Food, water and shelter are basic human needs, but 1.2 billion people in the world live without adequate housing, according to a report by the Ross Center for Sustainable Cities of the World Resources Institute. Today at SXSW, an Austin-based startup will unveil its approach to combat that deficiency by using low-cost 3D printing as a potential solution.
ICON has developed a method to print a 650-square-foot single-story house with cement in only 12 to 24 hours, a fraction of the time it takes for new construction. If everything goes according to plan, a community of approximately 100 homes will be built for the residents of El Salvador next year. The company has partnered with New Story, a nonprofit organization dedicated to international housing solutions. "We have been building houses for communities in Haiti, El Salvador and Bolivia," Alexandria Lafci, co-founder of New Story, tells The Verge.
The first model, scheduled to be presented today in Austin, is a step towards providing shelter to people in underserved communities. Jason Ballard, one of the three founders of ICON, says he will live in a model to prove its practical use. "We're going to install air quality monitors, what does it look like and what does it smell like?" Ballard also runs Treehouse, a company that focuses on sustainable housing upgrades.
Using the Vulcan printer, ICON can print a full house for $ 10,000 and plan to reduce costs to $ 4,000 per home. "It's much cheaper than the typical American home," says Ballard. He is able to print an 800 square foot house, a structure significantly larger than the properties driven by the small home movement, which reaches a maximum of approximately 400 square feet. In contrast, the average apartment in New York is approximately 866 square feet.
Inside the house printed in 3D.Photo: ICON
The model has a living room, a bedroom, a bathroom and a curved porch. "There are some other companies that have printed homes and structures," says Ballard. "But they are printed in a warehouse, or they look like Yoda cabins." For this company to be successful, they have to be the best houses. "The use of cement as a common material will help normalize the process for potential tenants who question the soundness of the structure. "I think if we printed on plastic, we would have some problems."
Once ICON completes the material testing and design adjustment, the company will move the Vulcan printer to El Salvador to begin construction. ICON says that its 3D printed houses will generate minimal waste and labor costs will be significantly reduced. The company also intends to build homes in the US. UU Over time. It is a convincing solution to solve the housing shortage, but that could be controversial among the unions that represent the workers.
It is almost a cliché that technological innovations happen in the high-end segment for profit, long before they are leaked to the masses, where innovation could serve the greatest social good. ICON and New Story challenge that premise. Lafci uses the example of the latency in the availability of cell phones to reach the African continent as the reason why he believes in the effort. "(ICON) believes, like me, that 3D printing is going to be a method for all types of homes," he says.
But the company is already looking beyond the global housing crisis to think of communities that will one day live off the planet. "One of the great challenges is how we are going to create habitats in space," says Ballard. "You're not going to open two by four and open screws, it's one of the most promising potential habitat technologies."