Building a house is typically a big deal. There are hours upon hours of work that go into it, not to mention the costs of materials and labor. The startup company, ICON, however, believe they can make a house in hours, at a fraction of the current cost. With the use of 3D printing, the company plans to change the way we build houses and they want to create affordable housing for people who need it.
How it Started
The company was created in Austin, Texas, about two years ago. It has three co-founders: Alex Le Roux, Jason Ballard, and Evan Loomis. Jason Ballard originally got the idea for ICON when he was doing work for his other company, Treehouse. Treehouse specializes in making homes sustainable and healthy. After working on thousands of homes, Ballard felt frustrated and decided there had to be an easier way to construct things. With the aid of Le Roux and Loomis, ICON was formed as a way to make building houses easier.
With the use of a Vulcan Printer, the company’s first house was built in less than two days, and it is still standing today. The house has one bedroom, a living room, a bathroom, and a porch. It also only cost around $10,000, which is significantly less than the construction of the average house. ICON also believes they can bring the cost down even further in the future, averaging around $4,000 per house.
While ICON is a for-profit company, they are currently working with Brett Hagler, who runs a non-profit company, called New Story. New Story focuses on international housing solutions. The non-profit hopes that with the aid of ICON, it will be easier and more affordable than ever to help the 1 billion people in the world who do not have shelter.
ICON and New Story currently plan to focus on El Salvador, where homelessness is a common problem. They plan to soon move their Vulcan printer to El Salvador, in order to begin making houses for the people there that need them.
While it is possible to create a house in two days, it’s not a complete, fully operational house. Basic utilities, such as electricity and plumbing still need to be installed, and this takes time and money to do. There are also additional costs that may not be accounted for, so it’s difficult to put a definite price on how much money it really takes to 3D print a home.
The houses are also not yet tested for their durability. The use of 3D printing for houses is still fairly new, so only time will tell how long they hold up. For now, the previously printed houses are in use, and if they prove to not be durable in the future, there is no way of knowing for sure, until something happens.
There are also plenty of people who may dislike the idea of the house-making process becoming so automated. Many people make a living through the construction of houses, and their jobs could be in jeopardy, if 3D printing were to really take off, within the field of home construction.
When can everyone get a 3D-printed house?
Currently, ICON is not working with individuals. They do, however, encourage people to sign up for their newsletter, in order to stay informed about 3D printing and the progress they make.
Because creating homes this way is such a new idea, it may take a while for it to be considered a norm in home construction. There is also a need to fix any problems within the process now before it becomes widely available to the public. The longtime durability of the houses is also still not known. Once more 3D houses are made and in use, there may be less skepticism about them, too, and this could lead to furthering their popularity.
Can this really reduce the amount of homelessness in the world? That remains to be seen. This is definitely not the first time 3D printing has been used as a suggested way to cut costs and improve the availability of something. ICON believes it is definitely worth trying. If they can help even one community to gain shelter, that community would be better off. Even a few houses can make all the difference.