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3-D Printed Houses and the Grid

image credit: ID 156290484 © Patrick Daxenbichler |

Remember 3-D printing? In the earlier part of this decade it was a buzzword, much like artificial intelligence and “smart-learning” are now. Commentators predicted that 3-D printing would revolutionize our world, greatly simplifying and improving the production processes of everything from prosthetic limbs to automobiles. Startups proliferated, attracting loads of funding from credulous venture capitalists. However, like so many promising technologies before it, 3-D printing developed at a slower pace than the hype surrounding it. By mid-decade, it was gone from the front pages of tech blogs and many of those fledgling companies went belly up. 

Despite losing its title as “The Next Big Thing”, 3-D printing never  actually disappeared. In fact, engineers continued to develop the technology, and today it’s being used in all sorts of ingenious ways—some of which are relevant to the utility biz. 

Take, for example, Prefab homes by As you probably guessed, the Prefab home is a 3-D printed house that’s designed to exist off the grid. The company calls them ““autonomous self-sustainable Intelligent houses.” The structures, which range in price from $300 thousand to a million dollars, come completely pre-furnished down to wine glasses and come in three varieties: The most modest being a two-person, 400-square foot studio with kitchen and bathroom, while the most expensive boasts two stories, three bedrooms and two bathrooms. The homes can be delivered as quickly as a day after ordered, although custom models usually take around 7 weeks to arrive. 

The futuristic homes, with the exception of the most expensive model, are built to exist completely off the grid. Heating, cooling, and electricity are all powered by solar panels (the website doesn’t specify what kind). What’s more, claims the structures are hurricane and earthquake proof—which seems like an overstatement to me. 

Obviously, I don’t expect the Prefab Home, or the LV 2020 I wrote about a couple weeks ago, to significantly disrupt the traditional housing market. While many Facebook browsers are sure to be intrigued by the futuristic concept and aesthetic, I think many potential buyers would have reasonable concerns about resale value. One of the main advantages of homes is that they generally don’t depreciate. 

But what if these off the grid options do catch on? I don’t foresee the grid ever being rendered unnecessary, but maybe demand could be impacted. What do you think?



Henry Craver's picture

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Ben Schultz's picture
Ben Schultz on Dec 1, 2019 7:36 am GMT

I feel like the problem with 3D printing is that its growth simply isn't as rapid as emergy fields such as machine learning. The think that long-term potential for 3D printing is massive, but it's just going to take us a while to see it proliferate in the same way that machine learning has.

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