3D printing will be used to add new housing at Austin homeless community

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin company, ICON, unveiled a new welcome center Monday for a local community that houses the chronically homeless — and it’s the second 3D printed home in the country.

But the innovation doesn’t stop at the welcome center.

ICON’s Vulcan II 3D printer will soon be creating housing for area homeless at Community First! Village located in Travis County east of Austin.

ICON is partnering with Austin nonprofit Mobile Loaves & Fishes, the Austin nonprofit behind Community First!, on this effort. The construction technologies company was commissioned by Cielo Property Group to print the nearly 500-square-foot welcome center. Cielo is paying for this printer to be used to build out other homes in this community as well, six more homes are expected to be printed in the near future.

Vulcan II printing part of the Community First! Village welcome center (KXAN/Alyssa Goard)

The process of printing the building took less than 27 hours over the course of several days, the company said.

Using this printer to build out more homes will help fulfill Phase II of developing Mobile Loaves & Fishes plan for Community First! Village. Mobile Loaves & Fishes hopes to have 110 of these printed homes in their community in the long run.

Community First! Village took a great deal of time to get off the ground, from 2004 when the vision was first proposed, Mobile Loaves & Fishes explained that Phase I of the village took more than a decade. But with this new technology, it’s likely that Phase II could be completed in just a couple of years.

“That’s the beauty of the scalability of technology, that’s the beauty of the scalability of innovation,” said Alan Graham, founder and CEO of Mobile Loaves & Fishes. “And then when you look at what it takes to actually build a house in a conventional way — a month — and be able to reduce that to days, it’s unbelievable.”

“This is going to create one of the most extraordinary movements in the United States of America,” he said emphatically.

“ICON is pushing the envelope and is technologically laying out a new way of looking at how we build homes,” said Alan Graham, founder and CEO of Mobile Loaves & Fishes in a release. “Community First! Village is the perfect place on the planet to experiment with this approach. One of our desires is that this partnership with ICON will grow so deep that we’re able to leverage this technology to someday build all of our micro-homes in future phases of the Village.”

Getting housing, Graham explained, is life-changing for individuals who have been experiencing homelessness.

“Because for the first time they feel connected into a community as opposed to being despised and outcast and put out on the furthest fringes of the community –like we treat our neighbors on our street corners now,” he explained.

ICON’s Vulcan II 3D printer in progress creating a building for Community First! Village. Image Courtesy ICON.

The U.S.’s first 3D printed home was created when ICON unveiled this technology at South by Southwest this year, creating the first 3D printed home in the country on Chicon Street in Austin.

U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) had a chance to tour this home last week.

“One of the best ways to solve homelessness is with homes,” Doggett said in a statement to KXAN. “These 3D homes by Community First and ICON are a strong step toward bridging the housing affordability gap for multiple communities—and delivering results swiftly.”

Jason Ballard, ICON’s co-founder and CEO explained that his company believes this house is proof that 3D printed homes could be created on a larger scale. ICON believes that these type of homes can make construction go faster, with smaller costs, less waste, and better home performance.

“When we first started this business and we told people we were going to tackle affordability and resiliency and all these things they were you know understandably skeptical and we realized, we just gotta put houses on the ground to prove that this is the real deal,” Ballard said from inside this newly unveiled home. “And I’m standing here and I would happily live in this house.”

KXAN’s Alyssa Goard will be covering the unveiling of this new effort.

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