Construction

ICON puts first U.S. 3D printed homes up for sale in Austin at $450,000

Texas-based construction company ICON has listed its first U.S-based 3D printed homes on the domestic housing market, with prices starting at around $450,000. 

Working with developer 3Strands, ICON has used its Vulcan 3D printers to construct four multi-storey buildings in East Austin, featuring north-facing windows, open floor plans and bespoke interiors. The additive manufactured abodes, which now form part of an innovative new neighborhood called East 17th Street, mark ICON’s 24th construction project, and its first to enter the mainstream market. 

“We want to change the way we build, own and how we live in community together,” said Gary O’Dell, Co-founder and CEO of 3Strands. “This project represents a big step forward, pushing the boundaries of new technologies and 3D printed homes.”

ICON’s Vulcan technology 

ICON’s construction capabilities revolve around its proprietary Vulcan 3D printer, which is specifically designed to produce single-story buildings rapidly, affordably and with maximal design freedom. With an adjustable width and print capacity of 2,000 sq. feet, the system is compatible with multiple different slab sizes, enabling users to flexibly construct habitable structures in a variety of layouts. 

Given that the Vulcan can also be transported and deployed without needing assembly, ICON has been able to use it to 3D print low-cost housing around the world. As long ago as 2018, the company worked with non-profit partner New Story to fabricate a $4,000 350-square foot house in Texas, as an early proof-of-concept for investors. 

Since then, ICON has built on the capabilities of its platform by creating groups of buildings, including houses for the homeless in Latin America, and the “world’s first 3D printed community.” The construction firm has also built upwards as well as outwards, developing huge ‘vehicle hide structures’ for the U.S. Marines Corps, and its even been contracted by NASA to produce a system for 3D printing on the moon

To-date, the company’s additive manufactured structures have largely been built as a proof-of-concept, demonstrating the capabilities of its technology. However, in its latest project, ICON is now taking its first steps into 3D printing commercial buildings, potentially reflecting a deviation in its broader growth strategy. 

ICON's four 3D printed houses at the East 17th Street site.
ICON has 3D printed four houses (pictured), each with 1,000-2,000 sq. feet of open-plan floor space. Photo via ICON.

The East 17th Street project 

As part of its ambitious East 17th Street program, 3Strands is effectively using ICON’s technology to build a small community of 3D printed homes, in the booming area of East Austin. Already, the company has constructed four different dwellings, each taking 5 to 7 days to complete, which are expected to be inhabitable by the summer of 2021. 

Developed by design firm Logan Architecture, the houses include vaulted master bedrooms, secluded offices and a minimalist rustic aesthetic. By using 3D printing and ICON’s robust Lavacrete material, 3Strands has been able to make the homes both energy efficient, and more resistant to fire, flooding and high winds than regularly-constructed buildings. 

What’s more, according to 3Strands, using ICON’s technology has provided it with “better value” than conventional production methods, adding that “the future of homebuilding is here and now.” With the final ‘finish-out’ of the properties now well underway, the firm has listed them on the local housing market, citing a starting price in the “mid-400s.”

“ICON has delivered better homes at a better value across a variety of cost-centers than conventional construction, including materials, time to market, and labor,” concluded O’Dell. “The East 17th St residences represent the future of homebuilding for the mass market, and illustrate what is possible with this technology.”

Scaling new heights with 3D printing

In the last year alone, 3D printing has been used to create a number of large-scale structures, ranging from three-storey buildings to enormous turbine towers. 

The German-based PERI Group is currently 3D printing the ‘world’s first three-floor commercial apartment using Danish construction firm COBOD’s large-format machines. Once finished, the building will be split into five rentable apartments, and listed on the local housing market. 

In June 2020, COBOD’s 3D printing technology was also deployed by GE Renewable Energy to construct “record-tall” wind turbine towers. Built as part of a multi-year program, the sizable concrete structures are designed to boost renewable energy production, while lowering its overall cost. 

Elsewhere, 3D printer manufacturer WASP has taken a more eco-friendly approach, fabricating its ‘TECLA’ sustainable habitat using only raw natural materials. Although the structure has only initially been erected as a proof-of-concept, it’s designed to act as a blueprint for a new more circular housing model.

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Featured image shows one of ICON’s 3D printed homes at the East 17th Street site. Photo via ICON.

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