Development of a first-of-its-kind community of 3D-printed homes is underway in Rancho Mirage, California. Developer Palari Group and construction technology company Mighty Buildings have secured a five-acre site in the desert landscape of Coachella Valley and will turn it into a planned community of 15 zero net energy homes. They intend to expand this to over 100 homes next year, with Palari saying that over 400 buyers have joined a waiting list.

The companies tout green credentials for the development such as a 3D-printing production process which “eliminates 99 percent of construction waste” and energy-efficiency features including solar energy, water recycling and electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure.

The homes will be built using Mighty Buildings’ 3D-printed panelised Mighty Kit system. Each panel is prefabricated at a manufacturing facility in Oakland and shipped for on-site assembly. The company says it can 3D-print structures twice as fast and with 95 percent fewer labour hours than conventional construction.

“We could not be more excited for this groundbreaking collaboration with Palari, and to be a part of the creation of the world’s first 3D-printed zero net energy community,” said Alexey Dubov, Co-Founder and COO of Mighty Buildings. “This will be the first on-the-ground actualisation of our vision for the future of housing able to be deployed rapidly, affordably, sustainably, and able to augment surrounding communities with a positive dynamic.”

Complete streets?

The artist’s impressions provided for the development don’t feature infrastructure such as sidewalks, bike lanes or public transport (see lead image). One shows people, including a child, walking on the side of the road.

Historically, many places in the United States were built without sidewalks, particularly in the suburbs, but more recently there has been a push towards ‘complete streets’ which provide safe mobility options for all users and reduce dependency on cars.

Asked about this, Basil Starr, Founder and CEO of Palari, told Cities Today: “Planned aspects of the community include lot/home layouts, interior roads and sidewalks, rain water recycling, fencing and security. Our homes are zero energy powered by solar and will offer batteries and EV chargers for an integrated electric car-home experience.”

He said responsibility for sidewalks and bike lanes would fall to a Home Owners Association which will be professionally managed by Palari’s property management company.

A July 2020 survey from the National Association of Realtors found that 52 percent of respondents considered sidewalks and places to take walks “very important” when deciding where to live, up from 48 percent in February 2020 and 49 percent in 2017. Sidewalks were rated as more important than being within walking distance of shops and parks, a short commute to work and easy access to the highway.

Affordability

Each 3D-printed house in Rancho Mirage will have a footprint of around 1,450 square feet, comprising three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a secondary 700 square-foot residence. With an overall 10,000 square-foot lot, the homes will have a backyard swimming pool and deck, as well as other upgrade options.

Image credit: Mighty Buildings/EYRC Architects

Prices start at US$595,000 for a standard model and go up to $950,000 for a two-home configuration with upgrades. The developers say prices will come down with scale and could potentially help cities address affordable housing challenges.

Starr said: “While still not affordable for most at this time, our homes are priced at below-average price in respective markets, making them affordable relative to homes in the area. As we scale production, costs will decrease and we’ll be able to expand to other markets where these homes will be more affordable.”

He said Palari is developing more 3D-printed housing communities across California including San Fernando Valley, Central Coast and Napa.

Last year in Austin, local startup Icon began 3D printing homes at Community First!, a 51-acre development that aims to eventually house 40 percent of Austin’s homeless population.

The company’s technology is also being used to build homes in Mexico for people living in extreme poverty. The company says automation and custom low-cost materials reduce time and price.

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