The first 3D-printed house made its debut earlier this month in Austin, Texas

Technology never ceases to amaze me. Every time I turn around, there is some new miracle of science. Take for example the recent news about houses that are built using 3D printing. You heard me right – these “brick and mortar” homes are made using high tech, oversized printers.

The first 3D-printed house made its debut earlier this month in Austin, at the SXSW (South by Southwest) conference and festival.

The house is the product of a partnership of Austin-based Icon, a company formed to develop new, sustainable building techniques for creating affordable housing, and New Story, a nonprofit that builds low-cost homes internationally using local materials and workers.

The cement residence was printed at the job site using a huge 3-D printer called The Vulcan. This 650-foot prototype cost $10,000. Cheap, right? But not cheap enough for Icon, which is working to bring the cost down to $4,000.

Printing a house offers several advantages over traditional construction, including design and nearly zero construction waste. And don’t be put off by the term “cement home.”  The SXSW prototype is delightful. There is nothing Spartan about it. The house includes a bedroom, living room, bathroom, and kitchen – all of which are drenched in sunlight and charm. A covered porch wraps around two sides of the house, offering a place to relax, sip an iced tea and wave at the neighbors.

Icon’s printed house system was created for use in areas where incomes are low, and infrastructure is sketchy. New Story’s first goal is to print several homes for families in El Salvador over the next 18 months. The next step is to create entire printed house communities over the next several years.

But if this technology continues to deliver on its promise, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it employed for middle-income projects here in the US, including the creation of affordable first homes, vacation homes, and even entire retirement communities.

Images courtesy of New Story and Icon.

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