The traditional method of building houses may have changed in the last 200 years, but it has retained one key element — humans. In the absence of advanced machinery people built houses with their hands and the tools, as they have done for the entirety of human history. This was the case until now, with the emergence of industrial 3D printers capable of extruding concrete to build a 3D printed house. Now, gigantic 3D printers have printed entire house structures in hours.
3D printing offers a revolutionary solution; proposing to build houses faster, more accurately and cheaper than people can. We will be showcasing some interesting 3D printed house projects that already exist, the advantages and disadvantages of 3D printed houses, and mentioning some 3D printer companies who are working hard to commercialize the tech.
We have divided this complete guide to 3D printed houses into three parts:
- Part 1: A selection of the most exciting 3D printed mansion, house and apartment projects
- Part 2: Five advantages of 3D printed houses and how 3D printed buildings would benefit us
- Part 3: Five 3D printed house companies building amazing apartments
We have also published the complete history of 3D printing, which you can view here.
Part 1: 8 Exciting 3D Printed House Builds
1. World’s Largest 3D Printed House: by Apis Cor in Dubai
If you hear of an exciting or innovative building project, there is a high likelihood it will involve Dubai. Dubai have been championing ambitious architectural projects for years, and have recently made the bold move of aiming to have 25% of new buildings 3D printed by 2030.
This administrative building comprises two floors, featuring beautiful 3D printed architecture born out of an ongoing collaboration between Russian 3D printed house company Apis Cor and the Dubai Municipality.
We expect much more to come from Apis Cor in Dubai, as this building is considered by them to be just a test for larger 3D printed house projects for the future. It is claimed to have been to test whether Apis Cor’s concrete 3D printer could print a building in Dubai’s heat — and passed with flying colors.
Expect more very soon — 3D printed apartment blocks, skyscrapers, landmarks and more.
For the full story covering the world’s largest 3D printed building, click here.
2. First family move into a 3D printed house in France
- 3D printed house price: £170,000
- Located: France
In July 2018 a French family moved into their new four-bedroom home, becoming the first family to live in a 3D printed house. This was a collaboration between the city council, housing association and the University of Nantes. The goal was to build a prototype with the long-term goal of creating 3D printed houses that are cheaper and faster to build than traditional houses. The house cost around £176,000 – 20% less than traditional construction.
This 1022 square foot 3D printed house took 54 hours to build, though this was just the structure. An additional four months of contractors fitting the windows, doors, and other parts was necessary before the home was finished. The team behind this extraordinary achievement now believe they could create a similar house in 33 hours, citing additional knowledge and tech advances.
Benoit Furet, the man behind the project, believes 3D printed houses offer a solution to the growing housing shortage and for social housing in the future. Moreover, he claims that with growing economies of scale and technological advances, 3D printed houses will become 40% cheaper to build in 10-15 years’ time.
Perhaps the most interesting part of this build however is the architecture – the house was built to curve around environmentally-protected trees. This is simply not plausible for traditional builds. This offers potential for more compelling designs, as well as creating custom houses to suit disabled people.
3. Apis Cor 3D Printed House Built in 24 Hours
- 3D printed house price: $10,000
- Located: Russia
Probably the most famous and viral 3D printed house build, this interestingly shaped house was built back in 2017 in just one day – while it snowed! According to the team the house cost just over $10,000 to build, including the furnishings with windows and doors, though we will discuss why these figures may not tell the full story further on in this article.
Now several years on, this was definitely the moment where the world woke up to the possibility of 3D printed houses in the future. This viral video not only proved it could be done, but that 3D printed dwellings could be build faster than people could, and the cost of a 3D printed house was far lower.
Apis Cor’s build brought 3D printed structures into the public eye, encouraging others to get involved and democratize 3D printed house building.
4. ICON & New Story 3D Printed House in Austin, Texas USA
- 3D printed house cost: $10,000
- Located: USA
Another recent viral story, this collaboration between ICON and New Story made headlines when they built a 3D printed house in Texas, USA earlier this year. The prototype 3D printed house built cost the companies approximately $10,000, though they assert that this number can be brought down to $4,000 going forwards.
The house, like Apis Cor’s 3D printed house in Russia, was built in 24 hours, and is part of ICON’s longer-term plan to assist in infrastructure in poorer parts of the world through housing. Non-profit ICON has already built over 800 houses in Haiti, El Salvador, Bolivia and Mexico, and plans to utilize 3D printing to create low-cost houses in these areas – ICON currently source local workers but some areas may not have the skilled builders required.
Therefore, 3D printed houses offer a solution to this lack of skilled builder problem. Large concrete 3D printers could be brought to these impoverished areas where there are few skilled builders to create homes for people in poverty. This is an example of 3D printing helping improve the lives of society’s most vulnerable, and we commend ICON and New Story for their fantastic work here.
