How 3D Printed Houses Can Help Solve America’s Housing Crisis
If you’ve been in the market to buy a home for a year or two, you’ve probably been blown away by the soaring prices. As huge institutional players like Blackrock suck up shrinking inventory and turn their new purchases into rental properties, millions of families have put their dream of buying a home on a shelf for now. And the problem is even more acute for those who cling to the lower rungs of the social ladder, especially the chronically homeless.
In Austin, Texas, a cutting edge technology company is manufacturing an innovative solution to this huge social problem. “Icon is tackling what is commonly referred to as the global housing crisis,” says Evan Loomis, co-founder of Icon. “The crisis can be viewed in several ways. But in simple terms, we are not making enough houses. And the homes we desperately need, we can’t afford. “
Icon designed a massive 3D printer called the Vulcan, which is capable of printing a 2,000 square foot concrete house in the blink of an eye. The machine looks like a giant swing without the swings. In the center of the horizontal structural beam is a sliding pipe that pours out layer after layer of perfect concrete rows.
“Your typical house produces around four tonnes of waste,” Loomis explains. But the Vulcan prints an entire house without wasting a drop of material. Naturally, it is programmed via a mobile application. The revolutionary software allows designers to make changes on the fly and break free from the dreaded right angle. The application allows for unique and creative expressions: rounded windows, triangular doors, anything an architect can imagine.
Icon began his work in Austin building six homes at Community First! Village, a planned 51-acre community whose mission is to get chronically homeless off the streets. It is run by a pioneering nonprofit called Mobile Loaves and Fishes, and now has over 200 residents.
“People experiencing poverty are rarely the first to access new technological advances,” says Amber Fogarty, president of Mobile Loaves and Fishes. “Icon didn’t have to choose to partner with us to build homes for people who are chronically homeless. There are people standing in line at their door who would pay dearly [for them to build a house]. What I believe about Icon and the team is that there is a deep heart to understanding how to use this technology for good. “
The icon is growing rapidly. They have a multi-unit project in East Austin where they’re developing 900 to 2,000 square foot homes, they’ve teamed up with the Marine Corps to print high-speed resilient barracks, and they’ve come down to Tabasco, Mexico to print. a community of houses for those living in extreme poverty.
As Icon grows, affordable housing options will become more plentiful. But they don’t just limit their ambitions to our planet. Icon also teamed up with NASA and printed a rocket landing pad and was tasked with designing printers capable of building structures on the moon.