ICON Just Unveiled Plans for a Massive Neighborhood of 3D-Printed Homes in Austin, Texas

The 3D-printing company ICON has partnered with Bjarke Ingels Group and homebuilder Lennar for their most ambitious project to date.
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Since 2018, Austin, Texas-based ICON has been printing out homes in the area and beyond using a robotic arm that meticulously layers a concrete-like material. Now, the company plans to flex that same arm—or several—by building a neighborhood of 100 single-family residences designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). The lofty project is in collaboration with homebuilder Lennar, and promises to be the largest community of 3D-printed homes in North America.

3D-home printers ICON have partnered with global architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and homebuilder Lennar to create a neighborhood of printed homes in Austin, Texas.

ICON’s first 3D-printed house, a 350-square-foot Austin dwelling that took just 47 hours to complete using the company’s proprietary Lavacrete concrete blend, attracted a range of interested clients and collaborators.

In 2019, for example, the company began working with nonprofit New Story to build an affordable housing development in Mexico, reducing the per-house construction time to just 24 hours. In 2020, working with nonprofit Loaves & Fishes and design firm Logan Architecture, ICON introduced a 51-acre development of 3D-printed homes for those experiencing homelessness in Austin.

Earlier this year, ICON partnered with Bjarke Ingels Group and NASA to print a simulated Martian habitat at the Johnson Space Center, and also saw completion of America’s first 3D-printed community of homes, the East 17th Street Residences in East Austin. This summer, the company produced the largest 3D-printed building in North America for the Texas Military Department.

The home’s structures would be 3D-printed, and topped with overhanging pitched roofs built using more traditional methods.

Whether you’re a deep-pocketed federal agency or a cash-strapped charity, building rapidly without construction crews marks a potential paradigm shift.

"ICON exists as a response to the global housing crisis and to put our technology in service to the world," says ICON cofounder and CEO Jason Ballard. "The United States faces a deficit of approximately five million new homes, so there is a profound need to swiftly increase supply without compromising quality, beauty, or sustainability—and that is exactly the strength of our technology."

Now comes arguably the biggest challenge yet: single-family homes designed to be sold at market rate. ICON plans to print the 100 residences using their Vulcan printers—the robotic arms—which can print concrete structures of up to 3,000 square feet.

If completed, this would be the largest 3D-printed neighborhood in the world.

The renderings provided by ICON show a development of homes that start with rounded, Lavacrete structures, and end with overhanging roofs embedded with photovoltaic panels. Construction would follow the International Building Code’s structural code standard. But ICON says its proprietary building material will last longer than standard concrete masonry, providing resilience in a time of increasing natural disasters and climate change.

"Additive manufacturing has the potential to revolutionize the built environment as it gets adopted by the industry at scale," says Martin Voelkle, a partner at BIG. "The 3D-printed architecture and the photovoltaic roofs are innovations that are significant steps toward reducing waste in the construction process, as well as toward making our homes more resilient, sustainable, and energy self-sufficient."

The result of these apparent strides in homebuilding may not be for everyone. Between the monotone concrete ambiance and the almost Levittown-like uniformity of the neighborhood, some may find these homes lack much architectural nuance or variation. Yet the same could be said of traditional stick-built houses in most new subdivisions, which take substantially longer to build and are usually constructed from off-the-shelf builder plans.

If built, ICON’s proposed development would answer a need for housing in an efficient way, and with the help of BIG, they’d look good doing it.

More from ICON:

America’s First Development of 3D-Printed Homes Hits the Market in Austin, Texas

ICON Unveils the World’s First Village of Affordable 3D-Printed Homes in North America

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