first 3D-printed house to be offered for sale on an MLS,” says Mesick, who reports that one real estate broker in Riverhead, N.Y, listed a 1400 square foot house for $299,999 back in January. “By early March, the house had found a buyer and gone under contract over asking price—even though the house hadn’t been printed yet,” she says. Prospective buyers were able to view a model home constructed nearby before making a decision.
This new phenomenon is not without its obstacles, however.
Standardization, and the certification of metal parts are still complex issues, while the technology’s place in the wider construction world will likely involve a hybrid approach to building.