3D printing the concrete for a 3D-printed home. (Image: Habitat for Humanity)

Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg has partnered with Alquist, a 3D printing home construction company, to 3D print homes in Williamsburg, VA. In December 2021, the pair produced and sold the first 3D-printed home in the nation — an approximately 1,200-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom house whose foundation, walls, and footing were 3D printed in July 2022 in just 28 hours for Surry-native April and her teenage son.

3D printing homes provides myriad benefits, including a decrease in construction time — by at least four weeks — due to the machine’s efficiency. During the process, specially formulated concrete is extruded from a large machine into layers that form the house’s walls, foundation, and footing. While printing, the technology requires little supervision. The concrete layers are about ¾ inch, and about 156 layers were printed. The inside resembles a traditional Habitat home.

“The cement was drying almost immediately after it was printed,” said Janet V. Green, CEO, Habitat for Humanity Peninsula & Greater Williamsburg. “The weather was so hot that we actually had volunteers spraying water to keep the cement from drying too fast.”

Habitat notes that the exterior walls were made with Quikrete Brand proprietary 3D Concrete mix placed with Alquist’s COBOD bod2 3D printer; the flooring is Duravana Waterproof Hybrid Resilient Flooring by LL Flooring; and the roofing is Certainteed Brand Landmark Pro Series in Moire Black Color, distributed by Beacon Building Products.

April’s 3D-printed home. (Image: Habitat for Humanity)

Alquist 3D prints the concrete for its homes, which saves up to an estimated 15 percent per square foot in building costs. The material also brings long-term savings with regards to heating and cooling, as concrete better retains temperature.

Participating families must partake in at least 300 hours of work — “sweat equity” — toward building their own and others’ homes.

“If families are unable to perform the sweat equity on the job site, we have other opportunities for them to perform in our offices or at our ReStores, or both,” said Green. “There is no avoiding the sweat equity, as it is part of the requirement to partner with Habitat.”

In addition, each home built by Habitat is EarthCraft — a voluntary green building program that aims to provide healthy, comfortable homes; reduced utility bills; and minimized environmental impacts — certified. Also, Virginia Tech Center for Housing Research will be performing long-term testing inside April’s home, using Virginia Tech’s proprietary Building Data Lite (BDL) monitoring system. “BDL monitors and verifies air quality, temperature, humidity, lighting, sound, vibration, flame, many kinds of gasses, integrates with security and alarm systems for motion detection in assigned spaces, and occupant comfort analysis and energy consumption optimization,” according to Habitat.

Also, in case of emergency, Alquist installs a 3D printer in the kitchen of every home it builds. April will receive a computer file that will allow her to print everything from doorknobs to light switch covers. And local windows and doors company Custom Vinyl Products (CVP) Windows and Doors donated, well, the windows and doors for April’s home.

“It’s highly energy-efficient, it’s top-of-the-line product for an affordable price,” CVP President, Owner Barry Taylor said at the time. “For us to be able to donate the windows and doors to complete the outside envelope really made us feel good, and we were happy to do it. We’re hoping that this is not a one-time thing. We’re hoping we can set the example and more corporate partners will jump in.”

The drawback of 3D printing a home is that inclement weather can put the kibosh on the printing process; a dry climate is imperative to the process.

Habitat added that although April was the first purchaser of a 3D home, she will not be the last. After partnering with Newport News Shipbuilding and BayPort Credit Union, Habitat has started on a pair of new 3D-printed homes in Newport News, VA. Green told Tech Briefs that “the 3D-printing portion on both of these homes has been completed. The roof trusses are complete on one of the homes, and we expect the roof to be on the other home by the end of [March 2023].”

The Virginia home follows a project that began in the spring of 2021 in Tempe, Arizona, in the face of acute affordable housing shortage and labor challenges in Phoenix. Since then, Habitat has continued to utilize 3D printing construction technology to deliver affordable, more energy-efficient homes at less cost, in less time, and with less waste. This could mean everything to families who are spending more than 50 percent of their income on their current shelter situation. In April’s case, monthly mortgage payments are no more than 30 percent of her income, according to Habitat.

Andrew Corselli is Digital Content Editor at SAE Media Group. For more information, visit here .