Will 3D-printing revolutionize new-home building?

From prosthetics to engineering prototypes, 3D-printing technology is bringing innovation to virtually every industry — so can real estate be far behind?

Some may view 3D-printing as a novelty, but there are a number of very real applications where it might be brought to bear in the way homes are built and sold in the future. And, as these advancements become more accessible and affordable, 3D-printing could become a real game changer for both home builders and their customers.

Take new-home décor. The first commercially available 3D-printed residential faucet has been introduced — a breakthrough that may soon allow interior designers to design a model home interior with décor fixtures and accessories that are the perfect shape, size and colour.

I predict new-home purchasers with their own 3D-printers will be able to customize almost anything they can imagine within their homes in the future ¬— from shelves and vases or wall art, and any number of home décor fixtures and accessories. Imagine being able to create these items on your own!

Builders, too, are starting to produce scale models of new condos or low-rise homes using 3D-printers, and it’s quite possible that instead of buyers viewing a 2D-floorplan, they will be able to inspect a 3D-printed model of their new home instead.

But if you can produce home accessories or scale models of a home with a 3D-printer, what’s to stop you from printing an actual home? Apparently not much. In fact, it’s already possible to 3D-print a home as was done recently by Apis Cor, a San Francisco-based start-up whose design team created an entire house using 3D-printing in just 24 hours.

Mind you, this house was only 400 square feet in size – about the size of a hotel room – but it offered quite a viable living space for those who are part of the “tiny home” movement. And it cost only $10,000 – a price that has already been beat by others.

A Silicon Valley non-profit that builds housing in the developing world, just unveiled a new 3D-printer that can also print a house in less than a day for just $4,000. And DUS Architects, a Dutch architectural firm that has been 3D-printing houses since 2012, now has a huge 3D-printer that can build using local recycled materials, thus reducing transport, material and manufacturing costs. Down the road, 3D-printing might become a solution to the world’s housing crisis

Still, homebuyers in the GTA love their “bricks and mortar” too much to believe that 3D-printed homes will be offered in any of the area’s residential communities anytime soon, however, it’s an innovation that real estate developers and marketers will be keeping their eyes on.

3D-printing used to be the stuff of science fiction, but now who knows? As digital design software continues to advance, and desktop scanners and 3D printers become more and more affordable, 3D-printing will become an ever more enticing alternative to mass manufacturing – and a valuable new tool in the homebuilder’s tool box.

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