The world's largest 3D printed housing project just launched in Virginia

It consists of 200 homes to be built over five years.
Ameya Paleja
The Nexcon 3D printer at workAlquist 3D

Construction company, Alquist 3D, was approached by the Mayor of Pulaski in Virginia to construct 3D printed homes in the town. The idea has now grown into the largest 3D printed project in the world, Business Insider reported.  

The 3D printer at work
Image credit: Alquist 3D

3D printing could be the answer to building human-friendly habitats on Mars in the future, but the technology is already helping us build habitats on Earth. Last year, we reported how a military base in Texas was using the technology to build barracks for its trainee troops, and the state was also set to become home to a street of 3D printed homes

Now, a small town of Pulaski in the south-eastern state of Virginia is set to become home to 200 such houses built over the next five years using the time and labor-saving technique that involves a massive 19-ton robotic printer. 

The first 3D printed house 

If Alquist 3D sounds familiar, that's because it is the same company that 3D printed a three-bedroom 1,200 square feet (111.5 m2) home just in time for Christmas last year. Now, the construction company has set its eyes on a much bigger and more ambitious project to build the exterior structures using only concrete. 

The method of construction will essentially be the same. The model of the house will first be constructed using a computer program. Then a 19-ton Nexcon 3D printer from Black Buffalo 3D will extrude the concrete out of its nozzle and arrange it in layers till the construction is completed. 

With 200 houses planned for the Virginia Project, as it is called, Alquist is looking at at least four house designs with a finished costing no more than $350,000; the company told Freethink.

The cost savings per square foot of the house may not be very significant. Alquist expects it to be about 15 percent as the house will be built with fewer workforce and lesser lumber. However, a massive saving is in the construction time, which can be reduced by as much as four weeks.  

Building to address the growing demand

The town of Pulaski is expected to see a rush of inhabitants as companies such as Volvo and Blue Star Manufacturing add about 3,000 jobs in the area. A project of 200 houses may sound too little for the anticipated demand but is definitely a step towards addressing the demand. 

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Alquist is confident of adding several houses this year and adding more over the next four to five years. While the project kicked off in April this year, the company still needs to identify building sites for the entire project. 3D printing may reduce the time for bringing up the house's exteriors, but other works such as plumbing, electrical, windows, and others still need to be done manually. 

As more companies enter the fray of 3D printing houses and innovate in the house building processes, other components could also see improvements in the time required for completion. 

The construction industry is set for an overhaul in how it plans and executes its projects in the near future.