Printing a new house for a bit more than $10K — Can it be done?

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There are of course gaps between technology experiments and real market conditions, but the construction of a printed new house for a little more than $10,000 (US), in extremely cold Russian climate conditions is worthy of some review.

The Apis Cor house clearly isn’t a mansion. I count from the builder’s report a size of 43 sq. m. or about 463 sq. ft. Certainly by Canadian standards you wouldn’t build a single family home of that size. As well, the test structure happened to be built on the site of an aerated concrete manufacturing facility, I suppose reducing the complications and risks of transporting the essential building material to the job site.

apis cor hosue
The printed house exterior. Of course it was built next to a concrete plant, so doesn’t quite reflect real world conditions

But when you look at the costs, your mind may go through a bit of a blow-away experience. In doing these calculations, I initially had some numbers reversed, and came up with an impossibly expensive comparable North American home at more than $4 million. Then I realized I had inverted some calculating elements. It looks like the unit cost of building this structure was about $20 per sq. ft., compared to a “typical” $150 per sq. ft. cost for a 2,000 sq. ft. North American home. And that suggests that, if the concept could be extrapolated, you could build a similar-sized structure for a bit less than $50,000 compared to $350,000.

apis cor interior
An interior view. The builders say the house could be built in square or round format; or any desired shape.

The builder solved some challenges by using a crane structure to build in and out, and the windows, doors and conduits are not actually constructed with the printer — they were prefabricated and hand-installed on site. As well, there is a tent, which allows the concrete pour to occur in temperatures even lower than the -5 degree C limits.

We’re aways from the time where a concept house at a Moscow concrete plant could be applied in practice at any residential North American subdivision — but there is certainly something here worthy of attention. If construction costs (and speed) can be reduced/increased by these magnitudes with printed-house technology, I am confident that it won’t take too many years for the concept to diffuse from experiment to practical construction processes.

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