Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg Dedicates Nation’s First-Ever 3D Printed Habitat Home to Williamsburg Family
When Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg dedicates a new home to a family, it always signifies a special occasion, but the Dec. 21, 2021, ribbon-cutting marked a national milestone.
The three-bedroom home with two full baths is the first-ever completed 3D printed Habitat house in the nation, and the gallery in attendance on the first day of winter in a Williamsburg subdivision reflected the culmination of the community partnerships that made it happen. Representatives from Habitat for Humanity International, elected and public officials, local businesses, media, volunteers and supporters weathered the chilly morning to commemorate the achievement just four days before Christmas.
New homebuyer April stood alongside the podium in front of her new home with her 13-year-old son beside her, while Janet V. Green, CEO of Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg, welcomed speaker after speaker. Each congratulated the family and welcomed them to the innovative house that used concrete in lieu of lumber to print the exterior walls.
When it was finally April’s turn to say a few words, the Surry native searched to find her voice while stopping to wipe away tears of joy.
“My son and I are so thankful,” she said. “I always wanted to be a homeowner. It’s a dream come true.”
April logged 300 sweat equity or volunteer hours, one of the requirements of the Habitat Homebuyer Program. Some were spent actually helping the crew on the construction site and others were recorded at the Habitat ReStore in Williamsburg. April, employed full time for five years at a nearby hotel, will pay the no-interest mortgage back to the local Habitat affiliate — funds earmarked to go toward building future homes for qualified families.
“Many people think Habitat gives homes away; we don’t,” Green stressed. “We sell homes to families with low to moderate incomes.”
Habitat homebuyers must have income between 45-80% of the area median income, excellent credit and the ability to pay for their new Habitat home. Habitat homes are sold at no profit with a zero-interest equivalent, 20- to 30-year mortgage.
Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg partnered with Alquist for a project that started on a hot day in July with the groundbreaking. The construction crew printed the 1,200 square foot home in 28 hours — reducing the standard construction schedule by at least four weeks.
Alquist’s use of concrete for the walls saved an estimated 15% per square foot in building costs. Concrete better retains temperature, saving on heating and cooling costs, and is more resistant to tornado and hurricane damage.
Zachary Mannheimer, Founder and CEO of Alquist, and Andrew McCoy, Director of the Virginia Center for Housing Research and Associate Director of the Myers-Lawson School of Construction at Virginia Tech, are two of the visionaries behind the project.
Virginia Tech’s proprietary Raspberry Pi-based monitoring system will be utilized in the home to track and maintain indoor environment data to enable a series of smart building applications. McCoy added that April should enjoy low utility bills while still maintaining comfort. The home will be outfitted with solar panels for even more cost savings after the family moves in.
Mannheimer lauded the Commonwealth of Virginia for having the foresight and courage to proceed with the 3D printed home.
“What you see…is four years of blood, sweat and tears of figuring out how to make this happen,” he said. “Virginia is the leader in 3D printing home construction, hands down.”
Alquist installs a 3D printer in the kitchen of every home it builds. April will receive a downloadable computer file that will allow her to print knobs, light switch covers and other replaceable parts with her very own 3D printer.
Del. Marcia Price (VA-HD 95), a member of the local nonprofit’s Board of Directors, read greetings from Gov. Ralph Northam. In those remarks, Northam commended Habitat for Humanity for its leadership, noting the importance of building affordable housing. “We cannot address this need alone, and it takes a village,” he said. “On behalf of a grateful Commonwealth, I am very thankful for the role you play lifting up all our villages.”
Congressional staffer Erin Carter represented Sen. Mark Warner at the event, and Sen. Tim Kaine provided a letter of congratulations to the family.
Numerous other public officials in the audience included several from the James City County Board of Supervisors; Baxter Carter, Chief of Staff for Sen. Monty Mason; and Del. Amanda Batten (VA-HD 96).
“I can’t imagine a better Christmas gift,” said Batten, calling the home “a source of stability and joy” for the family.
Mannheimer conducted Habitat’s traditional dedication ceremony before the customary ribbon cutting. April and her son snipped the ribbon together before welcoming the visitors to tour their new home.
“This is all for my son,” she said. “If you truly believe in something, keep trying and you can do it.”
Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg raised funds for the house with the help of generous sponsors, a community crowdfunding campaign and its charity golf tournament.