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Could 3D printing technology help solve the UK housing crisis?

Debates surrounding the housing crisis in the UK have been ongoing for a while. There seems to be a never-ending list of complications and causes. But what’s the solution?

Some have been pointing to 3D printing as an exciting opportunity to resolve the issues with supply. In this article, we’ll discuss if this technology could be a viable solution.

Why is the UK’s housing market struggling?

With property values nearly doubling since 2009, rent prices reaching an all-time high, and fierce competition in both markets, the UK is simply struggling to provide enough affordable housing.

Add falling real wages and an inadequate supply of new homes into the mix, it’s clear to see why there have been talks of a crisis for years.

Solving it has been a topic of debate in government and wider society, with different stakeholders alluding to a variety of causes and potential solutions.

In terms of increasing the supply of new housing, finding more affordable and efficient methods to do so could be an interesting concept to explore. Enter, 3D printing…

Why is 3D printing revolutionary?

3D printing technology enables the creation of structures using a layering process. It was first used to create components and small objects, but the technology has now been upscaled to the stage where it can build housing.

It’s not yet possible to print a finished home, but the technology is already being used to create foundations, walls and roofs in an incredibly efficient way. This approach can cut the cost, time and environmental impact of house building to a fraction of traditional methods.

3D printing is an exciting prospect because of the potential impacts it could have in solving the supply shortage problem with new housing.

What are the complications?

While it’s exciting and awe-inspiring technology, there are a few obstacles that still need to be overcome.

First is the issue of building regulations and slow-changing industry dynamics. The relevant authorities (including the government) are responsible for setting building codes and standards to ensure the safety of everyone involved. The integration of 3D printing methods is likely to be a slow process, if it’s even approved by regulators in the UK.

Another issue is the materials that can be used with this technology. Currently, there are limited options including plastics, resins and concrete. In the UK’s unpredictable and varying weather conditions, finding the right materials to regulate warmth, cold and precipitation will be crucial. Will homes need insulation in the roof or walls? Will they be energy efficient once built? Many questions still need answering for this climate.

The construction industry itself doesn’t have the skills and workforce available to utilise 3D printing for the mass market yet. Only the structure can be printed, meaning that specialists will still have to work around these elements to install plumbing, electricals and other vital systems. The introduction of these methods will require upskilling and retraining for skilled labourers.


The UK is not quite ready for 3D printing to solve the housing supply crisis, but it may be a prominent approach in the future. Would you live in a 3D-printed house?