Written by Peter Krzesinski for the Alberta Additive Manufacturing Network Blog
What do you get when you combine ambition, compassion, water, cement, and a large robot? You get the recipe for affordable housing that presents the opportunity to build houses much faster than traditional construction methods. A Calgary startup is proposing to do just that to build affordable housing throughout Canada. 3DPHC – 3D Printed Homes Corporation’s vision is to see every family in Canada living in an affordable home that meets their needs and they want to accomplish that by using 3D printing technology one 30mm layer at a time. Using the technology, a 1000 square foot home can be printed in 24 hours ready for close-in and finishing.
Although 3D printing a home might sound like a far-out idea, the technology has already been proven with a few dozen 3D printed homes having been built outside of Canada. However, one of the biggest challenges the company faces in Canada is resistance from industry to accept this as a viable solution. As with many disruptive technologies, industry as a whole is slow to adapt and reduce reliance on traditional and widely accepted methods which is true in the construction sector today. Why upend something that has been proven and perfected since the invention of drywall over 100 years ago? It takes startups such as 3DPHC and visionary CEO, Ed Macnab, to introduce disruption. “Canada is facing the worst housing shortage in its history, coupled with the most dramatic price rise ever seen” says Ed, adding that “the technology and process that 3DPHC will utilize will solve many of these issues”.
To help usher in a change in the Canadian construction industry’s approach towards 3D printing technology, the company is collaborating with the City of Calgary to create an educational webinar to help industry better understand the technology and what it means for the industry. The company also says there is strong demand for a demonstration of the technology locally. This may soon happen with 3DPHC planning to build a backyard suite in Edmonton this summer for Green Violin YEG, an Edmonton agency advocating for inclusive, sustainable, socially connected housing. Ed mentions the early focus for the company will be to work with Affordable Housing agencies around the province to support development of low-cost housing.
Another common concern with advanced technology is that it will take jobs away. With no need for cribbing, framing, siding, and drywalling one can understand the concerns surrounding 3D printing of homes. However, “the technology will create more jobs than it displaces.” Ed says, adding “the technology has the potential to create far more jobs than it displaces as 3D printed houses still need interiors, electricals, plumbing, and HVAC”. “Every framer in Canada is working flat out and will continue to do so. They are well beyond employment capacity” says Ed. With the technology enabling more houses to be built and more quickly it is natural to assume additional jobs will be created on the finishing side.
As an added bonus, 3D printed houses due to their concrete walls, have a high thermal mass that make them inherently energy efficient and with a little bit of planning are easily upgradable to Net Zero and Passive House standards. The concrete construction also renders the houses more resistant to fire and storm damage. There is also much less construction waste created that needs to be hauled off to the dump such as offcuts.