This is also a project we are actually likely to see develop. New Story is Co-Founded and advised by some very powerful and successful people, including Glassdoor’s CEO, and Reddit Co-Founder Alexis Ohanian. Many of the people attached to the project have a track record of execution and success, so we look forward to seeing the project’s progress. Since the Texas project they have also printed a series of 3D printed houses in Mexico.
5. 3D Printed “Office of the Future” in Dubai
- 3D printed building price: $140,000
- Located: Dubai
Dubai is always making headlines for being ambitious and outlandish in its declarations of future goals – none more so than their claim that 25% of buildings will be built using 3D printing by 2030. And they’re backing this up with action; this office — claimed to be the most advanced 3D printed building in the world — cost roughly $140,000 to build (not including finishing details) and took 17 days.
Affectionately named the “office of the future”, the building was created by a 20-foot-tall concrete 3D printer that uses a robotic arm to deposit cement. Only one employee was needed to monitor the house 3D printer whilst it printed, and seven employees worked on building components of the office whilst the printer worked.
Additionally, 10 electricians and other specialists worked on the inner workings of the office across the 17-day build. We cannot therefore call it a completely 3D printed house, as other workers filled in various other components. But 3D printing has never claimed to be able to insert complex electrical systems as it prints, just create the structure in record time. With this project showing huge ambition, perhaps Dubai will become a world leader in 3D printed houses.
6. Gaia Italy 3D Printed House
- 3D printed apartment price: $1,000
- Located: Italy
Italian house 3D printing company WASP built ‘Gaia’, a 3D printed hut made from a mix of concrete and mud-based material. The 215 square foot structure took 10 days to complete, though the total time when accounting for all the furnishings and additions would be longer. The most extraordinary part is that the hut cost just $1,000 in materials to build, though this doesn’t factor in labor and other costs.
Like New Story’s plans for the developing world, this interesting prototype may form the basis for building houses in poorer countries. In more deprived areas where the imminent problem is shelter rather than wiring and pipes inside houses, these cheap 3D printed houses offer an effective solution to a real crisis.
7. Project Milestone, Eindhoven — Building 5 3D printed condos in Holland
- 3D printed house price: N/A
- Located: Holland
Project Milestone – the code name for the project to develop five habitable and beautifully shaped homes in Eindhoven, Holland – is a fascinating collaboration between Houben and Van Mierlo Architecten, Van Wijnen, and the Eindhoven University of Technology. Pioneered as a solution to the shortage of skilled bricklayers in the Netherlands, the first of these houses – the first 3D printed house for sale – attracted over 20 interested buyers in its first week on the market.
Though currently only the cement structure of the houses is 3D printed, with advances in technology it is hoped that by the time the fifth house is built that other features, such as drainage pipes, will also be made using the printer. This will further reduce costs and influence 3D printing’s adoption in house building.
8. 3D Housing 05 – Milan Design Week
- 3D printed house price: N/A.
- Located: Italy.
A collaboration between engineering firm Arup and architecture studio CLS Architetti, and 3D printed by CyBe Construction; this stylish 3D printed house, named ‘3D Housing 05’, exhibited at Milan Design Week following its construction in November 2018.
The 3D printed home, built in a week on a Milan square using recycled concrete, is around 100 square meters and contains a living area, bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and roof terrace. Prominent 3D printed house constructor CyBe Construction created the house with their concrete 3D printer; able to print a single wall in between 60 to 90 minutes.
The most exciting part is the recycled concrete, developed by Italcementi, which uses debris from demolition cites to create the 3D printable material. This can then be recycled again after the building has been demolished. Massimiliano Locatelli, the principal architect at CLS Architetti, claims that each square meter costs €1,000 to build – half the price of traditional construction. With advances in the technology, he believes this can be reduced to between 200-300 euros in the future.
Part 2: 3D Printed House Advantages – Five 3D Printed House Benefits
Environmentally Friendliness: Since 3D printing is a form of additive manufacturing, there is no waste left over. Therefore, in the building of a 3D printed house, less concrete and other materials are used up, benefiting the environment.
3D printed houses cost less: A large part of the costs in building a house is the labor involved, as houses take so long to construct. A house 3D printer only requires one person to monitor it, thereby vastly reducing costs involved in building a house – though there is the counterargument of putting people out of work.
Moreover, the University of Tartu, Estonia, with the Estonian University of Life Sciences, have collaborated to create a low-cost 3D printed house concrete material made primarily of peat which could reduce the material cost of building a house by up to 10x! Additionally, because peat is so common it could be dug up locally — such as in deprived third-world countries — and used to build houses, so materials do not have to be shipped there.
