Nonprofit will make 3D-printed homes amid housing shortage

A Maine nonprofit that assists low- and moderate-income families will have nine 3D-printed houses made out of recyclable materials to help address the state’s affordable housing shortage.

Penquis is partnering with the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center and MaineHousing and received $3.3 million in state, federal and private funding to make the project a reality.

The new homes, which will be placed in the Bangor region, will provide housing for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness and help combat the state’s estimated shortage of 20,000 to 25,000 affordable rental units, according to Penquis.

“New solutions are needed to address the housing affordability crisis in Maine,” Jason Bird, Penquis’ director of housing development, said in a statement Tuesday. “One of the greatest challenges is the cost and slow pace of housing construction. This project is investigating ways to create units more quickly and inexpensively, as well as more sustainably.”

The University of Maine will print nine homes using a mix of recycled plastic and wood fiber waste from the Maine woods. The first-of-its-kind technology, developed by the university, can print the entire structure including the walls, floors and roof, and the homes can be fully recycled.

The bedroom of the University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center’s 3D printed home at its unveiling, Nov. 21, 2022. (Sawyer Loftus | BDN)

Previous 3D-printed houses used concrete, which has limited construction seasons in colder climates and can only print the walls of the structure.

“The University of Maine and Penquis’ production of the first 3D-printed house is a transformational achievement that lays the foundation for the future of affordable housing,” U.S. Sen. Angus King said. “As the state and nation face a serious housing shortage, this funding will build on the success of the BioHome3D project and support Penquis’ 21st-century approach to housing construction.”

UMaine will create the homes in phases over four years in its Factory of the Future laboratory, allowing time to evaluate and modify the home’s design based on housing performance, cost and feedback from the people who live in it. The goal is to optimize the home’s design and minimize cost in order to make this new type of construction commercially viable.

UMaine engineers unveiled their first “BioHome3.” a 3D-printed house that is completely derived from waste woods, in late November 2022. University and state leaders heralded the creation as something that could decrease Maine’s housing shortage while using materials that are completely recyclable and renewable.

The bathroom of the University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center’s 3D printed home at its unveiling, Nov. 21, 2022. (Sawyer Loftus | BDN)

The model UMaine created was a simple one-bedroom, one-bathroom with a combined kitchen and living room and totaled about 600 square feet. It was designed to meet the needs for low-income, affordable housing outlined by Maine State Housing Authority.

“Our state is facing a housing crisis that will take ingenuity and creative thinking to solve,” Gov. Janet Mills said. “Thankfully, that’s exactly what we’re seeing in this collaborative partnership with Penquis, the University of Maine and MaineHousing. By scaling up UMaine’s pioneering BioHome3D technology for use in the greater Bangor area, we are taking a positive step forward in building more housing and in supporting our economy.”

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