Los Angeles-based Azure specializes in accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, which typically sit next to or behind a main residence on the same lot. Its designs are highly modern: glass walls, recessed lighting, and pocket doors give each unit a penthouse vibe despite sitting in another home’s backyard. But the company’s aesthetic choices aren’t what command attention. It’s the way in which its units are built.
Azure uses a large 3D printer to produce each unit’s structural skeleton, exterior sheathing, water control barrier, exterior finish, utility passageways, and the grounding for interior finishes. This is typically done in 20 hours or less. It’s at this point that functional and creative touches can be added, like cabinets and faux wood paneling. According to a report by Business Insider, more than 60 percent of the material used during Azure’s 3D printing process consists of recycled plastic polymer, which is typically found in water bottles and food packaging. Most ADUs are hooked up to their destination lots’ utility lines within 3 days.
Whether Azure’s units can be considered affordable really depends on the nuances of one’s personal situation. A 120-square foot, one-room backyard studio starts at $24,900, while a 180-square foot ADU (with its own bathroom and kitchenette) starts at $39,900. The ADU floor plans are quite varied, with two-bedroom units running just under $200,000. In a way, these are good prices—residences at this price point are difficult to find in the US these days, at least without sacrificing aesthetics or quality. Unlike buying a traditional home, however, these units don’t have baked-in land to sit on. Customers need to have a place to plop their unit, and whether financially or by convincing a family member to give up part of their lot, that’s easier said than done.
3D printed homes aren’t entirely new. Last year Habitat for Humanity provided its first-ever 3D printed house, a 1,200-square foot residence in Virginia, to a single mother and her 13-year-old son. (The home even came with its own 3D printer, in case the family ever needed to replace any of the original structure’s elements.) Just a few months earlier, Florida permitted its first 3D-printed building for residential use. Still, Azure could become a trendsetter when it comes to the materials used in this modern and efficient building technique.