Home Sweet Home
Tiny living is one of the ways that cities are pursuing housing assistance for people experiencing homelessness. Encampments turn into neighborhoods with 3D printing technologies creating these structures at an affordable price.
When cities can include social services with tiny living, the results can be more lifestyle stability for those who do not or cannot find a permanent home.
ICON seeks to create an affordable solution with its 3D printing technologies that produce some good for the community. Tim Shea, 70, who was struggling with housing insecurity, recently became the first individual in the United States to live in a printed house.
Before getting to live in the 3D printed home, Shea lived out of an RV in Austin, TX. “The very people I used to run away from are now who I’m running to,” he said. “If you’ve been on both sides of the fence, you know some people just need a little encouragement and support.”
Chronic Homelessness Is Defined as 12+ Months of Insecurity
The buildings were developed by ICON and New Story, a social housing nonprofit organization that helps people find stable homes. Shea’s house and the others under development in the neighborhood use the Vulcan II 3D printer to create the walls for the structure.
By using this technology, an entire home can get made using concrete materials in less than 48 hours. The cost is up to 30% less than the standard tiny home, which means the cost to each resident can be as little as $300 per month.
Additional supports are provided to Shea and other residents through organizations like Mobile Loaves and Fishes or Community First Village. They help individuals who have chronic homelessness needs to meet while offering assistance with co-existing concerns, such as addiction or mental health issues.
The Interior Feels Like Home, Even with Entry-Level Materials
Although Shea’s home takes a no-frills approach to tiny living, it’s still a lot better than being stuck on the street.
The interior feels homey, even if the floor is the concrete slab used to support the base walls. There’s plenty of windows to deliver some natural light, while the walls use standard finished plywood to keep costs low.
Vaulted ceilings allow the space to feel much bigger than it is, and there’s enough room for a full kitchen, a sitting area, and a bedroom nook.
These benefits are possible because of the next generation of Vulcan 3D printing that began working in 2019 from ICON. It’s the first option of its kind that can create a house that someone would want to use because of its overall value.
To date, ICON has raised over $59 million in support of this technology. It’s still a privately-held organization, moving fast in the world of 3D printing, with its initial prototype completed in 2018.
As time passes, ICON hopes to make the technology even faster, quadruple the printing area, and have automated mixing, pumping, and delivery without compromising the safety of the operations.
The First 3D Printed Homes Are Now for Sale
Mainstream Housing Development in Austin uses ICON’s proprietary printing technology to build two-, three-, and four-bedroom homes that will be ready in the Summer of 2021. It’s an operation overseen by 3Strands, a housing developer from Kansas City.
Designed by Logan Architecture, the first floor using the advanced materials ICON offers to produce longer-lasting results than traditional items
Although two-story homes and larger ones are part of the development process for ICON, the technology is not available yet to print at that scale. That’s why multi-story projects still use more traditional methods for finishing.
That means the homes, whether tiny like Shea’s or much more extensive, have more resiliency against fire, wind, flooding, or other natural disasters.
As of April 2021, about a dozen 3D printed homes have already been delivered across central Texas.
Once the home’s foundation gets built, the second story uses modern construction elements to create additional square footage. The goal of these efforts is to show how fast houses can get built in some of today’s high-growth cities and regions.
No other construction tech company has built as many 3D printed homes as ICON as of 2021. This technology hopes to be a key part of moon colonization, sending people to Mars, and delivering relief efforts after a natural disaster.
The first permitted 3D printed home in Auston, the Chicon House, is currently used as an office space.