Pulaski sees housing future in 3D
Like communities around Virginia, the town of Pulaski faces housing demand far outpacing supply.
“We don’t have enough housing in our area,” says Town Manager Darlene Burcham. “So many of the people who work in our area don’t live in the community.”
One way Pulaski hopes to grow inventory is by working with Iowa-based home builder Alquist 3D to construct houses using 3D-printing technology. Alquist is building two houses on Pierce Avenue, the first of 200 it plans to build in Virginia over the next five years.
Burcham hopes these will be the first two of many in town. She’s talked with executives about other possible parcels.
Using 3D printing for exteriors can shave weeks off a standard construction schedule, reduce jobsite waste and cut building costs by 15%, according to Alquist. The process also allows builders to be less reliant on the volatile lumber market.
Completion depends on how quickly Alquist can purchase hot commodities like windows and doors. “We have the same supply chain issue that every other home builder has,” says Alquist founder and CEO Zachary Mannheimer.
Obtaining concrete to build the homes’ exterior walls won’t be a problem, he says, because Alquist uses a proprietary construction “ink.”
One house in Pulaski will be a model, and the other will be sold in the $200,000 range, Mannheimer estimates. The two houses will be single-story, 1,300-square-foot homes with three bedrooms and two baths.
Alquist’s path to Pulaski began when Mannheimer connected with Andrew McCoy, director of the Virginia Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech.
Alquist and VCHR built a test home in Richmond with a $500,000 grant from Virginia Housing. They printed external walls last summer, but a few things need to be completed before it is sold.
While talking with housing officials who worked on the test home and another in Williamsburg, Mannheimer heard about several rural communities, including Pulaski, seeking to increase housing supply.
Initially, Alquist planned to build 200 homes
in Southwest Virginia, but plans evolved once word got out. Now, Mannheimer says, as many as half the homes will be in the region, which fits Alquist’s mission to provide housing in economically distressed and underserved areas.
“Smaller communities [are] where we believe the future of innovation lies,” Mannheimer says. “These towns have been overlooked for decades. They have lots of needs, and they have lots of opportunity.”