A new style of prefabricated dwellings, fully 3D printed in one day, stands to revolutionize the home construction scene.
The sleek, energy-efficient mini houses, built by California startup company Mighty Buildings, can be manufactured cheaper and faster than traditional prefab homes. Using its ultra-fast 20-foot-tall 3D printer, Mighty Buildings produces the components of a 350-square-foot lodging in just 24 hours.
Of course, this is not the first business to print 3D houses. Austin-based Icon built an entire 3D neighborhood in Mexico last year, and European company Kamp C recently constructed the world’s largest 3D printed home in Belgium. What makes the Oakland-based Mighty Buildings unique is its ability to produce so many more elements than other enterprises. It prints not only the walls of its homes, but also the floors, ceilings, roofs, and overhangs, automating up to 80 percent of the building products (with the windows, plumbing, and electrical installed later on-site).
The company, a graduate of Y Combinator’s tech accelerator, also uses its own proprietary 3D printing substance, Light Stone Material (LSN), which hardens almost instantly when exposed to UV light. “It literally freezes in air,” says Slava Solonitsyn, Mighty Builders CEO and co-founder. The company also claims that LSN is four times lighter than concrete, not to mention resistant to heat, fire, and water damage.
Mighty Buildings currently specializes in accessory dwelling units (ADUs) ideal for backyard guest houses, with six models ranging from studios to three-bedrooms. Constructed in the warehouse, the small homes are then shipped to location and placed by crane. Finally, contractors take a few days to install the interior finishes. To date, Mighty Builders has installed two accessory ADUs, one in San Diego and the other in San Ramon, California, with another 15 units currently under contract. Due to permitting issues, the finished houses have traditional roofs for now, but the company expects to be able to fully print homes starting in 2021.
These printed residences start at $115,000, and while not bargain-basement priced, the one-bedroom/one-bathroom unit in San Diego cost roughly $314 per square foot, lower than the state’s $327 average. Mighty Builders says buyers could realize savings of up to 45 percent over comparable houses in the nation’s higher-priced real estate markets.
The cost savings from these 3D-printed abodes comes mostly from a reduction in labor needs. The company’s production techniques require 95 percent fewer man-power hours than conventional builds, a change that could potentially transform the construction industry. Even things like pouring insulation are done robotically in the printing process.
Best of all, the prefab houses are also environmentally friendly. “From a sustainability standpoint, by being able to print the roof and the floors as well as the walls, it allows us to create monolithic shells that increase the airtightness, reduce the thermal leakage, and increase the overall energy efficiency of the structure, making it really easy to meet California zero net energy standards,” says Sam Ruben, Mighty Buildings Chief Sustainability Officer and co-founder. “We can even go past that into Passive House and other standards that are on the cutting edge of what energy efficiency can do.”
Additionally, the edifices reduce waste by employing fewer materials. Mighty Buildings walls require just one material where a standard wall could be made up of almost a dozen.
Currently only available in California, Mighty Buildings is working with developers to expand their operations and get their 3D printed homes in urban areas all across the US.