Slices of life and scenes in Richmond

7/8/2021, 6 p.m.
Is 3D printing the next big thing in home building?

Is 3D printing the next big thing in home building? Right, workers watch concrete being poured under the direction and precision of a computer to build an exterior wall of a new home at 217 Carnation St. in South Side. Above, the large barrel is the starting point for the concrete, which flows to the pointer barrel that takes instruction from the computer. A Denmark company developed this new use for 3D printing and the machinery, with Richmond hosting the first test of this innovation. The main benefit, according to those involved: This method of construction can cut up to two months off the time to build a home from scratch. Virginia Housing, a state agency, provided a $500,000 grant to enable Virginia Tech and a U.S. firm, 3D homebuilder Alquist, to buy the 3D homebuilding computer, bring it to the site and set it up. Other partners include project:Homes, the Better Housing Coalition and RMT Construction & Development Group, an affordable housing contractor.

Whether 3D wall-building catches on remains to be seen. Experts said that its cost could only be justified if the equipment could provide the walls in a subdivision of six or more homes. Also, this machine can only build one-story walls; a bigger, more costly machine would be needed to build two-story, multifamily and commercial units.