Is the Future in your Neighborhood?

3D Printing and Hyperloop as Enablers of Affordable Living

April 19, 2020, Shiori Ota

3D printing and Hyperloop may not seem an obvious combination. Still, they may help in easing the tight housing market and provide more flexibility and options to live in different sized cities. In addition, despite serious challenges posed by the spread of COVID-19, investments in these new technologies could radically reshape economic geography and meet the diverse needs of the urban population in the long term.


With the scarcity of affordable housing in big cities driven by urbanization, smaller towns are experiencing an increase in the millennial population. As millennials are the key driver of economic growth, cities’ ability to attract this demographic is crucial. Furthermore, how the cities will respond to the advent of innovative technologies such as 3D printing and Hyperloop could determine whether they are capable of serving the demands of this population and catch the wave of growth. Also, the coronavirus crisis could offer an opportunity to redefine the landscape of current housing issues. As several parts of economic activity are suspended, and enormous financial pressure is being placed on the workers, there is an increasing need to create a policy to build more affordable rental housing. If stimulus spending is used to invest in the technologies that will eventually meet the current and future needs of people, it could have long-term impacts on making cities more sustainable. So, what kind of new approaches will 3D printing and Hyperloop offer to us?



While 3D printing is still in its early stages, it is a promising technology that could radically change the housing and construction industry on a global scale. For example, the world’s first 3D printed neighbourhood is underway in Mexico, and dozens of companies are working on the development of 3D printed buildings around the world.

Homes could be built at a fraction of the conventional cost by fundamentally changing the way they are constructed. Reinforced foundations and a variety of sustainable materials could increase resilience in potential future disasters and crises. Also, increased automation may significantly cut labour costs. This means that 3D printing can offer affordable, sustainable, and safe housing which is needed to tackle the global housing crisis.


Aside from constructing affordable homes using the innovative methods, unprecedented travel times between cities enabled by Hyperloop will bring a multitude of economic benefits to smaller towns which could thus attract people and businesses with improved connectivity and access to affordable housing. A super-high-speed network could open up new ways of living, working, and travelling. Leveraging the capacity of its ultra-high-speed transport, hyperloop will also be able to deliver high-priority and time-critical goods such as medical supplies and food, which are highly important during crises and disasters.


If smaller cities can harness these opportunities, they may have the potential to enjoy greater economic growth and competitiveness. Diverse forms of business will emerge around the cities with increased population fueled by the flexibility regarding living and working. There is a potential to transform national and local economic geographies and to solve the global housing affordability issues if these technologies become mainstream. Once the current crisis passes, is your city and organisation ready to seize these opportunities?


To write this article, Futures Platform's futurists have collected the data from different phenomena and found the linkages among them. Here are the three colliding phenomena that are causing this trend:

Mid-sized Cities Prosper

The social and economic power of millennials will increase remarkably during the coming years when this generation will reach their prime working and spending years. For cities this mean that the ability to attract this generation will be the key issue for securing their prosperity. Currently, it seems that major cities in the U.S. might be at the risk of losing the competition over millennials to their mid-sized counterparts, and big cities all over the world are expected to face the same challenge in the future.

3D Printing Full-Sized Houses

3D printing can be used to make residential buildings in less than 24 hours. The advantages of this technology include speed, efficient use of raw materials and low need for labour. These features can make 3D printing a viable construction method alongside traditional methods. It can even surpass them in certain areas. The need for affordable housing is global, and there is a demand for houses that can be built quickly, especially in disaster sites. The spread of the technology has been limited by the size of the printers, but new solutions are constantly being developed.

Hyperloop as a Connector of the World

In the future, the whole world may be connected by a network of vacuum tubes allowing high-speed travel and transportation. Some of the most promising developers of this technology are the US-based SpaceX, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HyperloopTT), Tesla, and Virgin Hyperloop One (formed by Virgin Group and Hyperloop One). Also, the People’s Republic of China's has their concept, Hyperflight, which is a flying train based on the same technology.

You can find more detailed descriptions about these phenomena and their impacts on Futures Platform. 



The world after the COVID-19 is full of uncertainty but it does not mean that we cannot prepare for what is ahead.

It's time we take action and use the power of foresight to spot the disruptive signals early and make your future-proof plans.

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