Monday, September 19, 2016

Architectural 3D Printing’s Effect On the Real Estate Market

One of the most effective ways to analyze architecture is through its economics and I’ve found one of the best measures of this in particular is the real estate market. Forecasting architectural 3D printing’s effect on the real estate market is a complicated issue and I’m not sure the linked article exactly hits its mark. The uncertainty extends from predicting a technology’s effect – this time a new building system – on the real estate market. Not a lot of research has been done on this issue whereas how different regional pressures effect the real estate market is well understood. So what does the article say? Starting with price: “Three-dimensional printers don’t require labourers, produce much less waste (as materials are fed into the machines), and will be able to erect homes in days instead of months—making them substantially cheaper to build.” What the article hasn’t factored is the R&D costs of developing architectural 3D printing to the level we normally associate with modern building codes so these are all potential savings at the moment.

The article goes on to suggest another benefit of architectural 3D printing to the real estate market: buyers will be able to dream up their own innovative designs. And while A3DP does have some interesting cost implications for producing unique designs (which I have described elsewhere) the article does not identify a major hurdle consumers will face when designing their own house: 3D modelling a structure is a not a trivial matter. One will face challenges in meeting site tolerances, applying local building codes and using complex 3D modelling software; all of which seem beyond the commitment of the average homeowner necessary to drive the sector.

Lastly the article turns to questioning architectural 3D printing’s effect on cities by suggesting A3DP allows for building on previously “unbuildable” sites. This seems like a specious argument to me because this effect can only be marginal at best. There’s simply no glut of “unbuildable” sites in any city I know. That’s what makes them cities. Maybe it’s just my background in architectural history that shapes my view, but I look out at cities around the world and would argue there is evidence people have succeeded in applying every possible combination of structure to fit any site or space (Japanese cities in particular being a good example of this). I just don’t see architectural 3D printing’s main driver of growth being “unbuildable” sites compared to the technology’s labour and time savings.

No comments: