Startup to manufacture 3D-printed concrete houses for $ 4,000

A nonprofit partnership is raising funds for durable and affordable 3D printed concrete houses in El Salvador to help alleviate the global real estate crisis.

Each single-story, 650-square-foot home costs $ 4,000 to build using a concrete-extruding pressure jig programmed to form the foundation and walls of the structure. The pressure plans leave room for windows and a non-concrete roof and can be adjusted to make room for wiring and installation.

The whole thing is the brainchild of three Texas-based entrepreneurs whose tech startup Icon aims to revolutionize sustainable housing.

According to Jason Ballard, co-founder of Icon, 3D printing is a kind of “unicorn technology” for the construction industry, as it enables faster, better, and cheaper projects to be completed with a lot more creativity.

“It opens up a lot of creative freedom,” Ballard told CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday. He says liquid concrete printing allows for all kinds of shapes, from traditional squares and rectangles to circular and spiral shapes.

It also simplifies construction by eliminating the need for drywall, wooden frames, insulation, and other materials used to build the walls in traditional houses.

“They replace not just one, but at least four or five (wall layers) compared to traditional constructions,” Ballard said, adding that concrete is far tougher than drywall and two by four.

Ballard says he grew up in the Gulf of Texas, where hurricanes sometimes occur, so he knows the importance of heavy construction. “My childhood home was lost to a hurricane,” he said.

Ballard says he came up with the idea for 3D printing houses during his 10 years in the construction business. “I realized that instead of just continuing to mend the houses we have, we needed a radically better way to build houses, and technology could deliver on that promise,” he said.

Ballard and Icon have partnered with the nonprofit group New Story to launch their housing initiative made possible by their concrete pressure machine called Vulcan.

The first house printed by the Vulcan I was built in Austin, Texas. The 350-square-foot structure took about 48 hours and cost $ 10,000. But Icon says its next printer, the Vulcan II, will meet its lofty goal of building a 650-square-foot home for $ 4,000 in less than a day.

Icon intends to put the plans for their specific home online so that others can use them as technology becomes more widespread.

The World Resources Institute estimates that 1.2 billion people in cities live without affordable or safe housing.

Ballard expects the technology to catch on in developing countries as well as in the United States and Canada, where demand for housing is also high.

But the change won’t come overnight. Ballard is currently testing the first printed house in Texas as an office to see how well it will withstand the weather and seasons.

“Before we let families move in, we really want to do a lot of tests,” he said.

Ballard says the project has received a lot of attention since it was featured on South By Southwest last month, and he hopes it will help raise more donations. The New Story charity is currently accepting sponsors for building homes at a cost of $ 4,000 per home. The cost of building a full community is $ 400,000.

“People enjoy realizing that this is not just a niche technology,” Ballard said. “This is a real paradigm shift.”

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