Smart and 3D-Printed Homes May be the Key to Sustainable Housing

I don’t’ think human population will stop growing, and that doesn’t always mean a good thing. In the “battle” between human and nature, the latter might lose eventually because humans need food and roofs over their heads. Unless we implement a lot of vertical stuff starting from today, the environment may turn worse later on.

Now, housing is one of big CO2 emission contributors. Last year, 34% of it came from residential sector. Forbes stated that energy bills may soar by 70% and residential emissions could rise even more.

With countries committing to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, they need net zero homes as well. It may sound quite impossible to achieve today, but it could be possible within the next decade.

Smart homes

Yes, we’ve got smart homes in today’s time, but they’re not that efficient and not yet intelligent. We have devices that can let us control heating and lighting from our mobile devices. We can get a bill that tells us how much energy we’ve consumed, but we don’t know when and all the details.

If anything, smart homes which has grown so fast are simply added convenience. And for now, connected devices and data centers for smart home tech require additional energy with no rest. That adds carbon footprint as opposed to reducing it and improve our environment.

According to Forbes, one way we could upgrade our smart home tech is by making it intelligent and self-sufficient. That way, our homes can provide for their own energy needs and the residents can live in much greater comfort and convenience.

Intelligent smart homes should pair with renewable energy so that smart homes can store and manage it. Via smart meters that control over it, residents can be more aware about energy usage. Consumers can understand and adjust their energy usage more, meeting their own specific goals.

Getting closer to net zero homes

The theory is that, as our houses become truly intelligent, we’re going to have a firm grasp and foundation for net zero homes.

Achieving that would require artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Data collected from connected devices in our homes will power the AI and it will learn a lot. It’ll anticipate when, where, and how much energy it should give to efficiently light, heat, and power to meet residents’ needs.

AI-powered homes should be able to identify which energy source is best to use at the right time, reducing cost effectively. With intelligent housing, consumers may reduce energy consumption and electrical heating costs by up to 50% without compromising comfort and convenience.

Smart tech for homes we have right now are mainly tools to give us room by room comfort control. Of course, there’s new technology that’s smarter, giving us solar generation as well as autonomous and smart consumption, but it’s not there yet. That said, the path to net zero homes is evident.

If you’re concerned about AI going rogue and eventually taking over your homes and the world like what Elon Musk says, you needn’t worry. AIs that aren’t super intelligent won’t be a problem.

I mean, the Tesla CEO also founded AI companies called Neuralink and OpenAI. I think it’s fair to say that he also believes in artificial intelligence as well.

3D-printing in a large scale

Not just about CO2 emissions from residential sector, sustainability, affordability, and innovation in housing are also just as important. Well, apparently 3D-printing is creeping over to this field now.

It’s not exactly solving the problem with shortages of unsustainable public housing, but Mighty Buildings is trying to fall somewhere around that. The Oakland-based company gives affordable homes using 3D printing. All we need to do is find a place or land to put them.

Houses as a result of 3D printing isn’t actually a new concept, but most hasn’t made it past conceptual phase until recently. Like homes made from recycled/upcycled containers, the printed ones want to offer a relatively affordable alternative in a non-traditional manner.

Mighty Buildings’ 7000-sqm facility has received approval under the California Factory Built Housing program. The company also has had its first UL certification under the new standard for 3D printed construction.

That way, the company can make 3D-printed houses more efficiently. It sells for $115,000 for a studio at the low end to $285,000 for a 3b/2ba. Forbes said that if we live in an inflated housing market, like anywhere in California, the cost benefit is noticeable immediately.

3D concrete printer. Photo by Misanthropic One Wikimedia Commons

Sustainable how?

You may ask that. No, the answer is not that the company’s using full solar power to print their buildings or anything. I guess it’s preferable that way, but hey, maybe that’ll eventually happen in the near future.

Anyways, the innovative part is that Mighty Buildings developed a new composite material. That makes their printed homes more energy efficient and structurally sound.

But how is that innovative? Stay with me. 3D printing for houses mostly uses concrete and it needs greater time to install load-bearing and insulation. Mighty Buildings’ new material uses UV-curing to harden as instantly as possible.

This allows builders to bring everything of the house like ceilings, overhangs, walls, and floors. Additionally, it’s more thermal resistant than concrete and we don’t need to cut up a series of shipping containers to make a container home.

Using composite building materials can lead to cheaper and energy-efficient homes. The large-scale printing company can produce their components with 95% fewer labor hours, 2x as fast as regular construction with 10x less waste.

Competing with container homes

3D-printed houses have benefits. But the company and their products have to overcome people’s current fascination with container homes in order to gain true market traction.

“Container homes are limited in the shapes and forms that they are able to achieve and require substantial modification in order to provide adequate insulation, finishing, etc as well as to ensure structural integrity once openings are cut into them as they require reinforcement once you start cutting openings for windows, doors, etc.,” stated Sam Ruben, Chief Sustainability Officer and Co-Founder at Mighty Buildings.

“Because of this often times it can be more costly to modify repurposed containers than to simply build something custom off of new container frames, which undermines the sustainability angle of reuse,” Ruben added.

Interested? Well, as stated above, you still need a place to put the 3D houses like a plot of land. Right now, this type of home may face skepticism here and there, but it’s likely going to be the future of housing.

Combined with verticality as well as intelligent smart home tech mentioned before, I think the future can be more sustainable and energy-efficient than ever. Maybe mixing all that isn’t going to happen in short term, but I think one step at a time is better than nothing at all.

What are your thoughts?

 

Sources:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikehughes1/2020/10/12/from-smart-to-sustainable-we-can-retrofit-our-homes-to-be-net-zero-within-a-decade/?ss=greentech#8b1845b6581a

https://www.forbes.com/sites/curtissilver/2020/10/04/mighty-buildings-3d-printed-homes-points-to-the-future-of-sustainable-housing/?ss=greentech#54ec8f22d95c

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