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Rancho Mirage: The First 3D Printed Housing Community in the US

By Maria Saxton Rise Writer
May 30, 2021

In the past few years, 3D printing has become increasingly popular. In 2018, the first 3D printed home in the United States was printed in Texas. Shortly after, the world's first 3D printed community emerged in rural Tabasco, Mexico - showing the potential of this innovative technology. 

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Now, the first 3D printed community in the United States will soon come to Palm Springs, California. The thought leaders behind this project are a dream team of construction technology experts, architects, engineers, and developers. We were fortunate enough to chat with Mighty Building's Chief Sustainability Officer and co-founder, Sam Ruben, to learn more about this exciting project.

Mighty Buildings San Diego 3D Printed Home
San Diego 3D Printed Home. Photo Credit: Mighty Buildings

Leading the Charge in 3D Printing 

Mighty Buildings is a California-based construction technology company that uses 3D printing, robotics, and automation to create affordable, sustainable homes that was co-founded in 2017. The team has been working diligently to explore new technologies in the building sector. 

Mighty Buildings has partnered with a sustainable real estate developer, Palari Group, to build the first 3D printed community in the United States. According to Sam, the Palari Group reached out to Mighty Buildings. After discovering a great alignment of values, they developed a shared vision of leveraging new technologies to design right-size, sustainable homes. Together with EYRC Architects and Buro Happold Engineers, they are making this vision a reality. EYRC Architects are leading modern design and have won numerous AIA awards in the past few years. Buro Happold Engineers are a globally respected firm and one of the first to put out a sustainability report and one of the first practices to sign the World Green Building Council's Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment.

Industry Shifts 

The housing industry is changing. There has been a distinct decline in average home size in recent years, and we have seen a shift in the market towards "right-size" homes. There is a push to maximize the design of houses, particularly due to the rising costs of building materials and labor. Smaller homes have smaller environmental impacts and are often more affordable. Sam tells us that Mighty Buildings and their team want to be a tool to unlock opportunities to design and build these right-sized homes.

Mighty Buildings Factory Photo 1
3D Printing at Factory. Photo Credit: Mighty Buildings

Why Should We Build 3D Printed Houses? 

With 3D printing, designers can incorporate more creativity than standard construction, allowing more complex designs. These homes are particularly suited for Millennials, Gen Z, and baby boomers who are downsizing as they provide all the amenities of a larger home in a smaller footprint. Starter homes can open up opportunities for more homeowners, are well suited for density, and ensures that people do not have more space than they need.

"We want to be a tool for the industry to unlock the productivity needed to address the housing crisis, but also bring in other elements like zero-waste construction and the effectiveness of zero-energy homes to address the climate impact as well while we continue on the journey to be carbon neutral by 2028."

Said Sam Ruben.

Mighty Buildings Factory Photo 2
Fully Printed House Shell in Factory. Photo Credit: Mighty Buildings

How Does Mighty Buildings 3D Print Houses?

Mighty Buildings has the world's largest light-based printer that uses ultraviolet light. It opens up the ability to print curves, roofs, and even print an entire module in a single cycle. This technology allows homeowners to have the homes they want versus traditionally built homes. They do not print with concrete, eliminating the time needed to add rebar and let the concrete cure.

Mighty Buildings Trio
The Mighty Building Trio. Photo Credit: Mighty Buildings

What Is the "Mighty Kit System"?

Mighty Buildings have developed the "kit homes of the 21st century". Their Mighty Kit System incorporates 3D printed polymer composite panels and steel components to create a high-quality, low maintenance, and cost-competitive home. These kits offer near-zero waste technology and a streamlined build process.

Mighty Building Delivery
Mighty Building Hayward House Delivery. Photo Credit: Mighty Buildings

Does 3D House Printing Reduce Waste?

