This week, during an event at SXSW in Austin, a startup called ICON unveiled an amazing project, a house that could be 3-D printed for just $4,000. With the new method that the company has developed, they are able to print a 650-square-foot house out of cement in less than 24 hours. In contrast, it could take a human roughly 20 days to complete the same project.
ICON’s first project is to build 100 homes for a community in El Salvador next year. To complete this goal, ICON is teaming up with New Story, a nonprofit that focuses on finding homes for people across the world who have inadequate shelter.
“We have been building homes for communities in Haiti, El Salvador, and Bolivia,” Alexandria Lafci, co-founder of New Story, told The Verge.
New story CEO Brett Hagler said that their main goal is to help provide housing for the poorest billion people on the earth.
“We thought, okay, what if the bottom billion weren’t the last ones to get this, but the first ones to get this? It made sense for us to try to leapfrog what’s happening domestically because our homes are so simple,” Hagler said.
“Ideally we can move from thousands of people to millions of people around the world by allowing other nonprofits and governments to use this technology. That’s the big goal because our goal is impacting the most families possible,” he added.
ICON will be producing the materials with a Vulcan 3D printer and the team said that they could make houses as large as 800 square feet, which is about the size of the average apartment in New York City.
“The big difference, between a developed world and developing world context is you have a much more limited set of materials to work with. Number one, just because of access, you want to restrict your material mix to things that you could find very ubiquitously around the globe. And you also want to avoid expensive materials,” Jason Ballard of ICON said.
“There are fundamental problems with conventional stick-building that 3D printing solves, besides affordability. You get a high thermal mass, thermal envelope, which makes it far more energy-efficient. It’s far more resilient. There are a few other companies that have printed homes and structures, but they are printed in a warehouse, or they look like Yoda huts. For this venture to succeed, they have to be the best houses,” he added.
Ballard said that eventually these technologies can even be used to build housing in space.
“One of the big challenges is how are we going to create habitats in space. You’re not going to open a two by four and open screws. It’s one of the more promising potential habitat technologies,” Ballard said.
In 2015, a Chinese construction company named WinSun 3D printed a huge five-story apartment building and an 11,840 square foot mansion. Both of the new projects are located side by side in Suzhou Industrial Park. Each project was constructed with a unique type of pre-mixed concrete which is made from “construction waste” according to Cnet.