Mayor Libby Schaaf toured an Oakland factory Friday that uses 3-D printing to create small in-law units in a bid to bring down the cost of housing.
Schaaf walked through Mighty Buildings’ factory and into a furnished, modular unit with large windows and a small kitchen and watched as a 3-D printer produced wall panels.
Workers stood nearby as Schaaf looked through yellow goggles at the UV lights that harden the material for the panels.
Mighty Buildings’ 3-D printing method creates walls, ceilings and overhangs for the tiny units that are often built in backyards. The one- or two-bedroom units range from $115,000 to $169,000. That’s about 40% cheaper than site-built units of similar quality, the company said.
“This is like tech and innovation meets the housing crisis,” Schaaf said. “It’s so exciting because there is no more urgent need right now than more housing and more affordable housing. The Bay Area is just burdened by this housing crisis. We see it on our streets. It’s a moral outrage. And this innovation is something that we’ve been waiting for.”
The kind of 3-D printer used by the company is the largest in the world — at 43 inches long, 33 inches wide and 20 inches high — according to the UL, a global safety certification company. Using 3-D printers to build homes has gained momentum internationally with companies based in China, Italy, Russia and the Netherlands.
Since taking office for her second term in 2015, Schaaf has said that the solution to the Bay Area and California’s housing crisis is building more housing. In 2016, she said her goal was to to build 17,000 units of affordable and market-rate housing and protect 17,000 city residents from losing their housing by 2024.
In the first three years, the city issued building permits for 10,000 homes, but only 7% of those permits were for units that will house low-income families.
Darin Ranelletti, the mayor’s policy director for housing security, said he discovered Mighty Buildings about a year ago and became excited because it fit within the mayor’s vision of promoting innovative housing approaches. The factory moved from Redwood City to East Oakland last November.
In 2016, Schaaf convened housing experts and community members and created the Oakland Housing Cabinet, which then released a strategy to address housing affordability.
“Housing is expensive for a lot of reasons and one of the reasons is because it’s so expensive to build,” Ranelletti said. “We have been — over the last year — looking at ways to be more innovation friendly.”
Helen Chong, a company spokeswoman, said the process is not only cheaper but it produces zero waste.
Because the facility is state-certified, city officials don’t have to conduct on-site inspections as they would with traditional construction sites, which can speed up the process, Ranelletti said.
Mighty Buildings still has to apply for building permits before delivering units to residents.
On Friday, the staff at Mighty Buildings were delivering a unit to an East Oakland resident that will be placed in the backyard and available for a renter, said Zayn El Hajji, a project manager. The company has 85 employees and delivers units statewide.
El Hajji said their customers use the units as rentals, a pool house, a unit for in-laws and one person wanted to use it as a photo studio.
“It’s a wide range of uses, which I think is really interesting,” El Hajji said.
It can take up to four months for a unit to be delivered from when a contract is signed. The company’s co-founders said it can help with the housing crisis.
“We’re already delivering units in Oakland,” said Sam Ruben, co-founder and chief sustainability officer. “We are already working with landlords and some of the homeowners here to get more units into the city.”