Building enough affordable housing is an ongoing struggle in many cities throughout the US. While there are numerous factors at play that work to increase the cost of housing, the cost of constructing new homes is a significant piece of the puzzle that can keep new affordable housing from being built in the first place.
However, if home building costs could somehow be reduced significantly, it would stand to reason that these savings could make affordable housing more viable for developers, charities, and local governments to implement.
Why Is Building so Expensive?
In traditional building, materials must be sourced, created and/or fabricated, then transported to a building site. Once there, they are laboriously assembled. For instance, in the case of cement blocks, the "ingredients" must first be first transported to a manufacturer. There, in massive facilities, they are made into the cinder blocks. Lastly, those heavy blocks are transported to the building site.
Once the cement blocks arrive at a site, they must be built into walls for houses. This and other costs can add up quickly. Pouring a cement slab costs around $5 per foot. Building the shell, which is typically contains a wood frame with sheathing for doors, windows, roofing and other features, costs around $20 to $30 per foot. Professional masonry construction workers must then build the homes using the materials delivered to the site. Since there are so many different construction materials involved, along with the labor costs to put it all together, building costs can and have become quite expensive. These costs ultimately must transfer to the buyer of a building if the developer wants to turn a profit.
3D Printing Cuts Transportation Costs
When masonry is 3D printed on-site, there is no need to transport bulky building materials to a building site. This means less time spent transporting materials and far lower fuel costs, and eliminates costs related to mining and factory processes. Equipment like RedWorks' manufacturing technology allows builders to make masonry parts entirely on-site. Builders can often use local resources including sand, dirt and dust to create the housing materials that are needed to create the different parts or walls of a home.
Cutting Labor Costs and Delays
Labor is expensive, especially masonry professionals or wood framers that are involved in building a traditional home. Instead of a process that takes weeks or months due to unexpected delays often caused by shipping, 3D printing can be completed on-site to the correct specifications in a few hours or days.
Cutting Construction Waste
Construction waste is a serious concern in traditional home building. This waste can include a range of materials, including:
Costs associated with building add up quickly, and buyers - whoever they are - eventually have to foot the bill. By finding avenues to streamline the construction process, more affordable housing can be constructed while still turning a profit. In addition, organizations, governments, and charities that look to foot the bill to create affordable housing may be able to purchase more with their budgets. While 3D printing might still seem alien to many, its potential benefits are undeniable - and that's something worth sharing.
Preston Guyton is a native of the Grand Strand and Broker in Charge/Managing Partner of CRG Companies.