With Mighty Building's production process, they can eliminate over 90 percent of the waste typically found in the construction process. For a 1,200 square foot starter home in California, this is equivalent to avoiding about 1 tonne of carbon per unit. By 2028, Mighty Buildings aims to achieve carbon neutrality through improved material formulas. By conducting a life cycle assessment during the design phase, they can ensure that their designs become more and more sustainable. In fact, they are working on creating methods for disassembly and reuse, and they want the ability to grind up building materials at the end of their life and use them as a filler - creating a truly circular product.

Mighty Buildings Community Rendering
Rancho Mirage 3D Printed Community Rendering. Photo Credit: Mighty Buildings and EYRC Architects.

Rancho Mirage: 3D Printed Community

Mighty Buildings, the Palari Group, EYRC Architects, and Buro Happold Engineers are working together to design a 3D printed community in Palm Springs, California. This community will have 15 high-tech, sustainable homes. Each home will have three bedrooms and two bathrooms and will be under 1,500 square feet. Homes will incorporate healthy home technologies like circadian lighting and air filtration. They will have solar and Tesla Powerwalls that will produce as much energy as they use on-site in a year. Sam shared that there are plans for rainwater capturing and other features to improve sustainability. The goal for these homes is to be net-positive energy - in essence, the team wants the houses to generate green energy for the grid.

MB Cinco
The Mighty Cinco. Photo Credit: Mighty Buildings

The community's target audience is millennials who are environmentally and technologically conscious, as well as retirees. In addition, the community is targeting those in Silicon Valley with the rise of digital nomads and remote workers and those who simply want to live in and take advantage of the local beauty in Palm Springs.

Mighty Uno
The Mighty Uno. Photo Credit: Mighty Buildings

These 15 homes will be situated on five acres of land. Some units will have an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) that will allow for two more bedrooms. Each lot includes a swimming pool and optional features like hot tubs, outdoor showers, etc.

MB Cinco Deck
The Mighty Cinco Deck. Photo Credit: Mighty Buildings

What is The Future of 3D Printed Houses?

Houses are being reconceptualized, especially post-COVID. Instead of large, single structures, homes are more spread out in 'pods.' There is a need to reimagine what an apartment building looks like to ensure a sense of security and safety essential to a home. How might new technologies like 3D printing unlock new forms and shapes to address this new reality? Of course, time will tell.

Sam shares that he thinks we may be embarking on the golden era of 3D printing. He feels that it has a promising future that virtually no other technology has. There is not enough labor in the construction industry currently, and 3D printing can unlock productivity. The new generation of construction workers could be programmers that build in 3D and create beautiful, innovative forms that the building industry has not seen.

A significant part of the next steps in the industry will be standards and regulations. Currently, the world's first standard for 3D printing is being adopted as an appendix in the International Residential Code. In addition, the American Concrete Institute and others are working on updating concrete standards.

Mighty Quad
The Mighty Quatro. Photo Credit: Mighty Buildings

The Future for Mighty Buildings

What does the future look like for Mighty Buildings? They have many exciting goals for the next few years, as Sam shares. They are currently working with the International Code Council on developing new materials and planning to continue this work into certification. A new fiber-reinforced material that is moving into certification, in particular, will allow for multifamily units, vertical density, and urban infill. Focusing on urban infill will help to reduce urban sprawl.

Mighty Buildings is working on building relationships within the industry to help move the industry forward, continue developing standards, and ensure that 3D printing is done correctly. They want to provide guidance to building officials to help them embrace this new technology.

Here at Rise, we are looking forward to following along with Mighty Building's progress and seeing how the 3D printed housing industry advances over the next few years!

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-07-21T16:08:30+0000
Maria Saxton

Article by:

Maria Saxton

Located in Roanoke, Virginia, Maria Saxton holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Design and Planning from Virginia Tech. She works as an Environmental Planner and Housing Researcher for a local firm specializing in Community Planning, Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Historic Preservation. Her dissertation explored the environmental impacts of small-scale homes. She serves as a volunteer board member for the Tiny Home Industry Association.