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 World Resources Institute’s Ross Center for Sustainable Cities. 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 for printing a single-story 650-square-foot house out of cement in only 12 to 24 hours, a fraction of the time it takes for new construction. If all goes according to plan, a community made up of about 100 homes will be constructed for residents in El Salvador next year. The company has partnered with New Story, a nonprofit that is vested in international housing solutions. “We have been building homes for communities in Haiti, El Salvador, and Bolivia,” Alexandria Lafci, co-founder of New Story, tells The Verge.
The first model is a step toward providing shelter to those in underserved communities. It has a living room, bedroom, bathroom, and a curved porch. “There are a few other companies that have printed homes and structures,” Ballard says. “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.”
The use of cement as a common material will help normalize the process for potential tenants that question the sturdiness of the structure. “I think if we were printing in plastic we would encounter some issues.”
ICON says its 3D-printed houses will create minimal waste and labor costs are significantly reduced. The company also intends to build homes in the US eventually. It’s a compelling solution to solving housing shortages but one that could be contentious among labor unions that represent workers.