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3D Printing’s Huge Potential to End Homelessness

3D Printing’s Huge Potential to End Homelessness

A staggering 20 percent of the world’s population lacks adequate housing–that is 1.6 billion people without enough shelter.1 Nearly 1 in 6 persons in Haiti’s population of nearly 11 million were displaced or left homeless by an earthquake in 2010. Nearly ten years later, many of these people are still without permanent homes. Deeply in poverty, they cannot afford to build a home and are left without stable shelter.

3D Printing Could Alleviate Haiti’s Housing Problem

A technology that uses a digital model to construct a three dimensional object, 3D printing has gained significant popularity over the past decade, lowering the cost of this technology. “It’s actually a lot more simple to build a printer than it is to build a house,” said Jason Ballard, co-founder of Austin-based ICON, a construction company that uses robotics, software and advanced materials to build houses.2 These printers can construct a 600 to 800 square foot house in under 12 hours; a traditional house takes approximately 15 days to build, given weather conditions allow.

Compared to Traditional Construction

Building these houses is extremely low cost; a house costs as little as $3,500 when a traditional house in this region costs $6,500 and more time that a nonprofit could be doing other work to maximize its impact. A printer itself costs $100,000 and can construct hundreds of houses and building to transform thousands of lives. The printers are designed specifically for places “like rural Haiti where there is very rugged terrain” and use “locally available materials, [are] very easy to transport, [and are] very easy to operate”3

This technology makes for a much safer building process than traditional construction. Another added benefit is that structures are much sturdier. To save costs, these homes have hollow walls. Surprisingly, these walls do not negatively affect the home’s structural integrity and can withstand approximately 10,000 psi. More sustainable than traditional construction, 3D printing reduces carbon footprint and overall negative environmental impact.

The Process

The printer, which is portable and constructs the house on-site, layers concrete floors and walls which dry while the machine builds. The end result is a two bedroom house with a kitchen and bathroom. The printer can deal with “tricky tasks, such as the electrical work, plumbing, tiling, finishing work, and even painting”.4 The only thing the printer does not add is a roof. The resulting home is more energy efficient and resilient than traditionally built homes.

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