Remember when 3D-printing was one of those things you heard about distantly? There were concerns about people printing gun parts or making absurd creations; skip forward a decade or so, and it’s finally happening: 3D-printed homes.
That’s right, 3D-printed housing is coming to Medford. There are, of course, questions. Why? And what for? Are these homes going to be affordable? How do these compare to regular housing? All good and important questions to ask, and ones that Outlier Construction of Medford and the Thalden Foundation are ready to answer.
In the wake of the Almeda fire that devastated the Talent-Phoenix area and destroyed over 2,500 homes three years ago, there was a proposal suggesting that a new West Medford neighborhood be built with fire-proof 3D-printed housing. What once was just an idea is now a plan that will be put in place starting September, when building will finally begin on New Spirit Village.
The question is: will it be affordable?
Barry Thalden, retired architect and founder alongside his wife of the Thalden Foundation, had this to say:
“We hope that we will be able to make these homes available for $185,000 to $235,000 with no money down.”
It’s clear he believes in this initiative, as his foundation was the project’s initial funding contributor. He and his wife are dedicating this project to the victims of the Almeda fire.
This project is not just one of a kind, but the first of its kind within the United States, and will be built on 6.1 acres located on Meadows Lane, just south and east of the intersection of West Main Street and Lozier Lane.
As for the housing itself, 87 single family homes will be constructed, ranging from one to three bedrooms per house. Instead of the steel and lumber you usually see homes built with, the walls will be constructed by a robot extruder powered by a computer program, which will squeeze the cement mixture out of a nozzle, going layer upon layer as it follows the architect’s drawings. It sounds complicated, and yet all so simple at the same time. These homes are meant to be resistant to fires, earthquakes, and extreme weather, and on top of that, they’ll be energy efficient.
There have been Zoom meetings between Thalden, Rogue Valley, and a litany of state social services agencies regularly over the past year as the project has continued to grow. These agencies include United Way of Jackson County, ACCESS, CASA, Coalicion Fortaleza, Energy Trust of Oregon, Habitat for Humanity, Housing Authority of Jackson County, Jackson County Long-Term Recovery Group, Oregon Housing and Community Services, Unite, Oregon Community Foundation, PacifiCorp and Rogue Retreat.
According to Thalden, there are a number of primary goals that they hope to achieve through this project. They are as follows:
- Promoting home ownership that will help working families accumulate wealth and equity
- Keeping the housing affordable through long-term mortgage, low selling prices, and with no down payments
- Having a high-density plan that still favors single-family units instead of multifamily ones
- Instilling a permanent affordability through a land trust model where homeowners will own just the home and not the land it’s built on, allowing them to sell it or pass it on to their kids, but not to rent it
- Utilizing new technology that brings about energy efficiency and sustainability.
- Maintaining walkable streets
- Constructing disaster-resistant homes
- Avoiding the quality issues usually associated with low-cost housing
- Providing recreational opportunities, as the neighborhood will be across from Medford’s eight-acre Lewis Park
- Consulting potential buyers about their specific needs
Thalden is dead set on this new neighborhood sticking to its affordable housing goal, but there will be qualifications. “In line with a state funding grant, affordable homes must be sold to those with incomes below 80% of the median income,” Thalden had informed. “Priority will be given to Almeda Fire victim families.”
Qualifications will be screened by Proud Ground, a HUD-approved nonprofit that helps provide affordable housing opportunities, and ACCESS, the community action agency for Jackson County providing essential services to low-income families, children, veterans, and people with disabilities.
It’s projected that the first 22 of the 87 homes will be finished by the end of next June.