The first homes have been built in New Story’s 3D printed community for low-income families in Mexico

New Story, a non-profit organization fighting homelessness, has announced that construction of the ‘world’s first’ 3D printed community is officially underway. As part of a collaborative project with ICON, a Texas-based construction technologies company, the first set of homes have already been 3D printed in Tabasco, Mexico. They feature final construction build-out by ÉCHALE, New Story’s nonprofit partner in Mexico.

“Conventional construction methods have many baked-in drawbacks and problems that we’ve taken for granted for so long that we forgot how to imagine any alternative,” explains Jason Ballard, Co-founder, ICON.   

“With 3D printing, you not only have a continuous thermal envelope, high thermal mass, and near zero-waste, but you also have speed, a much broader design palette, next-level resiliency, and the possibility of a quantum leap in affordability.”

New Story and ICON’s partnership 

First announced in 2018, the 3D printed homes are intended to provide low-cost housing for low-income communities in Latin America that adapt to their day-to-day lives. The new homes that have been successfully 3D printed will be granted to local families in Mexico currently living in extreme poverty and makeshift, unsafe shelter. This project is spearheaded by New Story, an organization researching technological breakthroughs in home-building to tackle the global housing crisis, which has identified 3D printing as a viable solution to the issue. 3D printing allows New Story to reach more families faster, while simultaneously improving quality and design flexibility.

In 2018, New Story and its partner ICON 3D printed a house in Austin, Texas in 48 hours as a proof of concept, at a cost of less than $4000 using an early iteration of the Vulcan 3D printer from ICON. ICON has previously raised $9 million in seed funding in order to support its endeavors alongside New Story to reinvent the construction of affordable homes with the use of 3D printers.

Close-up of one of the 3D printed homes. Photo via New Story.
Close-up of one of the 3D printed homes. Photo via New Story.

Revealing their plans for the 3D printed community in May 2019, ICON and New Story worked closely with residents in Latin America to understand and learn about the culture and environment of their community. This was done in order to ensure the 3D printed residences respond to the community’s specific motives, habits, and needs beyond what traditional home design can do.

“Imagine if we could slash the cost and time it takes to build a home while improving quality and customization. This 3D home printer has that potential. Our goal is to power our sector, every government and organization building homes for the poor, to do their best work,” comments Alexandria Lafci, COO, New Story.

Thus far two houses have now been 3D printed by ICON and New Story in Tabasco. Although the initial planning of their construction took 18 months, the homes were 3D printed across several days using ICON’s Vulcan II 3D printer, a system designed specifically for constructing homes. Each home was completed in around 24 hours of print time and measures 500 sq ft. Having completed the first two of these built-to-last 3D printed homes, ICON and New Story plan to expand the community to 50 homes in total. 

Both of the 3D printed homes. Photo via New Story.
Both of the 3D printed homes. Photo via New Story.

3D printing homes for low-income families

Co-designed with feedback from the families, the 3D printed homes feature two bedrooms, a living room, kitchen and bath. They are situated within a seismic zone, and have been engineered above the standard safety requirements including robust foundations to ensure the homes will last for generations.   

The families that will be allocated to the 50 homes in the 3D printed community have been preselected, and they will begin moving in once all the homes are complete. The selection process for the families that get to live in the 3D printed homes is based on a survey of over 500 families, conducted in partnership with local government officials. In the community in Tabasco, the median family income per month is $76.50, some of the lowest-income families in Mexico as a whole. When surveyed, 74 percent of families stated they do not feel safe in their current living conditions and that this greatly affects their quality of life.

Living conditions of the families. Photo via New Story.
Living conditions of the families. Photo via New Story/Joe Gonzales.

The 50 families with the greatest financial and physical needs have been selected to live in the 3D printed dwellings. A majority of these families derive from an indigenous population that has historically been left out of government programs. They will receive the homes at a zero interest, zero profit mortgage. The total mortgage amount is around 400 pesos ($21.17) a month and lasts for 7 years. Funds generated from the mortgages are pooled into a community investment fund where families over time vote on how the funds are used.

Working with the local government, New Story has plans for a larger community for the overall municipal area, outside of the 50 homes. The families will have access to green spaces, parks, community amenities, and basic utilities through this wider plan. By undertaking this project, New Story aims to influence the construction sector as a whole by sharing the knowledge gained with other nonprofits. Using 3D printing technology, software, and advanced materials, it is hoped that this will help everyone improve and reach families faster. 

“I think it’s important to remember what makes this project different, what makes it matter: we’re not an R&D company just for the sake of innovation, and we’re not here to turn a profit. These homes are for real people, with real needs, and everything we do is for them, and includes them in the process,” concludes Lafci.

Inside the 3D printed home. Photo via New Story.
Inside the 3D printed home. Photo via New Story.

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Featured image shows boys outside 3D printed home. Photo via New Story.