Are we Losing Touch?
3-D Printed Houses: Are we Losing Touch?
Irecently read several articles about a newly discovered use for the tech darling of the moment, 3-D printing: houses. The idea both intrigued me and gave me pause. Here’s the scoop.
A Texas-based company has developed a machine that they claim can “print” the walls of a 600- to 800-square-foot permitted house in 24 to 48 hours for less than $4,000. These walls are made of layer after layer of extruded concrete, creating an effect equivalent to a gray birthday cake.
The company also says that thanks to the speed of the printing process, reduced labor requirements and low cost, they’ve developed a way to provide housing to the poorest countries and underdeveloped areas around the world. According to reports, they are working with habitat charities to accomplish this noble goal.
I applaud the effort to develop affordable housing for people in need. It’s important. But let’s be real — it’s only a matter of time before companies engaged in this technology look to turn a sizeable profit, and that means attempting to bring 3-D printed houses into the mainstream. Herein lies the problem for me. From all accounts, the low price they tout doesn’t seem to cover the cost of any building components but the walls, which could add up fast; nor does it appear that any testing has been conducted to prove the long-term strength or resilience of these structures. And, at the end of the day, the walls are still cold, uninviting concrete.
For those of us who love log homes, we can have our cake and eat it, too. Log homes have been tested by the Log and Timber Homes Council (learn more about them on page 20) and have been shown to stand up to some of the toughest conditions nature can throw at them, as well as meet or exceed energy codes. Though log home construction is considered a building system, just as this new 3-D printing technology is, in the log home process, machines don’t replace people, they simply give them a hand. Plus, cold hard concrete will never match the organic warmth of wood. (This issue has ample evidence of that.)
I don’t know about you, but I don’t really want my next house to be built by a machine. For me, technology has its place as an assistant, but it will never replace craftsmanship, natural beauty or the human touch.