If there is anything really going well for Pakistan’s economy despite Covid-19, it’s the construction sector thanks to the PM’s construction package and the related amnesties. But even with the full force of construction package, housing loans by banks, and the much-awaited regulatory streamlining by the Naya Pakistan Housing Authority, PM’s promise of 5 million houses would be rather difficult to achieve by 2023, or even a year or two after. But there is one possible solution to make that promise come true: 3D printed housing.
Before confusing 3D printed housing with standard prefabricated housing made of fibre, something that doesn’t gel well with people’s preferences in Pakistan, it must be noted that 3D printing can big build objects from a variety of materials be it as hard as metals and glass, or be it a bit plastics and resins.
The 3D printed construction technology is being proven at both ends of the rich-poor divide. At the one end, there is Habitas, a luxury hotel group, which is using 3D-printed technology to increase the pace of construction of its hotels. And at the other, there are start ups like Icon that partners with non-profit organizations to produce 3D-printed houses specifically for the developing world. According to various reports in international media, these homes can range from 60 to 120 square metres in size, and they can be printed in 24-48 hours at a cost of $4000-$8000 per house, depending on size, number of levels, building materials etc.
This possibility of producing fast and cheap housing structures ought to spring private and public stakeholders into action, albeit without discontinuing existing measures to promote box standard construction industry.
It is heartening to note that Fawad Chaudhry, Minister of Science & Technology has already come up with draft policy on drones, 3D printing, and an overall framework for other disruptive technologies. The PM and his cabinet would do well to not only allow 3D printing but also encourage it at a scale that facilitates fast and cheap 3D printing housing for the poor. However, for that to happen the government will have to do more than simply offering progressive regimes for taxation, customs duty, and technology transfer. It will have to ensure that building regulatory bodies, their guidelines as well as players from the conventional construction industry are in sync with the 3D printed housing plan.