As Maslow's famous hierarchy illustrates, shelter is one of the most basic human needs -- much like food, water, breathing, sex, and sleep are. As of 2013, about 1.5 billion people in the world don't have adequate shelter (one out of every five), including 640 million children. While more people become homeless, technology continues to advance and offer solutions to just about every problem society faces.
Until recently, technology didn't have an answer for the millions of people who face dire conditions every day because they don't have a home to protect them. With 3D printing technology and contour crafting, the world of the homeless could very well be a thing of the past one day. Here's a look at this new way of building homes and how it could potentially impact the future.
Image via Flickr by FutUndBeidl
Current home building methods are labor intensive, slow, dangerous, and always seem to stray over budget. It's estimated that about 10,000 people die every year from home construction, and that 4,000 people suffer injuries – it's more dangerous than mining. Not only that, but building homes by hand wastes a lot of the earth's resources and generates an unhealthy dose of emissions.
Everything today is made automatically, whether it be clothing, shoes, home appliances, or even cars. The only thing that's still actually being made by man is homes, and it's costing us in more ways than one.
Advanced technology and contour crafting help automate the process of construction and efficiently reduce energy use, emissions, and labor. Computer-aided design allows users to design what they want on a computer and send it through machinery, automatically creating the product that they want. What contour crafting does is scale this process up, making it useful in home construction.
With this system of home building, entire neighborhoods can be built safely for a fraction of the cost and time, offering greater architectural flexibility and high precision crafting. The houses that get built as a result of this process would not only be less homogenous as the current ones, but they'd take on exotic qualities – like nonlinear walls – without additional costs.
To build your home in a 3-D printing paradigm, all you'd have to do is make changes to your architectural design in a computer program and simply send it to the machine. The machine then would build your home layer by layer; it'd first deposit concrete through a nozzle to set the foundation. Conventionally built current concrete walls have a strength of about 3,000 psi (pounds per inch). With this new process, that would increase to 10,000 psi.
Besides building the foundation, the machine would also provide reinforcement, plumbing, electrical wiring, tiling, painting, and any finishing touches that would otherwise be done by someone in a skilled trade. Because of how fast and efficient this process is, an average home of about 2,500 square foot could be custom designed and built in 20 hours. Critics of the process point out that it would take 220 years to build a house using one of these printers, but that's only taking into account the capabilities of the technology as it currently exists.
Although the idea of 3D printing and home building sounds like a solution to many of the problems that come with the conventional processes, it's not exactly feasible – yet. Many skeptics say that while the idea is amazing and innovative, it's not realistic and that people shouldn't get their hopes up. Right now, the process is too time-consuming and costly for the average homeowner to even think about. But the breakneck pace of technology could make this a moot point.
In addition to questions about the process, people are also asking about how such technology would influence the job economy in skilled labor fields and how it would positively impact home insurance quotes from agencies like homeinsurance.com. For now, the curious people will just have to keep speculating and guessing.
Who knows what the future holds for home building and how it'll affect people from all backgrounds? No one can predict it, but what we do know is that the innovators to create it and the technology to advance it exist. Only time will tell how far it'll go.