3D-printed housing developments suddenly pick up – here’s what it looks like

Barely a month ago, a 3D-printed house was offered for sale for the first time in the USA

Now follows a small 3D-printed community in Texas. Another, larger community in California is also underway.

In other words, 3D-printed real estate is adopting a lot.

That first house offered for sale has not even been built yet. The company, SQ4D, printed a model house in a concrete yard on Long Island, New York, and presented more than a hundred performances. The new house will be printed on many nearby premises.

ICON, a pioneer in 3D printing houses in the USA, has just completed four houses in East Austin, Texas. In partnership with developer 3Strands, based in Kansas City, the two- to four-bedroom homes are now on the market, starting in the $ 400,000 range.

“The question was not on the rankings, difficult to even handle,” said Gary O’Dell, co-founder and CEO of 3Strands. “The feedback could not have been more positive.”

The city of Austin, one of the fastest growing metropolitan markets in the country, has already adopted the concept of 3D-printed homes, and the zoning and licensing process has been relatively easy, O’Dell said.

“We built four houses in the configuration we did because we could do it in the existing zoning,” he added.

3D Printed Home Construction by 3Strands and ICON in Austin, Texas.

Source: ICON

A year ago, ICON printed seven 400-square-foot homes in Austin, in partnership with Mobile Loaves & Fishes, a nonprofit Austin. The houses are part of a community for the homeless. This experience, coupled with the push of about a dozen homes at another project in Mexico, has given ICON all the necessary knowledge to move quickly with the new larger homes now on sale.

“We’re going to graduate from hundreds of homes to hundreds of homes,” said ICON CEO Jason Ballard.

How they were made

According to ICON, the houses are pressed on site using its Vulcan construction system, which according to Ballard spits out an “own extrudable concrete”, which added that it is the method with the highest speed and lowest cost. It also allows for the most flexibility in floorboards.

With the new development, ICON printed the first floor 3D and then built the second story conventionally, but this enabled them to certify the wall system for the construction of two floors.

“It’s the fastest way from imagination to built-in options,” Ballard said. “You can make things that look very lofty and very high, but that are not more expensive to deliver than a straight wall would be.”

3D Printed Home Construction by 3Strands and ICON in Austin, Texas.

Source: ICON

Ballard said the construction of the houses is 10 to 30% cheaper and several months faster than the usual construction. This is especially important in light of the rising costs that builders are seeing for conventional construction materials, such as steel, aluminum and especially wood.

“Housing has been an economic bright spot amid the Covid-19 pandemic, but the industry’s potential to lead the economy forward is limited, as long as building materials remain expensive and scarce,” said researchers from the National Association of Home Builders. written earlier this month. “Builders are doing everything possible to prevent consumers from pricing their homes while still maintaining competitive prices needed to run their business.”

There is also an acute labor shortage in the house building industry. 3D-printed houses require very few workers, as the printer does most of the construction.

Sustainability, efficiency

The ICON community in Texas may be the first, but on its heels, a much larger community in Rancho Mirage, California, is being planned by rival Mighty Buildings.

In partnership with developer Palari Group, the company has just announced that it will build 15 3D-printed homes in what it considers to be ‘the world’s first planned community of 3D-printed homes … with the integration of technology and sustainability’ .

Mighty Buildings claims that the 3D printing production process eliminates 99% of construction waste and is 30-40% cheaper than traditional construction. It will also use solar energy.

Mighty Buildings was started in 2017 and devised a polymer composition that could be compared to synthetic stone. It made the house into panels in a factory and then moved it, but for the Rancho Mirage community, the houses will be printed on the premises.

Delivering a 3D-printed community from Mighty Buildings and Palari Group in Rancho Mirage, CA.

Source: Mighty Buildings

“It is completely different from concrete because our materials are thermally efficient,” said Alex Dubov, chief operating officer of Mighty Buildings. “We strive to achieve a net energy standard for each unit. Our material has a lower thermal conductivity. There is no loss of heat and cold between inside and outside.

Against the elements

Whether made of concrete or a polymer, these homes have been shown to be far more energy efficient, sustainable and resilient than conventional wooden homes.

Just ask Tim Shea, 70, who lives in one of the ICON homes built for the homeless in Austin. He endured the recent cold and ice storm there, without any problems.

“I did not even know there was one, until I lifted the blinds,” Shea said. “It’s great. I can only deliver a series of adjectives, but it’s a fantastic place. It’s the most unique place I’ve ever lived. Houses, apartments, I’m like a bug in a rug in this place. “

ICON’s homes in Mexico withstood a major earthquake without damage. Since the houses are concrete, they are resistant to mold, termites, water and rot.

A demonstration of a 3D-printed house construction by 3Strands and ICON in Austin, Texas.

Source: ICON

Mighty Buildings is still assessing whether the material is strong enough to withstand hurricane force, as it wants to expand its geographic footprint.

“We are interested in Florida and the East Coast,” Dubov said. “We serve customers across California, so we are 100% sure our homes can withstand earthquakes or winds. The only exception is that hurricane tests have not been completed.”

Because the demand for 3D-printed homes is so strong now, the biggest challenge for these businesses is to scale up quickly. ICON has four printing systems and is already building more. Ballard, who now employs 40 people, said he expects the company to grow to more than 100 staff members this year.

In August 2020, ICON announced a $ 35 million financing round led by Modern Ventures. The investment brings the total funding of ICON since its launch in 2018 to $ 59 million. Key investors included Oakhouse Partners, the Cielo Property Group, the country’s largest home builder, DR Horton and Emaar.

“The biggest challenge for ICON is that our supply is limited. We are asking more people to build houses than we now know what to do with,” Ballard said. “Every construction system we have is discussed for the next 24 months.” He calls it a ‘champagne’ problem.

“It’s every entrepreneur’s dream,” he said.

A display of 3D printed home interiors by 3Strands and ICON.

Source: ICON

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