Montana, a western United States state, made history by granting broad state level regulatory approval for 3D printing in construction. This means that it accepts 3D printed walls as an equal replacement for concrete masonry units (CMUs) or standard cored concrete blocks.
Tim Stark, a Billings, Montana-based contractor, received approval after submitting documents, specifications, and testing reports developed by Apis Cor, the Florida-based construction technology company that holds the Guinness World Record for the largest (volume) 3D printed building in the world.
3D printing in construction
Apis Cor has been a pioneer in 3D printing in construction industry in the United States, and it is the only construction company that has designed 3D printed walls that meet international building codes. Their 3D printed walls and material have been tested by an independent third-party lab in Boston, Massachusetts, as well as the University of Connecticut’s Civil and Environmental Engineering School. The National Fire Protection Association published the resulting specification (NFPA).
Several pilot homes in the United States and the United Arab Emirates have been completed by the company.
Tim Stark, a general contractor, sought permission to use Apis Cor’s 3D printing process and equipment for a housing development project in Billings and other areas of Montana, leveraging automation and materials to reduce production costs. A finished home printed with an Apis Cor printer can be up to 30% less expensive than a traditional concrete block or wood-framed house. In addition to cost savings, developers who lease Apis Cor’s portable, mobile 3D-printing equipment will significantly increase their production speed, allowing them to increase supply at a faster rate.
While housing prices have risen dramatically across the country in recent years, Montana has been hit harder than most other states as residents leave coastal cities in search of a better quality of life and lower costs of living. According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the average home price increase in Montana was 23.8% in 2021, compared to the national average of 17.4%.
Housing developers are eager to increase output to compensate for the two decades of underproduction that led to the housing crisis, but in many cases, red tape, excessive fees, and exclusionary zoning policies can artificially limit housing supply. In Montana, regulators are doing the exact opposite.
“In so many states, regulations are getting in the way of building more homes. I’m proud of my home state of Montana for being so forward-thinking and leading the way with this approval of 3D printing as a modern construction method on par to CMU block construction, which opens the door instead of closing it.”– Tim Stark, contractor based in Billings, Montana
The approval for 3D printing in construction applies not only to single-family dwellings, such as those planned by Stark, but to all types of construction that must adhere to the state building code. The code includes requirements for construction and construction materials to be consistent with accepted design, engineering, and fire prevention practices, as well as to use technology that reduces construction costs and promotes energy efficiency while still meeting health and safety standards.
“This is exciting news for all home builders and of course the 3D printed homes industry. Having this clear support from the state of Montana paves the way for faster decisions at the county level, which will make it easier for developers to move forward on their 3D printed housing projects. While the path is open in all states, Montana is taking a stand in advocating for the smooth approval process, thus opening up massive opportunities for efficiently produced housing.”– Anna Cheniuntai, Co-founder and CEO, Apis Cor
According to Laurie Esau Commissioner of Labor & Industry, “The need for safe, quality affordable housing is significant across Montana, and this approval puts Montana at the forefront of innovative housing construction technologies nationwide. The Department will continue to work to ensure that our standards and regulations are keeping pace with the innovation taking place in the industry to help facilitate new construction for Montana’s workers and families.”
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