Amid all the talk of house prices and affordability, the cost of the actual buildings themselves might be about to take a tumble, if tech developments in 3D printing and automated bricklaying – to name just two – become commonplace in the building industry.
Earlier this year a Russian company called Apis Cor demonstrated that a house – admittedly quite a small one at 38m2 – could be 3D printed on site and painted inside 24 hours at a cost of just $10,134 (AU$13,325). The house is designed to last 175 years.
This is not the first house to be built using 3D printing technology, however the difference is that the Russian house is printed on site rather than being printed/pre-fabricated elsewhere and then delivered and assembled on site – when the house has been printed the printer itself is moved offsite using a crane.
The 3D printing approach means that a number of design features otherwise very hard to replicate using conventional building methods, are easy to execute. The display house has curved external walls, and in fact almost any building shape can be created. The finishing touch in the house was the addition of a curved screen Samsung TV matching the curvature of the wall.
If 3D building printing is not your thing – maybe you prefer a slightly more traditional building – then perhaps you should consider the Hadrian X – a robotic bricklaying machine that can lay up to a thousand bricks every hour – the equivalent output of two bricklayers over a day. That makes the robots 20-25 times faster than their human equivalents.
The company behind Hadrian X – Fastbrick – is based in Perth and has been around since 2015 but a recent deal with US construction equipment company Caterpillar, which has taken a $2.6M stake, has thrust it into the limelight. The company claims that its robots not only build faster but more accurately than humans, allowing a four bed house to be built in two days, instead of the usual 6-8 weeks, at a saving for the home builder of $20K-$30K.
Futurists looking to what houses might be like in fifty years time are looking at the impact that current technology developments outside the home might have on housing design. Although fully self driving cars are limited to the Google experimental cars zipping around parts of California, Tesla and other manufacturers are reasonable advanced in the designed of fully self driving vehicles.
At a certain point cars will morph into a very affordable and convenient taxi service which may make owning a car not as important as it is today. If cars are no longer needed by many homeowners, garages may no longer be needed either, and the space could be put to other uses. Maybe as drone hangars. If advances in drone technology continue, we may all have our own drones that ‘pop down the shops’ (or something similar) while we stay at home.
All of this crystal ball gazing about how easy and cheap everything will ultimately be, doesn’t however address the issue of housing affordability. Ironically it’s not the cost of the house that’s the main component of rising house prices – it’s the cost of the land itself. And no amount of technology (at least that we’re aware of) is going to change that.
PS We haven’t yet had a loan application for a 3D printed home, but we’re looking forward to our first!