Alquist, one of a few U.S. companies that 3D-prints houses, is looking to build 200 of these homes in Virginia starting this summer.
The process is somewhat simple. First, a person designs what they want the frame of the house to look like by using a computer program. Then, a file is transmitted to a machine, which tells it what to do and how to move.
On-site workers pour in cement material, then the concrete is pumped through the tubes and dispersed in layers.
“We believe in creating a community. That is our goal as a company, and it’s pretty hard to have a community if you don’t have anywhere to live,” said Zachary Mannheimer, founder and CEO of Alquist 3D.
According to Mannheimer, the area of southwest Virginia the company is targeting struggles with affordable housing.
“Buying anything under $200,000 in the entire New River Valley is kind of hard to do,” said Scott Bunn, a Realtor with Remax 8.
Organizations like Habitat for Humanity help people in need find homes. In December 2021, the organization’s Peninsula & Greater Williamsburg chapter got the chance to place single mother April Stringfield in the first-ever owner-occupied 3D-printed house.
“When they said they can print the home this way…and said it should be faster, cheaper and safer, we got very excited,” said Janet V. Green, CEO of Habitat for Humanity’s local chapter.
Green says with the help of Virginia Housing, Virginia Tech, and Alquist 3D they built Stringfield’s 167-layer home. Green said the walls of the three-bedroom were constructed in less than 30 hours.
“April will have a 30-year mortgage. The only difference between that and other mortgages is that hers is interest-free. It is more than half of what she was paying in rent, and that includes her real estate taxes and insurance,” said Green.
Mannheimer believes 3D printing is a game-changer because it cuts costs up to 15% by scaling back labor, materials, and time. He does understand that there are concerns about displacing traditional construction jobs, and some environmental impacts of this method, but he says he is working to attack those issues.