Amazing Construction Process for Colorado’s Fastest Growing City
11 October 2023Construction, Digital Transformation, Sustainability3D Printing, automate, concrete houses, construction industry, construction technology, labor shortages, productivity, robotics, skilled trades, sustainable design, workforce development
To overcome the challenges in construction – labor, communications, supply chain, interest rates, budgets, safety, productivity, efficiency – it will take creative solutions on the part of forward-thinking leaders. Particularly vexing to construction company management is the lack of skilled workers that continues to plague the industry and impede its growth. In many cases, the work is there, but production is stymied by the lack of people to perform it.
In chipping away at the challenges, automation holds promise in helping address the labor shortage and productivity issues. Enter robotics and 3D printing.
As one example, a recent article in Environment Energy Leader reported that Alquist 3D construction company, which produces houses and other structures using 3D printing, is moving its headquarters to Greeley, Colorado. Alquist will be partnering with the City to create sustainable building infrastructure and affordable housing.
As are many Colorado cities, Greeley is facing an influx of population combined with a shortage of affordable housing. In August 2023, Realtor.com reported the average home price in Greeley was $450,000. According to SmartAsset.com, Greeley is the fastest growing city in Colorado, with a growth rate that is about double the state average. From 2021 to 2022, about 200,000 people a year moved to Colorado.
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Innovative construction solutions are widely needed, and the Alquist partnership with Greeley offers one.
In a first step, Alquist will be working alongside Aims Community College in Greeley to come up with 3D printed housing solutions. Compared to traditionally built structures, the buildings and infrastructure that will be 3D printed layer upon layer using Alquist’s proprietary concrete blend are expected to provide faster, more affordable alternatives. A recent BuiltIn blog referred to 3D printing, with the potential to mass produce housing, as evoking the sentiment, “too good to be true.” In addition, constructing 3D printed buildings is touted as involving lower carbon, reduced water and waste, and resulting in better fire and storm resistance and easier home maintenance.
The second part of the overall 3D printing construction plan will involve students at Aims actually building the robotic 3D printers that will be used. Aims announced in January 2023 that it has added an industrial technology certificate program in robotics. The Alquist-Aims partnership will include workforce development, including on-the-job training. Students will not only build the giant 3D printers but also learn to operate them through software controls, bolstering the skilled labor workforce. On its website, Alquist calls 3D printing a “gateway to getting young people back into the trades.”
The initial 3D printing construction project planned in Greeley will be on City infrastructure, including modular curbs and drainage. The printing of the components will be done at Aims in a new 25,000-square-foot manufacturing facility and transported to installation sites. For the 3D printing of the planned homes, Alquist will work with Greeley-Weld Habitat for Humanity beginning in 2024 to produce 100 of the 176 homes in the new 42-acre Hope Springs subdivision. Habitat for Humanity has a vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live, and the organization recently partnered with Graitec Group in its search for housing solutions.
To help the construction industry work through the challenges it faces, creative solutions will continue to be needed. Forward-thinking leadership is the key to helping the industry meet the productivity demands that are being placed upon it today and into the future.
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