Houston will get America’s first two-story, 3D-printed house

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This January, design studio Hannah constructed the first multistory building in the U.S. made by a 3D printer, reports Evan Garcia of Reuters.

The process of 3D printing creates objects from a digital blueprint. “Working entirely automatically, the printer creates a model over a period of hours by turning a 3D CAD drawing into lots of two-dimensional, cross-sectional layers — effectively separate 2D prints that sit one on top of another,” says Chris Woodford of Explain That Stuff! The machine puts down many layers of liquid material such as melted plastic, slowly building up a precise shape as each layer hardens.

In most cases, this technique is used on a small scale to make figurines, household items, and parts for manufacturing companies. Using 3D printing technology for concrete buildings is newer, but companies like Gensler and WinSun have been doing it since the mid-2010s, as Architect Magazine reports.

What makes this project different is that it’s the first multistory house constructed using this method in the U.S. “One of the things about printing a second story is you require, you know, the machine,” says architect Leslie Lok, who designed the new home. “And of course, there are other challenges: structural challenges, logistic challenges when we print a second-story building.”

The home Hannah built is a two-story, three-bedroom, 4,000-square-foot house, Garcia reports. The design takes about 330 hours total to print, using a machine that weighs more than 12 tons.

The use of 3D printing could represent a major shift in the construction industry. A 3D building takes fewer workers to construct since most of the materials are actually put in place by the machine. 

The printer also works faster than the average construction crew, which takes about seven months on average, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This could mean faster, cheaper home construction. 

Meanwhile, concrete is a strong material, which Garcia says, “can withstand the hurricanes, heavy storms, and other severe weather in Texas that is becoming more frequent and severe due to climate change.” 

Investing in a sturdy 3D-printed house could be a smart choice for residents. Garcia reports that this 3D-printed house has already been sold.

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