Habitat for Humanity debuts the world’s first 3D-printed owner-occupied home in Virginia

Home For the Holidays

Habitat for Humanity debuts the world’s first 3D-printed owner-occupied home in Virginia

Alquist founder and CEO Zachary Mannheimer with new homeowner April and her son at the December 21 home dedication ceremony. (Courtesy Alquist)

Earlier this week, additive construction company Alquist and Habitat for Humanity formally handed over the keys to the new owner of an otherwise ordinary-looking three-bedroom single-family home in Williamsburg, Virginia. Despite appearances, however, that building was recently completed as the first Habitat project on the East Coast to be constructed with the aid of a massive 3D printer. The 1,200-square abode at 129 Forest Heights Road in Williamsburg’s Ewell neighborhood is also being billed as the world’s first 3D-printed owner-occupied home.

Despite the impressive superlative, the project, spearheaded by the Newport News-headquartered Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg in partnership with Alquist, isn’t technically the first 3D-printed Habitat project in the United States. Announced just weeks ahead of the Williamsburg project this past summer was a 1,738-square-foot Habitat dwelling built with a gantry-style Build on Demand Printer (BOD 2) in Tempe, Arizona. (Alquist is not involved with that Habitat Central Arizona-led undertaking.) In total, it took 22 hours to print the Williamsburg Habitat home, slashing the standard construction schedule by roughly four weeks.

The construction of Williamsburg’s 3D-printed Habitat home was spread across several days, not weeks. (Courtesy Alquist)

The Williamsburg project’s new owner is April, a first-time homeowner who will be residing in the 3D-printed digs with her 13-year-old son. As previously detailed, April has worked full-time as a laundry facility supervisor at a local hotel for several years but receives an income that’s less than 80 percent of the area median income, putting traditional homeownership out of reach.

“Going forward, her monthly mortgage payments will be no more than 30 percent of her income, including her real estate taxes and homeowner’s insurance,” elaborated Janet V. Green, CEO for Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg, in a statement released over the summer when the project was first announced. “Once the house construction is complete, she will close on her new home with a local attorney and repay her no-interest mortgage to us here at the local Habitat, illustrating Habitat for Humanity’s objective to give families a hand up rather than a handout.”

exterior view of a 3d-printed home
The home’s concrete walls saved an estimated 15 percent per square foot of the overall building cost. (Courtesy Alquist)

As required by the Habitat Homebuyer Program, April logged a total of 300 sweat equity or volunteer hours at both the construction site and at a local Habitat ReStore over the past several months. At the December 21 dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by numerous local and state officials and their representatives, April told the assembled crowd: “This is all for my son. If you truly believe in something, keep trying and you can do it.”

Once April is settled into the EarthCraft-certified, tornado-resistant home, she’ll enjoy additional savings thanks to a proprietary, Raspberry Pi-based monitoring system developed by Virginia Tech that, among other things, will help to optimize energy consumption, aided by the thermal properties of the concrete structure itself. There are also plans to outfit the home with solar panels. April has also received a special (and far less colossal) 3D printer from Alquist that can be used for basic household repairs and remodeling jobs as needed.

a tabletop 3d printer on display in a kitchen
A countertop 3D printer for creating knobs, light switches, and other replacement parts comes with the home. (Courtesy Alquist)

Established in 2020 by Zachary Mannheimer with the goal of bringing large-scale 3D-printing technology to affordable housing-strapped swaths of rural America, Alquist has future projects planned for outside of Virginia, where the company has also teamed with Virginia Tech to construct America’s first 3D-printed, public-private partnership-funded home in Richmond’s Midlothian neighborhood. At this week’s dedication ceremony, Mannheimer referred to Virginia as “the leader in 3D printing home construction, hands down.”

Beyond Virginia, Alquist has its sights set on rural communities in Arkansas, California, Iowa, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania for 3D printer-based homebuilding efforts that can be carried out more swiftly and at a lesser cost than conventional stick-built construction. Those projects will be realized with partner company Atlas Community Studios, which is described as a “wholly independent placemaking and economic development group” and was also founded by Mannheimer. Interestingly, Mannheimer doesn’t come from a traditional construction or tech background—in fact, far from it. Now based in Des Moines, Iowa, the Pennsylvania-reared erstwhile New Yorker’s roots are in the world of off-Broadway theater, which makes sense given the dramaturgical roots of his latest venture’s name.