According to a recent report from the World Resources Institute Ross Centre for Sustainable Cities, an estimated 1.2 billion people around the world do not have access to secure and affordable housing. If left unaddressed, the housing gap is projected to grow by 30% to 1.6 billion people by 2025. Shelter, along with water and food is a basic human need and the housing gap has a human cost with far-reaching implications on society, the environment and economy.
One Austin-based start-up is tackling the housing crisis head on, and ushering in a new era in construction to meet the needs of the future. ICON is a construction technologies company that specialise in affordable homebuilding by using 3D printing technology. Now, there may no longer be the need to win a jackpot at a casino online in order to be able to afford a house. Technology may even the playing field, and make housing affordable for almost every one.
How Are These Houses Built?
3D printing is a relatively new technology that employs the use of a specialised printer and computer aided design to manufacture three-dimensional objects. ICON has developed a method for printing a single-story house out of quick-drying cement using the Vulcan 3D industrial printer. An entire 650 square foot home can be printed in less than 24 hours for around $10,000. This is a fraction of the cost and time required to construct a home of the same size using conventional building methods.
ICON is working on bringing the cost down even further to $4,000 and is capable of printing a home that’s 800 square feet. The current housing model features a living room, bedroom, bathroom and curved porch. This construction method uses cutting-edge materials, which have been tested to the most recognised safety standards to ensure resiliency and comfort. The entire process has been designed to function under unpredictable conditions such as limited power, water and labour resources, which makes it uniquely geared for constructing homes in underserved communities around the world that face severe housing shortages.
Tackling the Crisis through Collaboration
In partnership with non-profit organisation New Story, ICON aims to tackle the global housing crisis by creating a cheap and safe housing solution that can be built with limited expertise. New Story, backed by Silicon Valley start-up accelerator, is focussed on addressing the world’s most pressing housing challenges. By using innovative processes and technologies such as ICON’s low cost 3D printing housing model, New Story aims to build holistic communities throughout the developing world.
New Story has built homes for communities in Bolivia, El Salvador and Haiti. This initiative addresses critical issues facing underserved communities such as access to schools, clean water and income opportunities. The partnership between New Story and ICON creates a unique opportunity for design collaboration and customisation to take place on a level that previously was unfeasible. The initiative encourages community buy-in and local labour will be used to operate the machine, thereby creating advanced manufacturing jobs.
What Does The Future Hold?
ICON is currently tweaking the design and completing the final round of material testing before it moves its 3D industrial Vulcan printer to El Salvador. If all goes to plan, the partnership between ICON and New Story will see 100 homes constructed for residents in El Salvador, with construction efforts planned to commence next year. The success of this initiative could revolutionise the way we address the growing housing crisis, and act as the blueprint for low-cost housing initiatives. 3D-printed houses create minimal waste and cut the cost and construction time in half. It provides a compelling solution to solving housing shortages.
The feasibility of 3D printed architecture is a reality but ICON has its sights set on the future of construction. The company is already thinking about communities that will live off-planet and how we will create habitats in space.