PassivDom is a Ukrainian startup company that is moving ahead with 3D printing technology to create homes of various sizes in as little as 8 hours. The basic process is to use a 3D printing robot and the walls, roof, and floor of a home. Other basic features such as windows and doors are added by the traditional human builders. The final product is both mobile and can be used independent of connections to electrical or water systems. That includes sewage systems.
The smallest, 410 square foot model can be snapped together in 8 hours. If you are wondering who would want one of these 21st century, prefab models, the company started in the spring of this year and has more than 8,000 people in line to buy one.
There is the cost to consider. That 410 square foot model ranges from $64,000 to $97,000 depending on which added features you desire. There is a larger 775 square foot model that ranges in price from $97,000 to $147,000. Available features include a furnished home, kitchen, bathroom, water tank, and sewage system.
The people who have a keen interest in these types of homes (and PassivDom is not the only company moving in this direction) are people who don’t want to be living in crowded areas with a strong dependency on traditional power and water systems. Homes come with optional solar energy panels for electricity, and the units are supplied with a tank that can be filled with water to provide the basic needs of washing and cooking. Looking at it in another way, the systems are environmentally friends and better than a camper.
If this concept seems interesting to you, let’s look closer at the benefits and potential problems associated with these 3D units.
The first question is durability. The materials used in the basic construction of the roof, floor, and walls, are carbon fibers, polyurethane, resins, basalt fibers, and fiberglass. How will these materials hold up during episodes of severe weather or recoverable natural disasters? At first glance, it seems that because these 8 hour wonder units require human builders to finish them, an owner would have to have some degree of home repair skill to replace or repair any damage to the home.
The next issue is required maintenance. The more systems added to the basic unit, the more complex the home’s system becomes. This is true of any expanding system, but buyers are spending in excess of $100,000 in some cases to have a place to live. Unlike a traditional home, unless there are plans for on-site maintenance owners will have to know how to deal with not only the known problems, but the unknown as well. With that, it makes you wonder the type of person who is buying these types of homes.
Then there is the price itself. There is a strong case to be made that in the United States the cost of a new single family home is beyond the reach of the average middle class family. The cost is one factor, but the number of builders who are constructing new single family dwellings has been decreasing for years. Instead of spending upwards of $300,000 for a new home, a single family can opt to go the PassivDom route and go where they want with an investment of half of what the traditional home costs.
This last point, the house as an investment, is where the real hidden problem rests. From what can be gathered from the available information, a PassivDom home is not an investment but simply a place to live. It definitely has advantages for people who are comfortable in natural or rural outdoor settings and for people who are willing to commit to a different lifestyle. But the home itself only seems to have depreciation value, like a car or trailer home. There is an unsettling reality here that makes companies like PassivDom successful. People are willing to be mobile creatures because the economic and social realities demand it.
Younger generations such as Millennials are willing to delay marriage or eliminate it entirely from the realm of possible lifestyle options. The employment market often forces people to move from state to state or coast to coast to continue earning the same income as they did last year. These 3D homes have the potential to forcing local governments to create zoning ordinances to accommodate their growth, just like trailer parks currently do. The choices of where to live may be shrinking yet accepted by an increasing mobile and digitally connected culture.
Of course, functioning as a permanent place of residence is not the only potential use for these types of homes. While the time from design to available-to-occupy is amazing, the selling point is that there are people who want to get some separation from the urban chaos and have some other choices of where to live. There are more than a few implications if more and more people see a PassivDom construction as a reasonable alternative to a traditional home. We will have to just wait and see.