3D Printed Real Estate

Hello Investors!

Happy New Year!  I hope you had a nice holiday season and are looking forward to a great 2022!For this week’s newsletter and video, I’m doing a spotlight on 3-D printed real estate. The technology seems quite promising, and it may play a significant role in the future of real estate development, both residential and commercial.

In this email, I’m going to show you how it’s already affecting the industry with a few examples, and give you five reasons why we may be seeing a lot more of it in the future.

3D Printing: An Overview

A 3D printer is a machine that essentially prints a product, but instead of in 2 dimensions on a piece of paper, it prints in 3 dimensions. Instead of ink, like your regular printer, 3d printers can use a variety of materials. Home models for the hobbyist can print using plastic, but in theory, any molten material that hardens and sets reasonably quickly can be used as the ink in a 3D printer.
Ten years ago, the cost of a 3D printer was cost-prohibitive, but now the prices for these printers have plummeted to the point where you can buy a home model for a few hundred dollars. Because of their affordability, 3D printers have been scaled up in size and are now used in a variety of industries to create everything from toys to high-grade manufacturing parts to implants and prosthetics for medical purposes.

3D printing in commercial real estate

3D printing is now being used to fabricate buildings. Large 3D printers developed exclusively for printing concrete can lay foundations and build walls directly on the job site.

These printers can also print modular components to be assembled later on-site. In fact, a company named Nexii has used this construction technique to build restaurants, coffee shops, and hotels. Some of their projects include a Starbucks and Popeyes in Abbotsford, British Columbia.


They also built a Marriott hotel on Vancouver Island and are now in production on a retail bank. That’s not the only example of 3D printing for commercial purposes. The French fashion house Dior used 3-D printing to fabricate an 860 square foot pop-up store in Dubai.

Another restaurant chain, Buffalo Wild Wings, is testing out a robot that can fry chicken wings. The robot –known as Flippy Wings –– was able to increase efficiency and provide a safer work environment as it reduced the number of oil spills. Miso Robotics, the company that developed the robot for Buffalo Wild Wings, said that Flippy Wings reduces costs, avoids cross-contamination, and is safer to operate than most traditional fryers.


Building with raw fibers, sand, and clay, the circular structure took only five days to print. Using this earth-based printing media, the construction team was able to construct the store with a more ecologically friendly material than concrete. And they did so with minimal waste.

3D printed residential real estate

3D printing is making its way into residential development, as well. There is a new 3D printed housing development being built in Rancho Mirage, California. The houses come with a deck and pool, but only cost 72% as much as the average house in the region. Pre-sales for the 15 unit community sold out within days.

And just recently, a family in Virginia received Habitat for Humanty’s first 3D printed house, just in time for Christmas. It’s a three-bedroom, 2 bath house that is 1200 square feet and was printed from concrete. That’s some Christmas present!

Five Reasons why we will see more 3D printed buildings in the future

1. Speed of Construction

A traditional building may require weeks or months of construction work. With the use of large-scale 3-D printers, they can reduce that time frame to just a matter of days. The Habitat for Humanity House was built in just 12 hours.  With traditional home construction, they have to transport materials to the job site and then stop work at the end of each day and in inclement weather. But with 3D printing, there is minimal transportation and you can operate the machine 24/7 until the job is complete. And some of the parts are just printed off site and assembled on site, which saves on construction time.

2. Uses less labor

If you construct a traditional building, you need ten times more skilled labor than you do for a printed one. A few highly trained 3D printing technicians can substitute for an army of framers.

3. Lower cost

Besides the lower labor costs, a concrete-based 3D building generates 60% less construction waste than traditional methods. It also saves timber and leads to a more sustainable environmental footprint. Fewer materials, less waste, and less labor mean that it costs less money to build a commercial structure. Nexii was able to build a Starbucks in only 6 days of onsite construction. It estimates that it uses 50-75% less manpower and 30% less in construction materials for its projects – which saves a lot of money.

4. Highly customizable

In an age where businesses are looking to express individuality and uniqueness in their brand, 3D printing can create genuinely innovative architectural plans. 3D printing allows for more complex designs. Walls no longer have to be straight, and rooms no longer have to be square. In addition, part of this customization allows for parts to be replaced easily. The homeowner of the Habitat for Humanity home will also receive a 3D printer that she can use to print replacement parts, such as trim, or cabinet knobs, saving a trip to Home Depot. This means there are new opportunities for bold and creative design.

5. Safety and efficiency

Compared to traditional buildings with wood framing, there is far less risk of fire, mold growth, and structural failure. In fact, some 3-D structures are designed to survive an earthquake rated at 8.0 on the Richter scale. The materials used in the printing process can be as varied as plastic or carbon fiber. Still, the most common printing uses concrete or similar recycled materials that have a 30% smaller carbon footprint than normal construction. Of course, there are some hurdles that 3-D construction must overcome before it becomes the industry standard. And uncontrollable economic swings and low research and development budgets at small companies may make it difficult for construction firms to survive in this market. But, compared to traditional construction, 3-D printing is faster, requires less labor, and is more affordable. And you can construct sturdy buildings with novel architectural designs.

Thank you for reading!  I’ll see you next time.


Connect with me here:
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Mike Lin, CRE