Could 3D Printed Buildings Be the Future of Construction?

By Brittan Jenkins

Developer Apis Cor, in partnership with five other companies, successfully on-site 3D printed a house in a small town in the Moscow region of Russia. The price tag? Only $10,134.

Developers Apis Cor and PIK Companies printed the house using mobile 3D printing technology. By utilizing the technology, which is a mobile construction 3D printer and automatic mix and supply unit, developers were able to construct the house at a rate much quicker than traditional construction. “A distinctive feature of the printer is its design, which is reminiscent of the tower crane, allowing the printer to execute the printing process of constructing the building both inside and outside,” according to Apis Cor’s website. The small printer makes it easy to transport and doesn’t require long preparation because it has a built-in horizon alignment and stabilization system.

While the printed house might look a little funny from the outside, developers said they chose this design specifically to showcase the flexibility of the equipment and the diversity of available forms. “The house can be of any shape, including the familiar square shape, because the additive technology has no restrictions on design of new buildings, except for the laws of physics,” according to the website.

The entire printing process of the 38 square meter or 409 square foot home took only 24 short hours. The bright yellow colored house, painted to match the Apis Cor’s corporate color, includes a hall, bathroom, living room and kitchen.

At just a little over $10,000, the cost includes all the work to complete the house including materials for construction of foundation, the roof, exterior and interior finishings, installation of heat insulation of walls, windows, floors and ceilings. Taking into account that the project featured materials of the highest qualities, using materials of an average price category would result in an even cheaper price of $223 per square meter.

The most expensive component of construction included the windows and doors at $3,548. According to Apis Cor’s website, the house included double windows provided by a partner company, Fabrika Okon, which develops innovative windows with climate control. “Instead of regular glass, these windows use 2 low emission glass panes (which cost as regular ones) which allows to significantly improve the technical characteristics of windows and reach record values of insulation, light permeability and heat rays protection at the same time,” according to the site. The windows are also sound proof and frost resistant to a certain degree and include an anti break-in system.

A breakdown of the cost per category is as follows:
Foundation – $227
Walls – $1,624
Floor and roof – $2,434
Wiring – $242
Windows and doors – $3,548
Exterior finishing – $831
Interior finishing – $1,178

Construction on this home is significantly cheaper than traditional construction for a number of reasons and allows for fewer human errors. “As the printer prints self-bearing walls and partitions, it allows to save up to 70 percent on erecting building boxes compared to traditional construction techniques, such as with block method, because each block has to has to be put in place, cut to size and aligned,” according to the website. Additionally, “There is the necessity to bring the required equipment and tools to the construction site, replace them after breakage, unload materials, oversee the builders. Often there is a risk of human error, and completion of a standard cottage house on average can take up to two months.”

Apis Cor has big plans for the future including hopes of printing houses in Europe, Asia, Africa Australia and North and South America. To take it a step further, the company is even considering Antarctica if needed. “We want to global change public views that construction can’t be fast, eco-friendly, efficient and reliable all at the same time,” according to their site. Looking even further into the future, Apis Cor is prepared to be the first to start building on Mars.