A car-building robot constructs 3D-printed house of the future: ‘A potential replacement for traditional stick-built construction’

In September, a Detroit architect and Citizen Robotics joined forces to create a 3D-printed home.

It was the city’s first of its kind and debuted at the annual Month of Design.

The 1,000-square-foot cottage in Islandview has two bedrooms, stucco siding, a front porch, and a pitched roof framed with wood, according to Dwell.

Photo Credit: Citizen Robotics / Dwell
Photo Credit: Citizen Robotics / Dwell

The walls include a timber frame that can be removed after the walls are tested for load-bearing capacity, and the roof features sustainable foam panels and engineered wood.

It took five days to print the home with a robot refurbished from an automotive factory in Chicago, and it was finished in a day and half at the site. It cost “slightly” more to build than a conventional house, Dwell reported, but Citizen Robotics hopes to match or beat the price of stick-built homes per square foot.

Founded by father and daughter Tom and Evelyn Woodman, Citizen Robotics is aiming for the up-front construction costs to be lower, and it also has a goal to improve thermal efficiency so owners can save on heating and cooling bills.

“We use all off-the-shelf components for our setup because we want this to be something that’s super replicable. Nothing is proprietary,” not even the concrete mix, Evelyn Woodman said, according to Dwell. “And in the Midwest, there’s a huge market for these used robots. Once automotive companies have used them for nine years, they usually just throw them out.”

The architect, Bryan Cook, also sees an opening for people in the Motor City to work in highly  skilled tech jobs alongside house-building robots.

“Being Black architects, we’re usually getting the technology last, so I was incredibly excited to be at the forefront of something new with huge potential,” he told Dwell.

3D-printed homes are gaining traction around the world.

Icon, based in Austin, Texas, has been manufacturing homes since 2018, and in November, the company began construction with builder Lennar on a 100-unit neighborhood, which would be the largest such community in North America.

Last year, Serendix printed a house in less than 24 hours. The Japanese startup — which is looking to more than triple its building capability to 850 homes by next year — recently erected a 538-square-foot house for $37,600, according to Fast Company. The median cost of a residence in the United States is $430,300.

The Citizen Robotics house “will be sold at a price aligned with the neighborhood’s median income of $49,700,” according to Dwell.

The built environment accounts for 39% of global heat-trapping gases, and building materials and construction makes up 11% of that. The remaining 28% comes from the operation of the buildings.

“Citizen Robotics’ mission is to try to disrupt [the homebuilding] industry,” said Cook, principal and founder of Develop Architecture. “They want to become a potential replacement for traditional stick-built construction.

“If we are able to do this not only efficiently but effectively, 3D printing will bring stability, sustainability, and great design to the housing industry,” added Cook.

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