Tackling the Housing Crisis With a 3D Printer

While we talk a lot about the housing crisis that’s been plaguing major metropolitan cities like London, New York, and Los Angeles, there’s a bigger issue that isn’t often talked about. Around the world, over 1 billion people are living without access to adequate shelter. In the poorest areas, entire villages are built from whatever scraps of material people can cobble together. Floors are dirt, there is no running water, and no electricity, making this not just a housing crisis, but a health crisis as well. Now a real solution is in the works, with the first village being built in Tabasco, Mexico.

Nonprofit organization New Story has partnered with ICON — an innovative construction technology company — to design and build affordable, sustainable housing for those in the poorest parts of the world. We first told you about this power duo back in 2018 when they successfully built a home in Austin, Texas in 24 hours for only $4,000. How did they do it? With a giant, mobile 3D printer.

Icon developed a 3D printer that uses a proprietary type of concrete. The “printable” concrete forms the walls of the home and once it has had time to cure, it is harder than cinder block, making a sturdy structure that can stand up to violent weather and earthquakes. Using this concrete results in very little construction waste, making it an affordable and earth-friendly material.

Icon Build

Like other 3D printers, the plans are sent via a computer, meaning the one-story homes can have a variety of footprints. This is especially important because it allows the families to have a say in the layout of the home — a more personal touch than other affordable housing options that have been considered in the past. 

After the successful demonstration of the sample house in Austin, Icon and New Story got to work finding the perfect location for the next phase of the project — building an entire village for families in need. 

In December 2019, the work began with the first few houses being completed in Tabasco. Once the homes were printed, local contractors got to work installing plumbing, electrical, and windows and doors. Utilizing local workers is another part of the plan for New Story and Icon. The construction of the village is also a financial boost for the local economy. 

The first two 500-square-foot homes have been completed with more ready to be printed in the coming months. A total of 50 families will receive the homes free of charge thanks to the charitable donations New Story has received.

Thanks to a partnership with the local government, once the village is completed, the families will get to enjoy not just a new home, but green spaces, parks, and community amenities.

Take a look at how the village is coming together here.

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