Leveraging Technology to Boost Housing Supply

The process of 3D printing to create three-dimensional objects from digital files is utilized at many differing scales, mediums, and industries. For example, manufacturing has long harnessed the advantages of 3D printing for use in the aviation, transportation, aerospace, fashion, and health industries. As this technology becomes more widely accessible, the construction industry has tested the viability of 3D printing as an alternative construction method. With housing demand at an all-time high and labor and material costs continuing to rise, the search for attainable housing drives the industry to seek innovation. A handful of companies have successfully constructed 3D-printed homes, and the potential for this type of construction to revolutionize the way we build suggests quicker timelines, reduction in carbon emissions, and lower construction waste.

Current examples of 3D-printed homes demonstrate the biggest barrier of the technology thus far, as most are single-story, single-family dwellings. The constraints point to inherent limitations of the most prevalent 3D-printed material: concrete. The properties of concrete make it difficult to transport, requires increased drying time, and limit its form. Beyond the material itself, the size of on-site 3D printers restricts the size of the building.

Limitations of on-site 3D-printed concrete structures drive negative impacts on print time, print sequencing, and environmental factors. Considering these issues, the benefits of off-site 3D printing point to a modular construction methodology. Rapid advancements in material science and the potential use of light stone material, bioplastic, geopolymers, and recycled materials also support off-site modular construction. Since 3D-printed walls are printed monolithically, these innovative materials provide airtight performance, increased resiliency, durability, and reduced overall lifecycle material costs when compared with typical wood-frame construction. When combining these two powerful advancements in construction, the result can be a pivotal moment for housing: the ability to produce large-scale multifamily developments with a shorter construction schedule and in a more sustainable manner.

Taking 3D Printing to New Heights

Building on KTGY’s modular construction expertise for multifamily residential design, KTGY’s Research and Development Studio created Hexagon House, a 3D-printed modular multifamily concept, incorporating large-scale 3D printing technology as a solution for off-site modular construction to achieve efficiency and excellence in multifamily design. While most 3D-printed residential projects are constrained to single-story and detached building typologies, Hexagon House explores stacking 3D-printed modules to form on-grade, three- and four-story multifamily buildings.

A 3D-Printed Solution for Higher Density and Innovation

Looking beyond one-story, single-family homes for 3D-printed architectural applications, the Hexagon House design concept proposes two building prototypes for replication on infill sites, master-planned communities, and in urban areas. Comprised of studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom units, these prototypes can be easily deployed to provide new housing solutions at increased building densities.

The Hexagon House concept further proposes incorporating recycled materials within the printed medium, flexibility in interior design, and maximizing the benefits of 3D printing technology for residential design applications. The forms and aesthetics of Hexagon House are heavily influenced by the ease of design invention and playfulness of the 3D printed medium compared to typical wood-framed construction techniques. The clubhouse, interiors, and site amenities created opportunities to explore the potential of the 3D-printed technology further. The result is a multifamily community that showcases the powerful capabilities of 3D printing and modular construction.

A Makerspace to Engage with Community and Residents

A lobby space at ground level contains the leasing offices as well as a makerspace intended to be a learning incubator for 3D printing. Afterschool programs and local non-profits can use the space for educational opportunities. Additionally, residents can utilize the technology to customize their own living spaces. Essentially a 3D printing workshop, residents can print customized kit-of-parts creations for storage, displays, or furniture to use within their dwelling units.

The 3D-printed ceiling and floor structure of the modules is curved to conceal ductwork, lighting, and other mechanical and electrical systems. Most components are factory installed during modular assembly for ease of on-site installation.