3D printed houses can be made quicker: Houses can take between four to six months to build on average, but a 3D printer can print the structure of a house in just a day. With effective contractors to put doors, roofs and windows in, this means completed houses could be built in just a few weeks.
More options architecturally: Because 3D printing allows for accuracy far beyond what humans are capable of, complex designs can be created by 3D printers of all shapes and sizes. This is beneficial not just aesthetically, but also in the ability to create houses customized to be as efficient as possible as retaining heat, saving money, as well as creating environments that disabled people can live in comfortably.
Ability to help those in need: Being able to create basic shelter structures quickly, cheaply, with minimal labor and with accessible materials makes 3D printing the only clear option for the task. It is no wonder therefore that much research is being conducted in order to refine the technology, and with non-profits such as New Story attempting to utilize 3D printing in the third world.
However, it is still important to be realistic.
3D printed houses are likely not as cheap as the companies who have built 3D printed houses claim they are. They only list the cost of the house in terms of the materials consumed to build it, omitting key factors such as labor, the cost of the printer (renting or buying), interior and external finishing, and wiring, pipes and other key foundations. The house in Nantes, France built for £170K is an accurate cost for a habitable 3D printed building, not the outlandish claims to build a fully-functioning domicile for $4,000.
Part 3: 5 3D Printed House Companies Building Cool 3D Printed Buildings
1 – Apis Cor
- Country based: Russia
- Best known for: 3D printing an entire house in 1 day!
Russian company Apis Cor are responsible for the entire house printed in one day project we mentioned near the top of our feature story. Since pioneering 3D printed housing, Apis Cor are making waves in the space industry too, winning NASA prizes for submissions for techniques for 3D printing on Mars!
Their house 3D printers are huge goliath structures, depositing concrete layer-by-layer to create a full house structure. These house 3D printers only create the structure — the equivalent of a car chassis — that skilled labor can then finish by adding plumbing and electrical systems.
2 – CyBe Construction
- Country based: Holland
- Best known for: Milan Design Week 3D Printed House
CyBe are another hugely innovative company in the 3D printed house sector. Responsible for the house showcased during Milan Design Week, as well as 3D printed bridges in the Netherlands and concrete buildings built in Saudi Arabia, CyBe Construction are making huge progress in building habitable houses using their concrete 3D printers.
3 – WinSun — Building 3D Printed Houses in China
- Country based: China
- Best known for: 3D printing 10 houses in a day in 2014
WinSun is a Chinese company which made headlines back in 2014 by building ten 3D printed houses — small concrete buildings that cost $4,800 each — in just one day. Since then WinSun have continued to innovate, most recently 3D printing a commercial bus stop and further developing their concrete 3D printers.
4 – ICON
- Country based: USA
- Best known for: Austin, Texas 3D printed house
ICON are not just a 3D printing company, but also focuses on robotics and traditional construction projects. Based in the USA, ICON are backed by Y Combinator, and have ambitious goals to build exciting buildings all over the world, with their powerful Vulcan II house 3D printer
Vulcan II house 3D printer
ICON’s Vulcan II house 3D printer is a gigantic concrete-extruding goliath capable of building up to 2,000 square feet homes. It’s the first commercially-available construction 3D printer, specifically designed to build resilient single-story homes up to 8.5 feet tall and 28 feet wide.
ICON have also pioneered research into their concrete-based material to prevent it from creating imperfect layers or hardening too quickly. The actual material mix itself can be altered based on needs and uses, making ICON’s offering a very versatile one indeed.
5 – BatiPrint
- Country based: France
- Best known for: 3D printed house in Nantes
French house 3D printers BatiPrint played a large part in the construction of the first habitable 3D printed house we mentioned at the beginning of the article, in Nantes, France. BatiPrint has pioneered a house 3D printer which prints with layers of polyurethane and concrete, creating solid foundations that are built to last.
Though far from being perfected, the potential with 3D printed houses is exciting. It has proven to work and stand up to the elements in Europe and the USA, and really can work faster and more efficiently than people.
The question now is how the technology will be received: will people resent concrete printers for making builders obsolete? Or will they take to them, glad that they can save them money on their dream build.
Even the most advanced house printers of the future will likely require monitors to prevent any disaster, and we are a world away from a printer that can concurrently 3D print the glass windows, wooden doors, pipes, electronics and other furnishings along with the house.
House 3D printers therefore do not replace people, but complement them; doing the heavy lifting while the specialists do what they do best. It is important therefore to focus on how 3D printed houses can benefit both us and those in the third-world, and respect the advantages that 3D printed houses offer.