3D printed offices could be here sooner than anyone could have imagined. Already there is a fully compliant 3D printed housing structure standing in Austin, TX with plans to build the very first 3D printed housing community by the end of 2019. It took a year to put up the first 3D printed house, but the technology is advancing to a point where it will take less than a day to build a 500 – 2,500 square foot space.

For years, 3D printed structures that could be made fully compliant were a hypothetical proposition. Now with so many innovators actually producing results in the space, it is only a matter of time before this technology comes to commercial real estate on a massive scale – building offices, multifamily buildings, and warehouses!

How 3D Printed Buildings Work

Using a gigantic portable, cement laying Vulcan Printer, it only takes two to four people to print out a fully inhabitable 500 – 800 square foot building. The machine squeezes out strands of concrete about an inch thick that hardens as it prints to create walls that are actually harder than cinder blocks once they’ve completely dried.

Next a crew comes in to add on the roof made out of wood and to install electric and windows. The team at New Story and Icon are responsible for building what is believed to be the first fully compliant 3D built structure in the U.S. The whole process will eventually take less than a day to complete.

Soon, there will be no need for any human intervention. Innovations are underway now to create robots that are able to print roofs that can be suspended over concrete, install windows, and paint the building. Including materials, it only costs about $6,500 to print one of these homes and could go as low as $3,500 – something that commercial real estate builders and developers are very excited about.

Companies Innovating in the 3D Building Space

It is because of companies attempting to perfect the process here in the U.S. and around the world that the technology is advancing so rapidly and could soon be a big part of the office market in America. Consider that a home about the size of a 3D printed house can take up to three weeks to complete while these spaces can be built from a software program in as little as half a day.

Non-Profit Group Seeks to End Global Homelessness

This year’s major tech show, South By Southwest, featured the non-profit team from New Story and Icon looking to democratize their 3D printing technology. The ultimate goal for this team is to use the technology to build living structures for people in the poorest parts of the world and the U.S. Next year, the group plans to open the doors to the first 50 unit 3D printed housing community in El Salvador.

The $100K printer can be hoisted onto the back of a truck and transported over rough terrain safely from place to place. Once there, in potentially six hours with only a few workers, a 600 – 800 foot two bedroom home with a kitchen and bathroom can be erected. Best of all, the printed concrete walls create a “thermal envelope” that protects inhabitants from the elements better and improves the energy efficiency of each home.

Denmark Experiments with 3D Office Printing

In Denmark, innovator Printhuset is experimenting with 538 square foot office buildings. The goal here is not to become a 3D home builder but to show that it can be done. Because of Europe’s strict building codes, trying to standardize 3D printing has been difficult but this team was able to build the first permitted and approved 3D printed office space.

Curved Angle 3D Printed Office Designs for Larger Structures

Like Denmark’s 3D printed spaces, in Chattanooga, TN the curved angles are being used to test the feasibility of 3D printing for structures larger than 500 – 800 square feet. The angles not only give the building a futuristic, architecturally modern look, but they also make it possible to build larger open concept floor plans that can support a bigger, heavier roof. The WATG Urban design team partnering with Branch Technology won the Freeform Home Design Challenge two years ago.

Dubai already has a standing 2,600 square foot 3D printed office structure that was built two years ago. It is only one building in a plan to create the first 3D building printing hub in the world over the next decade.