SEATTLE — Worldwide, energy prices are rising, the market for construction materials is growing and infrastructure spending will surpass $9 trillion by 2025. With this in mind, the effort for developing affordable housing worldwide seems daunting. However, there is a new technological breakthrough which provides a glimmer of opportunity and security for millions of people worldwide: printing houses. Apis Cor, a Russian construction firm, has printed a 100-square meter home in 24 hours. The total cost of the finished structure? $10,134.
This marks the first time a residence has been built in one location from a mobile 3D printer. The building was completed during the Russian winter in the town of Stupino at an aerated concrete plant. Five firms partnered with Apis Cor in this watershed moment for the affordable housing movement: PIK Companies Group, Technonicol Corp., Bitex Reibeputz Co., Fabrika Okon Company and Samsung.
Prior to this device, portal printers were incapable of such rapid home construction. With a properly prepared site, it takes 30 minutes to install the printer and begin construction on an affordable home. The assembly mixture costs 6000-9000 rubles, or between $103 and $154. This unit can function in temperatures as low as minus 31°F, although the printing mixture can only be used in temperatures higher than 41°F.
There are a number of benefits to mobile 3D printing housing technology: no waste, customizable wall shapes, around-the-clock construction, reduced resource demands, less personnel per project and smooth insulated walls which can be finished immediately.
Another upside concerns the environment. Mobile 3D printing does not leave residual forms, molds, wood and other concrete debris, all of which require fossil fuels to transport. With an environmentally friendly approach to waste, this printer reduces landfill usage. It also eliminates the need for sourcing other common construction materials.
The company’s goal is to develop affordable housing worldwide. According to the inventor of this mobile printer and founder of Apis Cor, Nikita Chen-Yun-Tai, “We plan to start printing houses in Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America, Australia. Even in Antarctica if needed.” Although the printer went on sale in December, the company has a highly selective screening process for customers. Leasing options and training for two unit operators are also available.
Given the sheer size and enormity of the endeavor, this development has serious implications for global construction projects — especially for regions without adequate food and water storage facilities — refugee camps and permanent residences for local populations. With newly developed geopolymers, which have significantly lower CO2 emissions compared to regular concrete, homes may be printed throughout the year with a low carbon footprint.
The company plans to change global perceptions “that construction can’t be fast, eco-friendly, efficient and reliable all at the same time.” Chen-Yun-Tai added in a recent interview that the company’s goal “is to become the biggest international construction company to solve problems of accommodation around the globe.”
As the cost of building and developing affordable housing worldwide drops in comparison to current construction practices, this technological advancement offers hope, security and stability for millions of people across the globe. Moreover, the prospect of rebuilding towns and cities after a natural disaster or constructing new settlements — with a host of printers — is remarkable.
The company also houses greater ambitions — being the first to build homes on Mars. A recent tweet asked Elon Musk to partner with Apis Cor and send the printer aboard a SpaceX craft to the red planet.
Developing affordable housing worldwide is now a reality. This novel approach impacts the global housing market on an unprecedented scale. It upends decades of conventional wisdom and marks a decline in traditional construction methods. Chen-Yun-Tai has expressed hope that the construction industry “will become as globally widespread as smart apps in social networks, and building a house will be as easy as pressing a ‘like’ button.”
– JG Federman