tl;dr: when buildings are the outputs of 3d printing, a lot more changes than just the construction materials.
Dubai recently announced that they had successfully 3d printed the world’s largest building.
It’s an impressive feat and it took 17 days and reduced the costs by an estimated 50%.
Seth Godin had a post, Cars, houses and TVs that reviewed the changes in each of those industries over the past few years. Basically, cars and houses haven’t changed all that much. Definitely some efficiency improvements, but nothing like the dramatic change in purchasing power that consumers of TV have witnessed during that time.
I heard an ad for an 82 inch TV the other day for under $2,000 (we’ll leave out inflation for now).
When you see computers and networks show up in an industry, it’s easy to predict what will happen next.
Now, we are seeing computers and networks show up in the construction industry.
Predicting the Future of Construction
Though it may not be easy for me to predict what is going to happen next, we can certainly speculate. And that’s half the fun, right? So here we go.
Building Designs Stored on Blockchains
As we discussed in September, blockchains should be the economic substrate for a global 3d printing industry.
Basically what this means is that ANYONE can be an architect and design a building.
A design can be uploaded to the Internet with IP rights protected and the creator can receive compensation for it.
The disruption of architects?
New Insurance Industries to Verify and Certify Designs
While anyone can be an architect, that doesn’t mean anyone is a good architect. So, we’ll need a way to certify that designs are safe and can withstand certain elements (e.g. the heat in Dubai).
For this, I could see a Nexus Mutual-like decentralized insurance model. Other architects and engineers around the world will be able to stake their money and reputation that a design is safe (or not). In return, they will receive the insurance premiums from the owners. Or, alternatively, they will collectively cover the losses.
This will help buyers of homes determine which 3d print designs in the online home catalog are safe to buy.
The disruption of centralized building engineers?
Construction Material Supply Chain Shock
There’s an entire supply chain that gets the raw materials from the fields into the contractors and home builders’ hands. Instead, the teams with the industrial scale 3d printers will get 3d ink materials shipped to the construction site via UPS/FedEx.
Home Depot and contractors get affected here.
Laborer Market Impacted
Unskilled laborers who currently work to assemble various parts of new construction will have reduced demand for their services, since much of what they previously did will be printed instead.
New Types of Construction Companies
Where large cranes and heavy machinery once reigned supreme, the owners of industrial 3d printing devices that can quickly mix and match materials will offer faster, cheaper, “on-demand” construction. Imagine deciding you want an addition to your house on a Saturday night, going online, picking out a design and then having the room 3d printed in your yard on Monday. Oh, then on Tuesday, the furniture will be printed. By Thursday, you’re living in it. All at a fraction of the cost.
Faster and Cheaper Temporary Buildings and Shelters
Printing costs will get so low that you could 3d print an extra room for an event or for your family on Thanksgiving. That may take a while, but this will certainly come in handy in places with affordable housing crises and large number of refugees.
More Eco-Friendly Building
Not only will we reduce emissions from the transports of the supplies, but we’ll use materials that can be recycled, reducing carbon footprint. Heck, a building could be composted. I can’t find the link right now, but I saw something about this recently.
Whether these are right, wrong, or in-between doesn’t really matter. What does matter is the fact that the ability to 3d print a building is going to change something. And probably in a big way.
Computers and networks have shown up.