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Looking For A Building? Print It!

March 27, 2019

The 3D printing revolution is on the horizon and the technology is already impacting construction and CRE

Although it was developed in 1984, it took until quite recently for 3D printing to become part of our everyday vernacular. In recent years, its use has grown by leaps and bounds – from printing artificial limbs and organs to weapons to food. It seems that the only thing that might hold back 3D technology from here is lack of imagination.

That’s why it’s time for anyone interested in CRE to pay attention. While experts debate how long it will take for 3D printing to become a viable, common technology in the real estate business, there is no doubt that it will – and that it is set to have an impact on all aspects of the industry.

The 3D printing future is playing out now

When it comes to engineering and design, 3D printing was once considered a novelty act – a tool to create three-dimensional models of future projects that clients could examine from all sides – and household décor items. Printers, though, have gotten quite a bit larger and the technology has jumped forward.

Using a technique called “additive building” or “additive manufacturing,” the 3-D printer scans a blueprint of a structure, and then “prints” with a soft concrete that is applied in stacked layers. Around the world, construction and technology firms have joined forces to make this technology possible, and nations are taking notice:

  • China: In 2015, a 3D printed apartment building was constructed at a rate of one floor per day for $160,000.
  • Japan: In less than 45 days, a Japanese-based firm constructed a 4,305 square-foot 3D printed concrete house that could reportedly withstand an 8.0-magnitude earthquake.

  • Dubai: Perhaps because of the available capital to invest in the technology, innovation here is the greatest. It’s home to the world’s first 3D printed office building – completed in 17 days. In addition, with the help of a 20’ tall, 120’ long, 40’ wide 3D printer, a 2,700 square-foot office space was created on the campus of the Museum of the Future. Government officials are so taken with the technology that they have committed to the goal of 25% of Dubai’s buildings being 3D printed by 2030.

  • As a result of these projects, numerous other countries from Egypt to Haiti to El Salvador are all embarking on 3D printing projects to solve housing crises and build in difficult-to-reach locations where traditional construction methods are impossible at best.

3D printing on the home front

In the United States, 3D printing has been relegated to specific projects, such as efforts to restore the facades of historic buildings in NYC or as exhibition projects on college campuses. Much of this is because the long-range vision for 3D technology has outpaced what already exists. While some imagine a future of entire 3D-printed communities filled with homes for less than $4,000, there simply is not a system in place for field inspections and building codes to ensure a project’s structural, electrical, and plumbing integrity.

There’s also the matter of jobs. 3D printing is sure to cause a disruption in the job market, particularly in the construction field. While there will be a greater need for designers, engineers, and innovators, many construction workers will have to be re-trained to be incorporated into this new field or find work in other areas.

3D printing and the real estate industry

Similarly, the real estate industry will also have to adapt to a 3D future. As the technology becomes more cost effective and readily available, professionals will have to understand the technology and help clients to also envision 3D possibilities – from new construction to remodels to interiors.

At the same time, available properties will also undergo a transformation. Some retail properties, for example, will only need to house a 3D printer and it’s supplies for print-on-demand products; everything from housewares to furniture to whatever else one can imagine. Similarly, small industrial properties and warehouses may again be re-purposed, this time into local 3D printing centers or storage and fulfillment facilities.

If all of this sounds like the stuff of some far-fetched sci-fi film, Morris Southeast Group would like to remind everyone that it wasn’t so long ago that virtual reality just seemed like a neat gimmick. Today, it can be a necessity for a real estate deal. Similarly, e-commerce has radically reshaped CRE as well as commerce as a whole in a relatively short time. This is why we keep an eye on the future while providing top-notch service and investment advice in the present. To learn more about property investment opportunities, and/or our other services in South Florida, call Morris Southeast Group at 954.474.1776. You can also reach Ken Morris directly at 954.240.4400 or via email at kenmorris@morrissegroup.com.

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