Housing supply

Could 3D printed houses solve Canada’s housing supply problem?

Buzz builds around technology, which helps produce low-cost homes

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The horror story that is the Canadian housing market has two protagonists: historically low mortgage rates and a painfully insufficient supply of homes for sale.

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The first could gradually fade. The latter will invade homebuyers’ nightmares for years to come.

Increasing housing supply using traditional methods is not easy in Canada. And that’s especially true in big cities, where real estate experts note that the space needed to build thousands of units each year has proven elusive, and the time needed to design, approve, build and sell projects takes years.

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Canada’s supply crisis may require new solutions, and one may have already presented itself: 3D printed housing (3DPH).

“We can reduce the cost of wall assemblies and… slab preparation, says Ian Comishin, president of Dutch building technology company Twente Additive Manufacturing (TAM).

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TAM and other companies pushing the technology say it’s an affordable and effective method of supplying new homes.

How to print a house?

The printing technician works on a large modern 3d printer with computer control

guruXOX / Shutterstock
Instead of putting ink on paper, a home 3D printer lays down layers of concrete to create the foundations, walls, or other structural components of a home. Windows, doors and everything else are added later by the contractors.

If you’re like most people, the impression conjures up images of what your computer setup at home or work is spitting out.

3D printing of a house is type of like that, but instead of putting layers of ink on a sheet of paper, he puts layers of cement to create the foundations and the shell of a house. Once this hull is complete, the finishing work – windows, roof, wiring, plumbing – is carried out by contractors.

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An overview of the process can be found in this video from Calgary-based 3D Printed Homes Corporation.

While houses can be 3D printed from scratch, this requires transporting the printer – a large, fancy machine – to a construction site.

This is not always feasible, so some houses are built by printing their individual components, transporting them to the construction site and assembling them there.

“Creating a more automated process in this way will make prefab buildings and homes more accessible,” reads a blog post from Prefab Housing Canada. “It can go a long way to providing more affordable housing options.”

3D printed housing in North America

Fibonacci house

Additive manufacturing Twente / YouTube
While 3D-printed homes are yet to be sold in Canada, one recently went on sale in Riverhead, New York, for US$299,000. For Canadian buyers, the lower costs of building 3D homes may not offset the high land costs near major cities.

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Canada holds a special place in the history of 3DPH. The first 3D printed house listed on Airbnb is in Proctor Point, British Columbia.

The Fibonacci House, a 377 square foot, two-bedroom home located approximately 40 kilometers south of Nelson, British Columbia, was designed and built by TAM.

It consists of 20 separate components, which were printed at the factory and then assembled on site.

The house is set to be part of Canada’s first 3D-printed affordable housing project, a partnership between TAM and affordable housing provider World Housing. The income generated by the Fibonacci house will be applied to the completion of the project.

Through its relationship with US construction company ICON, World Housing has also been involved in 3DPH projects in Austin, Texas, and Tabasco, Mexico. The houses were donated to formerly homeless families.

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As a charitable enterprise, 3DPH makes a lot of sense. The houses are inexpensive to produce, replicable, and can be built in remote areas that have little access to new housing.

Whether those same qualities make it a fit for consumers who can’t afford traditional homes at today’s inflated prices remains to be seen.

The Challenges of 3DPH Commercial Deployment

Prvok by Burinka 3D printed house

Jarett Gross / YouTube
Building 3D printed houses requires access to the house printing units themselves. For the technology to take off, there would have to be multiple units in every major city in Canada.

Even one of 3DPH’s most appealing aspects – affordability – has its limits.

Apart from the concrete work, says Comishin, “everything else, like electricity, plumbing, windows, doors, roof… costs the same regardless of the type of construction.”

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Anyone hoping to secure a modest 3D-printed home like the Fibonacci House, which Comishin estimates would sell for around $185,000, would also have to pay for the land — often the most expensive part of any real estate deal.

The 3DPH industry must also consider the desires of Canadian consumers, who have come to expect certain things from the homes they buy, from traditional design touches to the ability to renovate and add space.

Comishin says consumers who aren’t thrilled with the idea of ​​incorporating curves and waves into their home designs can opt for a traditional-looking 3D-printed home. Renovations to add to a property, he says, are “pretty easy”.

He adds that he is confident that homes produced using this technology will one day be widely available to Canadian consumers. But for that to happen, communities and developers will need to engage on a massive scale.

“For it to be widespread, there must be a few 3D printers in every major city and at least one in every medium-sized community,” Comishin says. “They cost less than most excavators people see on construction sites, and significantly less than cranes.”

This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.

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