A newly launched Oakland company is offering 3D-printed homes — ranging from a studio model to a three-bedroom plan — that can be built with 95% fewer labor costs at twice the speed of conventional construction.
Mighty Buildings is specifically targeting the prefab cottages to consumers in California, a state with runaway housing prices.
The company said property owners want to build accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, to rent to tenants to generate income, keep aging parents near, or to use as dedicated office space in the new work-from-home environment.
“We are finding that these (customers) are a combination of homeowners with some extra backyard space who would like to have a contained, private environment for living and working on their property,” said Sam Ruben, co-founder and chief sustainability officer, in an email to The Bee.
This year, California changed the permitting process for ADUs, exempting units less than 750 square feet from local impact fees.
“We see going direct … to consumers in order to take advantage of changes to California regulations since 2017 that have streamlined the permitting process,” Ruben said.
In January, Placer County approved an update to its fee schedule for ADUs to align it with the new law. The change can amount to $15,000 in savings per unit.
Mighty Buildings offers six models ranging from a 350-square-foot studio (starting at $115,000) to a 1,440-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath home (priced up to $285,000). The company offers turnkey, end-to-end services from permitting to installation. Homeowners also have the option to buy prefabricated kits or customized components.
“As far as labor, we save 95% of the labor time, working with half as many people, and with one-tenth of the materials waste as compared to traditional construction,” Ruben said. “Compared to comparable units built here in California with traditional methods we are currently up to 45% lower in cost and will be able to achieve 20% to 30% savings over traditional prefab as well.”
Buyers face the additional standard costs of any construction project, such as site work and permitting.
The startup so far has delivered a one-bedroom Mighty Duo unit in San Diego and a Mighty Studio in San Ramon.
“We have three additional units on our floor awaiting delivery as soon as site work is completed, plus an additional 16 contracts ready to go into production,” Ruben said.
The company isn’t the first to use 3D printers to build homes. For example, Austin-based ICON claims it’s the first company in the United States to secure a building permit for and build a 3D printed home. That was in 2018.
Mighty Buildings launched in August with $30 million in funding from Khosla Ventures, Y Combinator and other investors, according to a company representative.
The builder doesn’t use concrete, but makes its homes out of Light Stone, a composite material that hardens when exposed to UV light. For exterior walls, the panels are covered in a fire-resistant screen.
The company is starting with ADUs but plans to soon expand to full-sized houses and other buildings.
“In the future we plan to expand into larger multi-story, multi-family capabilities as well,” Ruben said.
The company’s future plans, in short, are global, he added.
“More specifically, we are actively working with a network of developers, builders, technologists, and other businesses and institutions around the world to systematize our technology and processes — essentially, taking what we do here in Oakland and making it readily available across the country and around the planet,” Ruben said.
“Not only will localities be able to make housing and other structures affordably and sustainably, but they’ll also be better able to respond quickly to unexpected needs in the face of any uncertainty. These printing hubs can be set up in a relatively small footprint allowing them to take advantage of existing warehouse space rather than needing large, bespoke facilities.”
The Oakland facility alone could create more than 300 of these dwellings per year, Ruben estimates.
Ruben said the ADUs could also be used to help address the homeless population.
“Because of our lower costs and ability to build rapidly, it’s entirely possible to use our designs and methods to address the problem of access to housing,” he said. “Naturally, however, regulatory and zoning constraints would need to be addressed as well.”