This 3D-Printed Village Aims to House 40% of Austin’s Homeless Population

This 3D-Printed Village Aims to House 40% of Austin’s Homeless Population

By Duncan Nielsen
Last fall, ICON 3D-printed a welcome center for a new type of community in Austin, Texas—and now the first homes are complete.

ICON and Mobile Loaves & Fishes just unveiled the first 3D-printed dwellings at Community First!, a 51-acre development that will aim to house 40% of Austin’s homeless population. The 400-square-foot houses were designed by Logan Architecture, and each one has a bedroom, a bathroom, a full kitchen, a living room, and a large porch.

Claire Zinnecker designed the interiors of the 3D-printed homes, and DEN Property Group providing all furnishings for the six future residents.

"ICON at its heart is innovation for a better future," says Jason Ballard, the company’s co-founder and CEO. "We need a radical rethinking in the way that we approach solving vexing issues in our society like homelessness. At the end of the day, this is all about people and the dignity of human beings."

ICON’s 3D-printing construction process, which makes use of robotics, automated material handling, advanced software, and a proprietary concrete, Lavacrete, offers a new way to quickly build homes that are both resilient and beautiful in a price range significantly below comparable conventional approaches.

The homes were printed three at a time from proprietary concrete using custom machinery that’s faster and more efficient than traditional construction. The technology was critical to the development of the community—and it holds great promise for addressing both homelessness and broader affordable housing issues.

ICON's Vulcan II printer spits out a proprietary concrete mix to build the homes' primary structures. 

"Vulnerable populations like the homeless are never among the first to access leading-edge anything," says Mobile Loaves & Fishes founder and CEO Alan Graham. "But here in Austin, Texas, they’re among the first in line who will be living in some of the most unique homes ever built—and we think that’s a beautiful thing."

An Austin resident takes in the views from inside one of the finished homes. 

The first round of homes were printed three at a time to maximize efficiency. Here, a site worker oversees production. 

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