3D Printed Homes Could Provide Cheap Housing Solution For Developing Countries

Although there were 560,000 homes sold throughout 2016 in the U.S., not everyone is so fortunate to have a roof over their heads. This is particularly true in developing countries wherein residents do not have access to adequate, affordable housing. In fact, a recent report by the World Resource Institute’s Ross Center for Sustainable Cities notes that 1.2 billion people all across the world are living without safe, financially feasible housing. But that may soon change, thanks to a company called ICON.

ICON, an Austin, Texas-based startup, recently revealed their method for 3D printing single-story, 650-square-foot homes (in less than a day’s time, no less) at SXSW. Construction companies have recently used 3D printers to create concrete materials, and ICON uses a similar method to quickly build a home in 12 to 24 hours.

ICON’s concrete printers are actually capable of creating homes that are 800 square feet, which is twice as big as the largest tiny house available on the market. Their current model features two bedrooms, a bathroom, a living room, a kitchen, and even a front porch. Best of all, the company notes, it actually looks like an appealing home.

Jason Ballard, one of the company’s three founders, explained to Verge: “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,” he said. “For this venture to succeed, they have to be the best houses.”

They’re certainly affordable, too. Currently, the cost of such a home sets them back $10,000, but the company is determined to get that down to just $4,000. Here in the U.S., consumer debt reached nearly $3.4 trillion in 2015, cementing our own nation’s need for more affordable housing solutions.

But in other countries, the situation is even more dire. In El Salvador, for example, some families are forced to live in structures with dirt floors and no running water, living on only $1.90 a day. The company is already planning to construct 100 new homes for residents in El Salvador next year. In countries like El Salvador and Haiti, access to electricity, technical assistance, and even potable water is unpredictable. These residents have an even bigger need for affordable housing, and ICON has partnered with a non-profit called New Story to build homes to assist these populations.

Brett Hagler, the CEO of New Story, told Verge, “We feel it’s our responsibility to challenge traditional methods and work toward ending homelessness. Linear methods will never reach the billion+ people who need safe homes.” Hagler went on to say, “By working with ICON and leveraging their 3D printing innovations, we’re able to reach more families with the best possible shelter solutions, exponentially faster.”

In addition to being fast and affordable, ICON’s portable 3D printer, called the Vulcan, is able to function in tough conditions and operates with a near-zero waste mission in mind. The homes this printer is able to construct will comply with the highest standards of comfort, safety, and resiliency, according to ICON. Plus, the homes themselves are energy efficient and storm-resistant.

Eventually, ICON has aspirations of building their housing solutions in space. But for now, they’re helping to tackle the affordable housing crisis here on earth.

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