The New Home Insights podcast is always trying to define the future of housing. Market trends, design trends, economic trends. But what about how we actually build our homes? What once seemed like something for the far-off future is here now—3D-printed homes.
How is this actually done? How does this change how we build homes? Or who builds homes? How does this constrain home design—or does it? And critically, how will this impact the cost of a new home?
Century Communities is a trailblazer in the emerging world of 3D-printed homes. Genji Nakata, Executive Vice President of National Operations at Century Communities, helped us explore this world in the latest episode of New Home Insights.
Genji Nakata, Executive Vice President National Operations, Century Communities
Some key takeaways:
- 3D-printed homes are built on-site by a robot that is like an air traffic controller coordinating all the tasks. That seems pretty futuristic.
- Century Communities partners with Diamond Age for their 3D-printed homes.
- Layer by layer, the exterior and interior walls are completed, and printers will be finishing more features in the near future.
- The material is just plain old concrete so is usually readily available.
- Century Communities just opened their first 3D-printed homes at Mountain View Estates in Casa Grande, a suburb of Phoenix.
- After the bones of the home are printed, the process is pretty normal so on-site completion is the same as a stick-built home.
- Weather is no more a problem for 3D printing than stick-built—it can be done anywhere at any time.
- Vertical costs are about the same, but 3D printing should get cheaper as processes improve and automation increases.
- A key cost that is not the same is time—3D homes are printed much faster than traditional homes are built.
- Waste is minimal—the Mountain View Estates job site has no dumpsters.
- The resulting structure is durable and efficient. 3D-printed homes will typically lessen your heating and cooling bills.
- They are also naturally sound resistant. Your family can shout at you from the next room and you probably won’t hear them, which is good. (I pitched the tagline: “In a 3D-printed home no one can hear you scream,” but Genji was having none of it.)
- As long as it fits within the building envelope, a 3D-printed home can be anything you want. Elevations can be in any style and any finish. This is not the blocky, gray slab misconception you might have (and by “you” I mean “me” before Genji set me straight).
- Like any innovative product, there will be an acceptance period as buyers understand that 3D homes can be as good or better than what they are accustomed to.
- For now 3D-printed homes will be single story and so have some size constraints, but two-story printed homes are on the way soon (and are already here elsewhere).
- 3D-printed homes are still in their infancy, but they will evolve to be more diverse, more efficient, and less expensive as the technology advances. Their impact on housing affordability will be a huge driver.
- In fact, Genji went out on a limb and predicted 3D-printed homes will capture a 20% market share within 20 years. We will check back with him then to see if he called it right.