Could 3D printers give everyone a cheap home?

We have a lot of cool stuff here at Nicely Done Sites but one thing that we do not have is a 3D printer. 3D printers are beginning to revolutionize the way things are made and may very well lead to the ability to make many things at home rather than going to the store to get it. They seem to be able to make almost anything, from a whistle to hinges to an excavator to even a firearm. These devices have changed the way small objects are made but could it make something much more useful like say a house?

Yes, it can. With more than a billion people worldwide lacking a true home we have a housing crisis on this planet. Two companies demonstrated at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas that a 3D printed home is not only possible but it is a reality. The non-profit company New Story, which sets up housing in the developing world, partnered with the construction firm ICON to construct 380 square foot house made using a 3D printer. In fact this is not even the first home constructed using a 3D printer. Homes have already been built in the Netherlands, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.

The home may be small and they do plan on eventually making larger homes available as well if the idea takes off and advances in 3D printing continue. The example home at the festival cost $10,000 to build and was completed in 48 hours. The goal is to get that time down to between 12 and 24 hours, a far cry from the six to eight months (permit to completion) it takes to build a home using traditional means. That is going to be put to the test later this year when they go to El Salvador to begin home construction.

The system, known as the Vulcan, can make 11 foot sections of the home and uses mortar rather than plastic with the printer. The printer goes works within a metal frame and follows the blueprints using tracks laid down laying one layer at a time. Humans will still need to install the plumbing, electricity, windows and the roof but the end result is a cheap and yet sturdy place to live for someone who has never had the prospect of owning their own home.

The benefits for the residents of the poorest nations of the world should be obvious. Not only is home ownership potentially within the grasp of anyone in that nation but they will be able to afford it. New Story is offering a no-interest and no-profit mortgage to be paid off over a decade which comes out to about $30 per month. With the average El Salvadoran earning around $360 a month this is something that they can afford. The hope is that with more families in their own house they will be more likely to seek a better job or to start their own business.

With what could be upwards of 2 million Salvadoran citizens living in the US this could allow for some to return home, so a project like this should find one would think almost universal backing along the political spectrum. This may not only be the solution to the world’s housing crisis but also to our national problem with illegal immigration. Either way, it seems like there is nothing to lose and lots to gain. Imagine the slums and favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Mumbai, Johannesburg, Kinshasa, Jakarta or Mexico City disappearing and being replaced by real homes for those people. Imagine being able to rebuild Syria when their civil war is over and returning those people to a normal life much quicker. Imagine ending our own nation’s homeless crisis. Why not?

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