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Local non-profit has an unorthodox plan to build affordable housing: 3D printing

A local non-profit in Santa Barbara County has an unorthodox idea for solving the county’s housing crisis — 3D printing.

The Housing Trust Fund of Santa Barbara County was searching for an innovative, low-cost and sustainable way to build affordable housing when they stumbled upon the idea of 3D printing a house.

“We were kind of excited about that because it had the potential to cut down the cost, and the time to create housing,” Jennifer McGovern, the President and CEO of the Housing Trust Fund said.

She said they use concrete rather than wood to build these homes, which creates a more climate-friendly, fire resistant structure — making the homes more sustainable in the long term.

The Housing Trust Fund teamed up with a company called Apis Cor to 3D-print a prototype of the house — which is done by a robot.
“There’s a translation that goes on where you take drawings of the architecture – how it all works, and that has to be translated by code and downloaded into the robotic arm,” McGovern said.

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The Housing Trust Fund of Santa Barbara County / Jennifer McGovern


The ground floor plan of The Housing Trust’s 3D printed affordable homes.

“So when they bring the robotic arm to the site, they just enter all the instructions and what to do. It’s pretty amazing.”

McGovern said they’ll be testing factors like timeliness and cost-efficiency.

“And then there’s another aspect of it as well given that we live in a fire prone area. We’re using reinforced concrete for the structure for the main walls,” McGovern said.

Over the years Santa Barbara County has experienced more frequent wildfires, with the most recent destroying over 1,000 structures. McGovern said they are hoping this new technology will help curb the amount of homes affected by wildfires.

But, their ultimate goal is to build cost-efficient affordable housing for the county, which is facing a housing crisis that gets worse every year. McGovern said the prototype is expected to be a small-one story home, finished by this fall.

For more information on the 3D printed affordable home project, visit sbhousingtrust.org.

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