Housing

Habitat for Humanity unveils 1st 3D-printed Tempe home

75% of the house was 3D-printed

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A Tempe couple with deep local roots recently received the keys to their brand-new home across the street from Clark Park.

The twist: most of the house was built using a giant 3D printer, the first of its kind in Arizona. 

Dusty Parsons, director of marketing and media for Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona, said 75% of the house was printed out of laticrete, a “fancy concrete.” It makes for a very sustainable house for Shawn and Marcus Shivers, the new homeowners. 

“We want to be able to print homes more efficiently, more affordably and more sustainably, with less waste,” he said.”This home in Tempe, we're going to go for LEED Platinum certification. The walls have a small chase running down the middle of them, so we print the inside and the outside of the wall and it's foam insulated on the inside. We think that Shawn and Marcus’ utility bills will be very,very low.”

Parsons said Habitat was approached in fall 2019 by two Arizona State University students about the innovative project in hopes of addressing Tempe’s needs for affordable housing. The students then connected Habitat with PERI, a German engineering company in the thick of building a 3D-printed house in Europe. Talks began to bring the concept to the U.S., and Parsons said all systems were a go by spring 2020. Of course, plans were delayed by the pandemic, but eventually were able to get underway. 

It may not be the only 3D-printed home for Habitat across the U.S., but it does go further than any other concept for the nonprofit. 

“We were the first to get started in the U.S.,” said Parsons. “There's another 3D-printed home at Habitat Virginia. They did one as well, but they only printed the exterior walls, whereas we printed all the walls including the interior walls.”

Parsons said Habitat relied on the generosity of partners to make the project happen, including Candelaria Design, which put together the plans that would show of the capabilities of the printer. It also required significant buy-in from the city of Tempe, he said. 

“We brought in some of their engineers in a year of zoom calls,” said Parsons. “We brought them in early enough that during the process, during the design phase and the implementation phase,  they were able to help us spot problems early on. So just having them involved from the get-go was just super important.”

The house was built in layers using the giant PERI printer. Three one-ton columns were set up on either side of a slab and the printer was connected to beams while a mix of laticrete and water was fed into a hose attached to the printer’s head to construct the walls.

Plans controlled by an engineer with a laptop were fed into the machine so the printer would have something to follow. The process was slow-but-steady because of the May heat, according to Parsons. 

Hometown for all

LeVon Lamy, deputy human services director-housing for the city of Tempe, said the city and Habitat for Humanity have been partners for more than 30 years, so collaborating on this innovative house was a no-brainer. 

“Habitat’s work has been vital in not only increasing affordable housing opportunities in Tempe but also providing emergency home repairs to those in need so residents can remain in their homes,” he said. “The city previously partnered with Habitat on another ground-breaking project, the Tempe Parkview Townhomes, which maximized a 1-acre lot with modern three-story townhomes.

The house was built on a parcel of land Tempe purchased for affordable housing. As part of the city’s Affordable Housing Strategy, Tempe is looking to add approximately 11,000 affordable units by 2040. That means working with partners, including nonprofits, to find alternative solutions like this one.

“Tempe purchased the land using federal funds to expand affordable housing and sold the parcel to Habitat for a nominal cost,” said Lamy. “Habitat is building four homes on the site – the 3D home and three traditional build homes.”

New homeowners Shawn and Marcus Shivers are from Tempe. They applied for Habitat’s program after hearing about it on a newscast just as their lease was coming to an end. With the city’s rental rates skyrocketing, the couple, who currently live with two of their three sons, were looking out in Coolidge but dreading the commute, according to Parsons. They’re thrilled to be able to stay in Tempe with Habitat’s help. 

Habitat looks for three things in a family it builds housing for: they must have a demonstrated need for affordable housing, a willingness to partner with Habitat and put in 400 hours of sweat equity on their own home or someone else’s, and they have to be able to pay back an affordable mortgage, which is a no-interest loan with Habitat. 

The Shivers were a great fit and more than willing to partner with Habitat on the venture. 

“They're in a position where they're really ready to have their own place and they're so excited,” said Parsons. 

Though neither Habitat nor Tempe have plans to build another 3D-printed home soon, it’s a significant step in finding sustainable, affordable solutions for a quickly growing Valley. 

“Through Hometown for All and our Affordable Housing Strategy, we’re also looking at other funding streams and different partnerships to expand affordable and workforce housing and the 3D project fits perfectly into our desire to innovate and find new solutions,” said Lamy. 

Tempe, Arizona, Phoenix, Maricopa County, Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona, 3D printing, affordable housing, sustainability