Over time, as technology improves, we won’t just be printing the structure, but also printing the wiring and plumbing in the walls, kitchen cabinets, toilets, sinks, insulation, roofs, and even windows. Everything at one time, all within less than a day. Entering the disposable housing era: Over time, once we get tired of a house, we can simply grind it up and reprint it. We don’t even have to clean it first. To be sure, once reprinting does become viable on a broad scale, we will go through a messy transition period. While we will be able to eliminate poorly constructed buildings and houses that have haunted cities for decades, we will also see many conflicts over radically designed houses being printed next to classic mansions. Real estate values will begin to fluctuate wildly. Scarcity and lot premiums will become far less significant. Apartments and condos will become far more difficult to rent as printed homes undercut the price of rental units. 3D printing and its associated automation technology will displace 80% of today’s construction workers by 2040 and will also reduce construction time by 80%. Our very definition of what a house, condo, or office is will begin to morph and change with this new capability.
In the U.S. we have gone from an average house size of 700 sq ft that was home to 4.6 people in 1900, to 2,400 sq ft with 2.4 residents today. So larger homes, fewer people. While the tiny home movement seemed to set the stage for a more environmentally friendly nomadic lifestyle, it really only touched a nerve with a small segment of society.
In 2014 we saw the first 3D printed houses come to life as the Chinese company Winsun announced they had constructed 10 modest houses in a single day for an average price of around $5,000 USD. Since then many more have been constructed with heavy emphasis on improving the “printers” to allow rapid deployment and free form construction. From an architectural standpoint, what 3D printing can do is allow architects to avoid having to dumb down designs for cost reasons. Eventually, they’ll be able to hand over their designs to a contractor, and the contractors will be able to send out an army of 3D printers and robotic arms to fabricate virtually any structure on site. This means we no longer have the need for flat walls. Every wall can become an artistic centerpiece.