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3D printed house

3D-Printed House in Austin, Texas

By Maria Saxton Rise Writer
Jan 29, 2020

East Austin is home to the nation’s first fully-permitted 3-D printed home: The Chicon House. In March of 2018, this 350 square foot home was created in less than 48 hours, costing about $10,000 to print. In contrast, the average single-family home in the United States takes seven months to complete. This project illustrated how 3-D printing could be one solution to the ever-rising issue of affordable housing.

Two groups collaborated to make this tiny home a reality. ICON, an Austin-based construction technologies company dedicated to revolutionizing homebuilding, and New Story, a non-profit that focuses on providing affordable housing internationally, partnered on this project. Their teams consist of industry thought-leaders, including engineers, environmentalists, and designers.

inside 3d printed home
Photo Credit: ICON

The tiny house itself includes a bedroom, bathroom, living area, and kitchen. The house is made of concrete and wood and is a ‘proof-of-concept’ to show how 3-D printing can address global housing issues.

The Chicon House, in its current use, is an office. However, the home does have a building permit to ensure that it is suitable for human living.

3d printing concrete
Photo Credit: ICON

3-D printing a home may be an entirely new concept to many. Here’s how it works:

The 3-D printer is shipped on a trailer to a site, requiring no assembly. A user-friendly tablet operates the printing process with an intuitive interface. Layer by layer, the 3-D printer can quickly create the basic structure of a home. The printer pours concrete as though it is the icing on a cake. Once the concrete-material portion of a home is printed, finishing touches are manually incorporated, including the wooden roof, windows, doors, plumbing, and electrical work. In all, the entire process requires only a few people to run and supervise.

time to build 3d printed house
Photo Credit: ICON

A New Opportunity in Housing

Among a growing demand for affordable, resilient housing in the United States, 3-D printing provides a new opportunity for housing. 3-D printing allows the ability to decrease traditional construction costs by 30% to 50% in a time where construction costs are continuing to rise. 3-D printing can dramatically reduce the waste associated with construction, allowing the construction process to be nearly zero-waste.

Another benefit to 3-D printing is the ability to print on-site, which reduces the emissions associated with the transportation of building materials. In addition, ICON shares that its printer could create a 2,000 square foot home in about three days showing the ability to reduce construction time remarkably.

building a 3d printed house
Photo Credit: ICON

Homes can be printed using a variety of materials. The Chicon House was printed with concrete and is, therefore, more resilient to natural disasters compared to traditional stick-built homes. Icon’s 3-D printer is entirely automated and requires less manual labor than a conventional home build. In addition, the 3-D printer automatically adjusts to local weather conditions, which allows it to work under unpredictable constraints like limited potable water or power.

In terms of energy efficiency, 3-D printing with concrete provides an unbroken thermal mass, subsequently reducing the energy needed to heat and cool the home.

Aesthetically-speaking, it is just as simple to print a home full of curves and slopes as it is to print a house full of straight lines. This ability tells us that the future of 3-D printing homes may encompass a broader design palette than is typically seen in typical home construction.

interior 3d printed home
Photo Credit: ICON

Can I Print My Own Home? 

Short answer? Yes!

When 3-D printers first became mainstream, we were told that you could print anything with them. Yet, printing an entire house is a significant feat, so it has only recently accomplished. The 3-D printed Austin tiny house would not have been possible if it weren’t for the new 3-D printer that was developed by ICON and New Story.

Following the success of the Austin tiny home, ICON and New Story have begun marketing to homeowners who are interested in printing their own homes. Their 3-D printer can print a house up to 2,000 square feet, which is slightly smaller than the average newly-constructed home in America.

ICON heart
Photo Credit: ICON

This innovative 3-D printer can print at night, in various weather conditions, and within mere days. The 3-D printer uses a concrete-like material called lavacrete. Lavacrete has a compressive strength of 6,000 psi, which is stronger than conventional building materials.

So, not only can a 3-D-printed home be resilient to natural disasters, but it is more affordable and energy-efficient. You can save 30% - 50% in construction costs, and feel less guilty since 3-D printing is virtually zero-waste. And, best of all, you can have a home in just a few days!

Austin’s Chicon House is an example of how 3-D printing can potentially change the housing industry. While there is much more work to be done to make this a standard in construction, it is exciting to think of the benefits 3-D printing can provide: more affordable, resilient housing that is environmentally responsible.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-07-23T14:36:31+0000
Maria Saxton

Article by:

Maria Saxton

Located in Roanoke, Virginia, Maria Saxton holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Design and Planning from Virginia Tech. She works as an Environmental Planner and Housing Researcher for a local firm specializing in Community Planning, Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Historic Preservation. Her dissertation explored the environmental impacts of small-scale homes. She serves as a volunteer board member for the Tiny Home Industry Association.