Montana, the first state to debut a luge track and send a woman to Congress, can now claim a new and somewhat unexpected first: the first state to give broad regulatory approval to the use of 3D-printed walls in new construction in lieu of concrete masonry units (CMUs) or standard cored concrete blocks.
As reported by The Real Deal, the move came when Billings-based contractor Tim Stark applied with the state and won approval to build homes in a new development using a 3D printing process and equipment developed by Apis Cor, a construction technology company headquartered in Melbourne, Florida, 2,000-some miles away from Billings, Montana’s most populous city and seat of Yellowstone County.
Per Apis Cor, the cost to build a single-family home built using one of its massive, portable printers is roughly 30 percent less than traditional wood frame or concrete block construction. As AN has detailed numerous times in the past, the speed at which projects that employ 3D printing technology are completed is also considerably greater than that of stick-built construction, allowing home developers to move with increased efficiency and urgency—key attributes when developing in an areas grappling with an affordable housing crisis.
State regulatory approval for 3D printing applies to all types of construction that follows Montana building code and is not limited to single-family homes. “The code includes requirements for construction and construction materials to be consistent with accepted standards of design, engineering, and fire prevention practices, and to use technology that reduces cost of construction and promotes efficient use of energy use but still complies with health and safety standards,” Apis Cor explained in a press release.
“In so many states, regulations are getting in the way of building more homes,” Stark, who was seeking permission to build in Billings and elsewhere in the state, said in a statement shared by Apis Cor. “I’m proud of my home state of Montana.”
Often overshadowed by the perennially hip college town of Bozeman located roughly 2 hours to the west, the housing market in Billings is indeed booming, a trend driven largely by out-of-state buyers. Yet with the largely pandemic-driven boom comes has come a sharp rise in home prices, and homebuilders are racing to keep up with demand in a city known for its low unemployment rate and natural beauty. Per data from the Federal Housing Finance Agency shared by Apis Cor, the average cost of a home in Montana jumped 24 percent over the last year. The national average is 17 percent. Billings itself has see homes prices increase by 32 percent since 2020.
Established in 2016, Apis Cor was a participant in NASA’s 3D Printed Habitat Challenge and is the only construction company that has designed 3D-printed walls compliant with international buildings codes. The venture-capital backed company, which has completed pilot projects in both the U.S. and United Arab Emirates, noted that its 3D-printed walls and material have been tested by an independent, third-party lab in Boston and at the Civil and Environmental Engineering School of the University of Connecticut.
“This is exciting news for all home builders and of course the 3D-printed homes industry,” said Apis Cor cofounder and CEO Anna Cheniuntai. “Having this clear support from the state of Montana paves the way for faster decisions at the county level, which will make it easier for developers to move forward on their 3D-printed housing projects. While the path is open in all states, Montana is taking a stand in advocating for the smooth approval process, thus opening up massive opportunities for efficiently produced housing.”