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ICON, New Story unveil 3D-printed concrete home for developing world

In partnership with the non-profit New Story, Austin-based construction technologies company ICON is set to transform global homelessness with 3D-printed homes. The companies recently built the first permitted, 3D-printed concrete home using a prototype of a mobile printer. The production version of the printer, called the Vulcan, will have the ability to print a single-story home (600–800 square feet) in under 24 hours for less than $4,000.

“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,” says Brett Hagler, CEO of New Story. “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.”

“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,” adds 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.”

The Vulcan is designed to function with near zero-waste and to work under unpredictable constraints (limited water, power, and labor infrastructure) to tackle housing shortages in underserved communities throughout the world. New Story’s goal is to print the first community of homes for underserved families in El Salvador in the coming 18 months, and then through partnerships, scale up production to serve additional communities over the next few years. Housing will feature cutting-edge materials tested to the most recognized standards of safety, comfort and resiliency.

Engineers at Austin-based Transtec Group donated their time to advise ICON and New Story on the concrete mix design for the home. Key criteria identified was flow properties to allow the mix to flow properly out of the printer, and strength gain because if it was too slow, the concrete would deform; too fast, the concrete would clog the printer. ICON and New Story also worked in close partnership with several other organizations to develop the Vulcan printer including Pump Studios, Yaskawa Electric, Alchemy Builders, TreeHouse, Andrew Logan Architecture, Linestar Automation and the University of Texas.