ICON is a company founded by people who believe the traditional way of building homes is obsolete. The company has created a unique 3D printer (see video below) that can create an entire home in about 24 hours using its patented Lavacrete material. The first ICON home was permitted and built in Austin, Texas two years ago. Now the company, in cooperation with local nonprofit Mobil Loaves & Fishes, is building an entire community for homeless people in the Austin area. Known as Community First! Village, it features a cluster of 400 square foot one bedroom homes made with the company’s second generation Vulcan II 3D printer.
“Stagnancy in home building has not kept up with demand and population growth. This has contributed to a growing housing crisis,” the company says on its website. “Traditional home building methods are inefficient and wasteful. These critical problems have driven costs up past the point of affordability for the average person. High costs also mean providing adequate shelter in developing countries can be nearly impossible.”
The printer is designed to work under the constraints that are common in places like Haiti and rural El Salvador where power can be unpredictable, potable water is not always available, and technical assistance is sparse.
“Conventional construction methods have many baked-in drawbacks and problems that we’ve taken for granted for so long that we forgot how to imagine any alternative,” says Jason Ballard, co-founder of ICON. “With 3D printing, you not only have a continuous thermal envelope, high thermal mass, and near zero-waste, but you also have speed, a much broader design palette, next-level resiliency, and the possibility of a quantum leap in affordability. This isn’t 10% better, it’s 10 times better.”
ICON has completed homes for low income people in Mexico and says its dwellings are designed to be affordable for those earning as little as $3 a day. The construction cost of a home in Community First! Village is about $4,000. When completed later this year, the village will cover 51 acres and provide housing for 480 people — about 40% of Austin’s homeless population. The interior design of the homes was done by Claire Zinnecker in cooperation with DEN Property Group, based on input from those who will occupy the homes.
“ICON is pushing the envelope and is technologically laying out a new way of looking at how we build homes,” said Alan Graham, founder and CEO of Mobile Loaves & Fishes. “Community First! Village is the perfect place on the planet to experiment with this approach. One of our desires is that this partnership with ICON will grow so deep that we’re able to leverage this technology to someday build all of our micro-homes in future phases of the Village.
“We completely see that as a large, future goal and one that will continue to demonstrate why Community First! Village is at the epicenter of innovation in our country in terms of communities and movements that are effectively addressing homelessness.”
In cooperation with nonprofit 3 Strands and San Antonio architectural firm Overland Partners, ICON is looking forward to new and innovative ways to use its Vulcan II printer to create larger buildings that are energy efficient and less expensive to build and maintain.
Overland Partners has challenged its employees to design new single family homes affordable, single-family home that helps to address the loneliness epidemic by facilitating natural, informal interactions with neighbors and building community. Throughout the process, the design teams considered variables such as site orientation, ecology, energy efficiency, water management, material selection, resilience and adaptability to provide the best design solutions as possible.
3 Strands says, “We are also deeply passionate about restoring the sense of neighborhoods and healthy relationships that can develop there. When we are known and loved by those around us, we have a sense of belonging that is foundational to who we are as humans. Through shared spaces and tailored programming, we will foster healthier relationships.”
Sustainable buildings for sustainable communities. What a hopeful concept in times of such turmoil! CleanTechnica salutes ICON and all its partners for their vision and dedication to creating a just and supportive human society.