Three Case Studies For More Affordable, Scalable Housing

The shortage of reasonably priced housing choices world wide is driving extra curiosity in modern ideas that may rethink design and course of in methods that may drive down prices.

A latest panel dialogue on the 2023 SXSW convention in Austin introduced collectively three of these innovators to share insights on reducing prices with new, sensible options that, very importantly, might be dropped at scale.

Transferring Offsite

Joe Wheeler is the co-director on the heart for design analysis at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State College, and thru 30 years of expertise he has helped the trade at giant together with his involvement in a number of idea initiatives and by educating his college students to discover design for sustainability with international award-winning Photo voltaic Decathlon initiatives.

He additionally has been ready to make use of his experience to assist a number of builders ship merchandise to the market. Considered one of them is Virginia-based builder Van Metre. By transferring all its development offsite, the product he delivered with Van Metre arrives to the job website at $100 per sq. foot on a brand new, sensible townhome—a considerable distinction in comparison with the nationwide common of greater than $240 per sq. foot.

He says the mixture of intelligent house planning and eradicating on-site inefficiencies have been the 2 keys to getting the product to lower than $100 per sq. foot. But, these adjustments don’t come with out friction.

“The trades are so resistant to vary,” Wheeler mentioned. “They add hundreds to a undertaking after they see one thing new or totally different.”

In one other undertaking, he’s targeted on a scalable catastrophe aid dwelling that’s each hurricane and twister resistant. To develop that resiliency, he’s utilizing a patented carbon impartial concrete.


Rick Murdock is the co-founder and CEO at Idaho-based modular constructing firm Autovol that’s engaged on multistory initiatives with a extremely automated course of. The corporate invested closely in automation to create efficiencies and to due to this fact decrease prices.

Robots work alongside the corporate’s “solutioneers” to construct 5 wood-frame modules per day that may be linked collectively in as much as a five-story residential constructing. All of the mechanical, engineering and plumbing, together with the cleanup work, is dealt with by human contact, or the solutioneers.

“We delivered our first modular undertaking and it was inside one-eighth of an inch on tolerance for a five-story constructing,” Murdock mentioned. “You possibly can see an incredible distinction in high quality of labor and high quality of construction.”

The delivered product averages about $140 per sq. foot, so the efficiencies are creating huge price financial savings. Plus, 100 modular models might be set in two weeks, bringing extra reasonably priced housing on-line at a tempo that’s critically essential contemplating immediately’s demand.

Murdock is passionately dedicated to bringing extra reasonably priced housing on-line, which he’s doing with Autovol, along with his different enterprise endeavors that go with the method. He has based a enterprise to instruct on the right way to create a producing facility and one other that instructs the right way to construct the modules. Proper now, these enterprises are within the means of designing seven new crops for different housing builders, one other big increase to scale for the wanted provide.

“Multifamily housing would be the best want as a result of most individuals can’t afford single household,” he mentioned.

3D Printing

Alexey Dubov serves because the COO and co-founder at California-based Mighty Buildings, an modern 3D printing, prefab begin up that’s utilizing new processes to optimize high quality and velocity. The corporate has launched a proprietary materials that’s 60% recycled and the remaining is aggregates that’s used to print panelized partitions, flooring, and ceilings.

The manufacturing course of is concentrated on panels, plus there are robotics to fill within the insulation, and different machining for connectors between panels. A singular function of the 3D printing course of is that it supplies a chance to create new designs and discover new geometries.

Whereas within the manufacturing unit, low voltage wiring is prerouted within the panels, so no electrician is required. By the point all of this is dropped at the job website, all that’s wanted is 2 coatings of primer and paint. In a latest undertaking, the onsite work solely took two days for a two-bedroom, two-bath dwelling.

With the improved course of and new supplies, the worth is just like typical initiatives at between $300 and $350 per sq. foot; nevertheless, as a result of superior supplies, the product is greater high quality and is anticipated to have a life span of about 75 years.

Mighty Buildings now has two factories on-line – one in Oakland, California, and one other in Monterrey, Mexico. The factories can come on-line and be producing panels inside three months. Dubov says the break even for the funding within the manufacturing unit is a mere 300 houses, which is a key gateway for the innovation to scale.


These three change brokers imagine that the method of constructing houses in factories might be inseparable sooner or later.

Watch the complete SXSW session to study extra about how these leaders take into consideration sustainability, labor and different sizzling matters.

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