Agorize Challenge: Design Affordable 3D Printed Houses in Canada

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Open innovation platform firm Agorize and Canadian construction company Horizon Legacy have launched a new online challenge for individuals and startups worldwide to submit disruptive solutions in the field of construction. The goal of the Marco Polo 100 Digital Build Challenge is to create sustainable and affordable housing in Canada using new construction technologies and processes, particularly 3D printing. Participating teams will gain expert mentorship, access tools to create a prototype, and win the chance to see their building come to life.

The challenge is completely free, open to teams of one to 10 individuals, and will run from January 2021 through August 2022. It is designed to solve the affordable housing crisis by developing a livable multi-residential building in Southern Ontario, Canada, for CA$100 per square feet using new technologies. For a young family, this means CA$100,000 to construct a 1000 square feet two-bedroom apartment. With cash prizes ranging from CA$15,000 to CA$200,000, ongoing royalties, and the ultimate prize of CA$10M investment to construct a building, the participating teams will attempt to reduce construction costs and timelines by utilizing cutting edge new technologies and processes while making a building that appeals to local audiences.

Up until now, 10 teams have registered but applications are open until January 12, 2021, when 20 successful applicant teams will be chosen to start working with Horizon Legacy in Canada. They will develop and evaluate their plans to construct a futuristic building. The teams are expected to build a design to 30% completion, provide costs, schedules, construction work plans, and technology or process innovation for the building. Then judges will select the 10 best submissions to move to the following stage of the challenge.

Next, the best teams will have the opportunity to present their plans and only five teams will be awarded the chance to build a “Small Building” intended to showcase the innovative technology process and scalability. During this stage, the finalists will have an entire year to work with the sponsor firm and a local architect and engineer to complete their designs, engineering and submit a building permit application. Finally, in August 2022, one team will be selected to partner with Horizon to construct a livable “Big Building.”

Teams will compete in several tracks, including costs, originality, constructability, time, and teamwork. During the annual competition, the teams will receive mentorship and training. Individuals participating will learn about specifications, submissions, building permits, and other applicable requirements and regulations. The winning team will receive several prizes, including up to CA$10 million investment and CA$200,000 cash prize; royalties of CA$1.86 per square feet, and an intellectual property maintenance fee of $250,000. The five teams selected during the third stage of the competition will also receive prices, including a stipend for travel to Toronto, Canada; up to CA$140,000 in investment and CA$15,000 in cash; royalties of CA$1.39 per square feet, and an intellectual property maintenance fee of CA$65,000.

The challenge aims to find passionate people around the world with innovative solutions, while Horizon Legacy will provide them the land, technical expertise, and funding to actualize and build the chosen concepts. At the end of the journey, the company expects to have several completed buildings that are operational, and places people can call home.

“Construction is an industry that has made relatively little progress in how it organizes its business. We are still using century old technologies and processes,” said the president and CEO of Horizon Legacy, Anthony Zwig, in a LinkedIn article published by the company’s Vice President of Development, Nhung Nguyen. “This challenge is intended to revolutionize the industry, by taking aim at lowering the costs and time required for construction of small and large multi-residential buildings by leveraging technology and innovation.”

Most of today’s successful cities have a housing shortage. For example, a recent study by FreddieMac disclosed that in the United States, at least 2.5 million additional housing units will be needed to make up for the housing shortage. Hosting a similar crisis, the European Union claimed in 2020 that although there are more than 220 million households, an alarming number of 82 million Europeans are overburdened by housing costs, many even at the risk of eviction. Canada is no exception, while the crisis of affordable housing in Vancouver and Toronto has been widely publicized, other Canadian cities like Montreal are facing similar pressures. In 2015, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation even reported that growth in demand for housing was outpacing construction of new housing units.

3D Printed Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU). Image Courtesy of Mighty Buildings

According to Horizon Legacy, the building and construction industry faces several key challenges resulting in a shortage of affordable housing for the modern family. Yet they hope that relying on technology, automation, and innovation in construction processes will lead to reduced costs and timelines for construction, improve efficiency and productivity, and attract younger people to the field of construction and create new types of jobs. In the past, companies leveraging 3D printing technology have proven able to construct sustainable and affordable buildings, as shown by businesses like Mighty Buildings capable of constructing an entire house, or dozens of projects in Dubai planning to 3D print buildings, including entire skyscrapers. There have even been several proposals to construct sustainable space exploration habitats using additive manufacturing. The technology has the right potential to reduce costs, delays, and risks, that tend to make housing so expensive.

“This is an exciting future. New types of jobs will be created for construction engineers and technicians,” indicated Nguyen. “We are bringing together different disciplines: computer engineering, architecture, and construction. The achievement of a $100/sq ft building can be a game changer for the construction industry and impact the future of everyone who needs a place to live. We can’t predict all the twists and turns ahead but we do know it will be fun and exciting to watch.”

For more information on the challenge, including judging criteria and submission deadlines, visit the Marco Polo 100 Digital Build Challenge.

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