Founded in 1976, Habitat for Humanity has built hundreds of thousands of affordable homes for people in need. Now, using automated computer technology and a patented concrete mix, Habitat for Humanity recently completed its first 3D printed home in Williamsburg, Virginia. New home owner April Stringfield and her 13-year-old son are excited to move in and make the house a home.
While 3D printed homes are still relatively rare, the successful completion of the Williamsburg home is a testament to the growing desire to build affordable homes while preserving natural resources like trees.
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It’s an ordinary house
Although the walls of the Williamsburg house were printed rather than framed with sticks, the house is still just an ordinary house. With 1,200 square feet of living space, it features three bedrooms, two full bathrooms and a covered porch where Stringfield can enjoy warm summer evenings.
The contractor incorporated a traditional siding on the roof gables and used standard bricks on the porch pillars. In addition to the house, Stringfield received a 3D printer that will allow him to print cabinet hardware and switch covers.
3D printing saves on construction costs
During the pandemic, the prices of some building materials doubled or tripled, mainly due to supply chain issues, which subsequently pushed up the costs of building homes. By using concrete rather than wood, Alquist, the contractor who printed the walls for the new Stringfield home, saved Habitat about 15 percent per square foot.
While homebuyers don’t pay for the labor needed to build a Habitat home, they do pay for the cost of building materials. In this way, the money saved on material costs is passed directly on to the buyer.
The printing process and color selection
It only took 28 hours to print the concrete walls of the Stringfield house. Alquist uses a patented concrete mix and an impressive looking extrusion machine to print the exterior and interior walls, which are reinforced with steel during the printing process.
Next, the exterior walls are sealed with a clear or tinted coating that prevents moisture from transferring through the concrete. Homeowners can choose a standard gray concrete color or choose from a range of attractive earth tones to give the home a custom look.
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Traditional construction is part of the process
After Alquist finished printing the walls, traditional builders built the roof, installed plumbing and wiring, and installed interior flooring and other finishes. Through the Williamsburg Chapter of Habitat, contractors, sub-contractors and other volunteers volunteered their time to complete the remaining parts of the house.
As a rule of Habitat, new owners must devote part of their time to working on the project. Stringfield therefore invested 300 hours of sweat capital to make his new home a reality.
The home purchase program
While the Williamsburg home is the first 3D printed home that Habitat has completed, it likely won’t be the last. The Habitat Buying Program exists to help encourage home ownership for those in need of housing but who may not be able to purchase a home through conventional means.
Successful applicants for a Habitat home commit to work on the Habitat ReStore project or store, and they learn how to budget for mortgage payments and take care of their new home. The national nonprofit association does not discriminate when selecting home buyers.
The future of 3D construction
Automated 3D printing for homes is still in its infancy. However, computer-built homes are already being built and sold to the general public, like this 3D printed house in Riverhead, New York. In most communities, however, standard build is still the name of the game and likely will remain so for the foreseeable future.
Stringfield is thrilled with her new home and she told CNN how grateful she is to have a house with a backyard where her son can play and her puppy can run around.