AUSTIN, Texas — For Brett Hagler, the co-founder of non-profit New Story, building homes for people without adequate shelter is nothing new.
"We get a large piece of land and work with families that have been living in shacks or tents without shelter and design a totally new community with the families.”Approximately one billion of the world’s population is without proper shelter.
To make a dent in that he says, they have to think outside the mold.
“We believe traditional ways cannot get us there.”So for New Story’s next endeavor—adding more communities to the land they’ve already acquired in El Salvador—they teamed up with a brand new startup.That’s where Evan Loomis comes in. He’s the co-founder of Austin, Texas-based Icon, a company focused on new technologies for building homes.
Their first big debut came at this year’s South by Southwest festival in their hometown.
“This is a gigantic robot,” Loomis says, gesturing toward a large steel frame on wheels. “[It] really does some amazing things. Down to the millimeter it knows exactly where to place building materials.”
In this case that material is a proprietary mixture of concrete, that pours out of a nozzle on the underside of the metalwork. And the machine moves along a computerized map to create a house.
“This is basically the first permitted 3D printed house in the United States,” he said.
“We have to invest in [research and design],” Hagler said. “[We asked ourselves] ‘how do we get a breakthrough in cost, speed, and quality?’ And that’s how we landed upon 3D-home printing. The excitement in the air is palpable as they walk us through and around this modest home built up of about 100 one-inch thick concrete layers.“It’s stronger than regular cinder block,” Hagler said.
It also comes at a fraction of the cost of a regular house. This model had a price tag of about $10,000 but they hope to get the price down to $4,000.
“We can build in a fraction of the time [compared to traditional construction methods], and it can have a higher quality, strength, and sustainability for the environment."
It was 'printed' in just 48 hours. Eventually, they say it will be done in just a half day. It’s a small but open floor plan — with no physical doors — and rooms are separated by partial walls made up of the printed concrete.
They say they’ll easily be able to customize different designs.
The prototype home can fit a family of four or five.
“If you’re coming from a tent or shack and you move into this,” Hagler said, “it’s a significant life-changing difference.”
One of the things they’re most excited about with their upcoming 3D-homes project in El Salvador is the fact that they’re introducing groundbreaking technology to the people who usually see tech advances last.
“We are actually bringing them the future -- which is robotic construction of housing — first,” Hagler said. “And they’re really excited about that.”
They say they plan to begin construction in El Salvador before the end of the year with the hopes of finishing their first community of homes by early 2019. There could one day be plans for 3D printed homes in some of the poorest areas of the United States as well, Loomis said, but he has his eye set on possibly expanding to terrain that’s literally out of this world.
“It could be a really great solution for making space habitation a lot more achievable,” Loomis said. “We hit a nerve with this technology, and we are going to hit the gas hard and try to take it to everybody now.”