Highlands real estate news is fairly predictable—at least compared with some of the stories that filter in from the rest of the world. Here in Highlands, for instance, wherever a new home is being built, you’re likely to see familiar evidence like stacks of lumber and drywall, cartons of nail gun ammo, sacks of cement, and workmen hustling around as they put everything together.
Nary a printer in sight.
Not so in China. According to The Washington Post, the real estate news includes an item about an innovation from Asia. “Innovation” is perhaps a bit of an understatement, because the gist of the story was that in April a year ago, a Chinese concern built 10 houses in one day using a 3-D printer.
Despite what you may be thinking, this item did not have an April 1 dateline.
The 3-D printers we’ve been reading about over the past few years are the ones that take pellets or powders made of plastic, wax, ceramic, or even metal, and print three-dimensional objects, layer by layer, as directed by a computer.
Only a few years back, for most of us, stories about 3-D printers seemed more like science fiction than reality. But apparently the things actually work! As evidence, there have been lots of stories about the legal and other ramifications that accompany the printing of firearms. A few months ago, astronauts printed up a 3D wrench aboard the International Space Station: they’ll just print up spare parts when things break down. And there was that car (the “Strati”) that a company printed in Chicago: it took 44 hours to print, with a top speed of 40 MPH…
Doesn’t this all sound a little bit nuts?
But back to the real estate news from China. It seems that the outfit that printed the 10 houses last year, built a really, really big 3D printer, and used it to print a mansion: an 11,840 square-foot villa. Next to it, they printed up a 5-story building (just showing off, you have to think). According to reports, the process is more than just fast: it’s becoming cheaper and more energy-efficient. The Chinese company says that it can save 30%-60% of building materials, 50% of labor costs, etc. They want to print bridges, too…
But don’t think American ingenuity is being left in the polymer dust! USC Engineering Professor B. Khoshnevis is plugging away at the forefront of the technology, except he calls it “contour crafting” instead of “3D printing” (or “Xeroxing”). On his web site, in answer to the FAQ “Can you print an entire house?” the answer is Theoretically, yes. He hopes to see “entry-level construction models on the market within one to two years.”
Soooo, how long before our local Highlands real estate news will be trumpeting our own 3D printed houses for sale? No time soon. It turns out that the villa, 10 small houses, and 5-story apartment building in China “aren’t much to look at.” In fact, some say they are for demonstration only.
So when you give me a call to help you find the Highlands home of your dreams, I suspect a printed model won’t be on our tour list. We won’t be making the rounds in a Strati, any time soon, either.