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Can 3-D Printed Homes Help Solve Homelessness?

A new project will print homes for charity–if it can get funding.

The best way of solving homelessness, many advocates argue, is just to give people homes. Though it sounds simplistic–and expensive–a “housing first” policy in places like Utah and Boston actually saves the government money. Now a U.K. company hopes to help make the process cheaper by building homes with a 3-D printer.

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“3-D print homes speed up the construction process,” says Fabian Jean-Baptiste, owner of CNSTRCTN, a London-based development company, now launching a new project to start printing homes for charity. “It’s proven to be able to build a house per day.”


Jean-Baptiste is currently raising funds on Kickstarter for a massive 3-D printer that he hopes to use to begin building low-cost homes for some of the billions of people around the world who live in substandard housing, and the 100 million who are homeless.

An average single-family home would cost around $10,000 to make on a 3-D printer, Jean-Baptiste says, including extras like doors, windows, and a kitchen and bath. Unlike prefab homes, which are also fairly cheap, the 3-D printing process uses very little labor.


It also saves materials. “3-D print homes requires no excess waste, as the 3-D printer can be feed with reclaimed concrete, cement and locally sourced material, making this the most eco-friendly construction process due to the lack of waste produced during a build,” Jean-Baptiste explains.

The Kickstarter project, if funded (a long shot, it seems), would use the
contour crafting” method developed at the University of Southern California. The process quickly builds up walls with layer by layer of fast-drying concrete.

It could be an especially useful process in some of the world’s fastest-growing cities, where slum and squatter settlements are growing twice as fast as city centers, and many people end up living in simple shacks. Jean-Baptiste hopes to begin using 3-D printers globally.

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“This project is inspired by the potential, also by the need to address the global housing shortage issue, even present in the most mature economies like the US and Europe,” Jean-Baptiste says. “The plan is to be part of the revolution that will eventually replace the entire current building processes, thus changing the whole residential and commercial construction industry.”

It’s an ambitious idea, but it’s clearly going to take a lot of funding–and unfortunately, as of right now, the Kickstarter has only raised a tiny fraction of its goal.

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.

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