Oakland Constructs 3-D Printed Affordable Housing Units

5 mins read

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf visited the Oakland factory on Friday that is used to 3-D print small living quarters that aim to address the problem of expensive housing units.

Schaaf toured around the Mighty Buildings’ factory and found a fully furnished, small housing unit equipped with large windows and a modest kitchen. She later observed a 3-D printer work on creating wall panels for the quarters.

Factory workers stood by as the Oakland mayor wore yellow goggles to see the UV light that was used to harden the 3-D printed materials.

The 3-D printed infrastructures have their walls, ceilings, and overhangs produced by Mighty Buildings and are usually created in backyards. The price for the one- or two-bedroom units go from anywhere between $115,000 to $169,000. The company said the costs are about 40% cheaper than units built on-site and that are of comparable quality.

The city mayor said that the project combined technology and innovation to support affordable housing. “It’s so exciting because there is no urgent need right now than more housing and more affordable housing,” Schaaf said. The official noted the Bay Area was experiencing a severe housing crisis, which can be seen all over the region.

Global certification company UL said Mighty Buildings creates innovative units using the largest 3-D printer in the world. Constructing homes with 3-D printing technology is quickly gaining momentum globally, including China, Italy, Russia, and the Netherlands, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Mighty Buildings began as a startup and developed the technology of printing life-sized homes. The company’s officials said that they reduce the final costs of the units by automating more of the construction process.

The firm was not the first to utilize 3-D printing technology to create homes. In Mexico, 3-D printing was used to create an entire neighborhood earlier this year. However, Mighty Buildings took it a step further by producing new elements of the home, unlike the previous ones that only created walls and floors.

CEO and co-founder of Mighty Buildings, Slava Solonitsyn, said the automation of a large portion of the construction process removed a hefty chunk of relatively expensive labor costs. Up to 80% of the building process is automated, while workers create the rest of the units on-site, including windows, plumbing, and electrical lines.

California struggles with meeting the demand for construction workers, which also contributes to the increased cost of building homes. Mighty Buildings’ Chief Sustainability Officer Sam Ruben said they were not using automation to replace manual labor but only fill in the gap left by labor shortage, Fast Company reported.

The McKinsey & Company said the construction section is losing an average of $1.6 trillion every year due to inefficiency and waste. Mighty Buildings’ 3-D printing technology housing is a step towards addressing that problem.

The construction development aims to reduce waste and increase efficiency when producing houses. The company’s goal drew its foundation from robotics, manufacturing, and sustainability to create the reimagination of the construction sector. The process combines standard 3-D printing technology with prefab techniques to automate a major portion of the construction.

Officials said the company can produce a 350-square-foot studio housing unit in less than 24 hours while utilizing 95% fewer labor hours but speeding up the construction by twice that of the normal speed.

Mighty Buildings also ensured that each housing unit is environmentally friendly, complying with the Energy Efficiency Standards and Passive House Standards. The use of automation also reduces waste production by up to 90%, providing only about three to five pounds per square foot of waste towards landfills.

The housing units use a material known as “light stone,” a thermoset composite which boasts stronger durability than printable unreinforced concrete but is also lighter. The material provides greater temperature resistance and is capable of repelling water and frost damage, Engineering reported.

Danielle Joyce Ong

Danielle is a local journalist with a passion for exploring stories related to crime and politics. When Danielle isn't busy writing or reading, she is usually exploring the great outdoors and all the hiking trails in the Bay.

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