California Grant 3D-Printed Housing Efforts by Mighty Buildings

Mighty Buildings, based in Oakland, California, along with partners spearheaded by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) in Berkeley, has secured a $5 million GFO-22-305 grant from the California Energy Commission. This grant will aid the collaborative efforts in creating, testing, and showcasing cost-effective modular 3D-printed homes with zero or near-zero carbon emissions. The focus is on facilitating swift deployment, particularly in underserved communities.

According to Composites World, the companies intend to develop three advanced prefabricated low-carbon townhouses in Bay Point, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area, which will benefit low-income families (80% AMI or less) via partner Habitat for Humanity. Mighty Buildings will construct the homes’ walls using its 3D printing technology at its Oakland factory, and construction assembly is expected to be completed within a few days at the site location. The project’s research aims to drive long-term value in affordability, sustainability, resilience and speed of construction via new features that can positively transform the industry, including:

  • A “cool room” concept: Using solar PV paired with a small battery, in tandem with a highly efficient envelope design and equipment, the homes will each feature a high-efficiency, mini-split heat pump system. The “cool rooms” will reduce peak loads by shifting to low-power operation during times of acute grid stress, and by shifting the peak load from a concentrated single-peak period in the evening to multiple scattered-peak periods throughout the day. The goal will be to provide greater resilience through events like power outages and extreme temperature events while generating more consistent billing cycles and a 10-year lower total cost of ownership (TCO);
  • Advanced 3D printing manufacturing techniques: The project aims to introduce new methods of off-site 3D printing manufacturing, as well as a new energy-efficient panel, which are expected to have the highest level of off-site completion in the industry, according to the company;
  • On-site structural/waterproofing test kits: Advanced testing equipment will be introduced to the manufacturing site, serving to accelerate innovation and certification cycle times;
  • Energy and general manufacturing cost model: LBNL plans to develop a first-of-its-kind model based on Mighty Buildings manufacturing inputs that could be applied more broadly toward future projects using prefab, modular and panelized industry solutions;
  • Training program: In collaboration with Mighty Buildings, Habitat for Humanity will create an in-person and digital training program to upskill labor and teach the basics of panelized prefab construction;
  • Reduced 10-year TCO: The homes will target a 25% reduction in costs against a similarly sized home based on their zero-carbon and near zero-carbon footprints over a 10-year period, helping to pave a path for more affordable and resilient modular homeownership from underserved communities. The partners anticipate that these savings will grow to as much as 35% when scaled on larger projects.

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