Are 3D printing Homes the Answer to the Housing Crisis?

An Austin-based startup presented a possible solution to homelessness

by Rossana Vinci
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According to a new report from World Resources Institute Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, 330 million households in cities around the world — equivalent to 1.2 billion people — do not have access to affordable and secure housing. Without immediate action, the problem will become even more critical, as this housing gap is projected to grow by 30 percent to 1.6 billion people by 2025.


The Austin-based startup ICON has presented a possible solution to homelessness at SXSW last week, involving cost-effective, 3D-printed homes.

The startup has developed a method where a single-story 650-square-foot cement house can be printed in only 12 to 24 hours. This is a fraction of a time it takes for new construction and could lead to more homes being built in less time for the people worldwide without adequate shelter.





New Story + ICON


The plan currently is to “print” a community of about 100 homes in El Salvador next year. Once the company has completed material testing and finalized the design, ICON will move its Vulcan printer to El Salvador to begin construction.

Each house currently costs $10,000 but ICON aims to have that down to $4,000 per house in the future.

The startup has partnered with New Story, a nonprofit that is vested in international housing solutions.






What are the benefits of 3D printing for houses?



You can work on the designs

With 3D printing you are free to design anything, any kind of structure. The new building technology offers a wide range of possibilities. You can 3D print a large variety of projects with different designs, not only homes. It could be a great way to build offices, hotels, tiny homes, real villas or to reconstruct homes after a natural disaster. The advantage of digital manufacturing is that you can modify your model and its design as many times as you want.





You can build it faster

Automated construction has many advantages, and one of them is that it is time saving. A machine can work continuously – we will see later in this blog post that some houses were built in a record time thanks to additive manufacturing. It works faster, and it creates really accurate constructions.

That is especially why this could be a good solution to do quick housing construction after natural disaster. It could be a great way to build quick emergency homes.





You can reduce the costs

Building a house can be really expensive. You are maybe wondering how you could reduce the costs of house-building? With a 3D printer, you only use the amount of material that you need for your construction project. It allows to avoid the waste of material.

Moreover, this technique can help you reduce the tooling and labour costs. You only need a machine, and someone to program it.



A new possibility to build houses anywhere

With the new 3D printing systems, it is possible to have a house 3D printed anywhere. Be careful: house 3D printing is taking in account the construction rules of the area, obviously. But it appears to be a great solution to build houses in remote area. There are less tools and machine to transport, but it has to be accessible for a large printer.




All photos: © ICON