Three-dimensional printing can create nearly any object. A partnership in Mexico is putting that theory to the test, building a village for residents living in poverty.
Pedro García Hernández, 48, is a carpenter in the southeastern Mexican state of Tabasco, a rainforest-shrouded region of the country where about half of the residents live below the poverty line.
He ekes out a living making about 2,500 pesos ($125.17) a month from a tiny workspace inside the home he shares with his wife, Patrona, and their daughter, Yareli. The home has dirt floors, and during Tabasco’s long rainy season, it’s prone to flooding. Dust from his construction projects coats nearly everything in the home, clinging to the bedroom walls, the pump toilet and the counters of his makeshift kitchen.
But that will soon change. In a matter of months, Mr. Hernández and his family are moving to a new home on the outskirts of Nacajuca, Mexico: a sleek, 500-square-foot building with two bedrooms, a finished kitchen and bath, and indoor plumbing. What’s most unusual about the home is that it was made with an 11-foot-tall three-dimensional printer.
pandemic-related boom from printing objects like test swabs, protective gear and respirator parts, the 3-D printing market is forecast to be worth $55.8 billion by 2027, according to Smithers, a technology consulting firm.
Nearly any object can be printed in 3-D; in construction, it uses concrete, foam and polymers to produce full-scale buildings. The real estate industry is warming to the trend: The construction firm SQ4D listed a 3-D printed house in Riverhead, N.Y., this year for $299,000. It was billed as the first 3-D printed home for sale in the United States, but it was predated by similar projects in France, Germany and the Netherlands.
And now, the era of the 3-D printed community has arrived. Mr. Hernández’s home is one of 500 being built by New Story, a San Francisco nonprofit organization focused on providing housing solutions to communities in extreme poverty, in partnership with Échale, a social housing production company in Mexico, and Icon, a construction technology company in Austin, Texas.
Palari Homes and the construction company Mighty Buildings announced a $15 million planned community of more than a dozen 3-D printed homes in Rancho Mirage, Calif. The community has a waiting list of more than 1,000.
The same month, Icon announced it had teamed up with the developer 3Strands and DEN Property Group on four 3-D printed homes in Austin, priced at $450,000 to $795,000. Icon has also printed homes in the Community First Village in Austin, a project of the nonprofit organization Mobile Loaves & Fishes that provides permanent housing to homeless men and women.
The 3-D printing market grew 21 percent last year, and Hubs, a manufacturing platform, projects that it will double in size over the next five years.
“It really is a very effective and efficient way to build a small segment of properties, but it’s not something that applies across the broader commercial real estate ecosystem,” Mr. D’Esposito said. “We don’t know exactly how these buildings will perform over decades or what the long-term value retention will be for them. So if you’re talking to an investor or lender, that’s a big yellow flag.”