For decades, the construction industry has been starved for innovation, and emerging tech startups have started to deliver, reshaping the way houses are designed, built, and assembled.
One of the latest companies aiming to transform the way the world builds is Oakland, California–based Mighty Buildings. Founded in 2017, the construction technology firm has developed a build process that combines 3D printing and advanced material science with off-site prefabrication and robotics.
Although its initial focus was creating accessory dwelling units in the California market, the company shifted its focus to a new B2B developer platform with a range of single-family designs in 2021.
“We’ve been pursuing this for about a year and change,” says Scott Gebicke, CEO at Mighty Buildings. “We’re essentially trying to craft the most modular, most sustainable, most resilient, fastest-constructed cold shell in the world.”
With factories in Oakland and Monterrey, Mexico, and a material science lab in Istanbul, Gebicke says the company has been working for the past five years “to perfect its zero-waste production, kit-system design, and unique concrete-free formula” to create design-forward homes while reducing time, costs, and emissions.
“Our target markets are those that are most affected by climate change and require the resiliency, such as Texas, Florida, California, the Caribbean, and the Middle East,” he adds. “We expect in our three-year plan to have a factory in Florida or the Caribbean and then the Middle East, so two additional factories on top of Mexico.”
The core of Mighty Buildings’ construction process starts with its patented Mighty Kit System, which includes its 3D-printed panels, structural components, and the hardware necessary to complete the home’s envelope.
Configured in two levels, the system’s first level is made up of the 3D-printed panels and structure, while the second level delivers the watertight building envelope.
“I think companies like Mighty Buildings and others in this race are kind of two or three steps ahead,” says Yonah Naftaly, vice president of production and delivery. “Our buildings look different. They feel different. They perform different. They’re made differently. We think in all positive ways.”
Using the PACE—or photo-activated component extrusion—printing technique, the company prints panels with its proprietary light-activated urban multiform stone (LUMUS) material, which is extruded and then cured with ultraviolet light.
According to Mighty Buildings, LUMUS is stronger and lighter than concrete and is composed of 60% recycled, sustainably sourced inputs. Epoxy resins and acrylic monomers with natural minerals make up the base of the material, resulting in a texture similar to Corian, but more durable.
“Not only does our material look premium and different, but it also performs that way from a resilience standpoint,” says Gebicke. “From an 8.5 Richter scale earthquake to a Category 5 hurricane, the material strength is also that of a premium house, not a traditional kind of material.”
In addition to earthquake and hurricane resistance, the system is also resistant to water, mold, mildew, and insects, and includes a self-extinguishing material for wildfires, according to the company. It has an expected life span of 50-plus years.
Once the panels have been printed, they are transferred to a polyurethane foaming cell, in which a robotic arm paired with a high-pressure metering machine injects polyurethane foam into the interior cavities and seals the panel. After the insulation process, the panel is moved to the milling area in order to sharpen edges and to add any surface textures. Lastly, the panel is covered in a protective coating. The coating process consists of two steps—priming and finish paint—to apply weather-resistant finishes and color to the panel.
The company prints both flat panels, which come in a variety of standard sizes, and corner panels for both exterior and interior use to ensure complete 3D-printed wall surfaces. Panels arrive on-site ready to install and can be assembled with fewer labor hours and crew.
“When people hear 3D printing, generally they think about on-site copy printing because it’s more prevalent. When that happens, the site is dealing with material management, and they’re also dealing with ambient temperatures and environments. We entirely weed that out,” says Naftaly. “Also, the panelized approach gives lots of optionality, whereas the gantry printers are limited to the size of the gantry.”
Horizontal construction of the first Mighty Buildings home began in the first quarter of 2022 in Desert Hot Springs, California. In this 4.5-acre community, the builder is perfecting its craft by building 20 of one of its smallest plans—the Mighty House Quatro—with Mighty Duo ADUs behind each for a total of 40 units in the development.
Designed by Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects, the one-story, 1,176-square-foot rectangular Quatro plan, showcased in the photos throughout this article, includes two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The home is split among a public-facing great room; a utility core with the kitchen, bathrooms, and all mechanical equipment; and a private wing with the bedrooms.
According to the firms, the minimal material palette is intentional to highlight the home’s textured 3D-printed exterior. In addition to the white panels, the simple palette primarily includes black windows and trim, white oak casework and flooring, polished stainless steel fixtures, and white tiling and countertops.
Another notable feature is its net-zero operation. Solar panels and storage enable the homes to produce the same amount of energy consumed.
As of press time, Gebicke reported the company had printed 15 of the community’s units, 12 of which are constructed. In addition to the Quatro plan, there is another Southern California community of the Super Quatro plan in the works, which offers the same conveniences as the Quatro but with an additional bedroom and larger living space.
Beyond that, Mighty Buildings has a catalog of more single-family designs, including a detached two-story home, a two-story townhome with front- and rear-loaded garage options, and its original ADU product with an attached garage.
“I think we have a path to really endless types of structures,” asserts Naftaly. “From single-family homes to multifamily, I think eventually we’ll get to all of it, but that’s where we are right now.”