Frequently Asked questions
We are a small team of innovators with a big vision to create new sustainable building practices that make beautiful, quality homes accessible to everyone.
I heard about this 3D-printed home in Austin, Texas and have to see it to believe it. Where can I access video footage and/or images of the printed home?
What is ICON?
ICON is a construction technologies company dedicated to revolutionizing homebuilding. Through proprietary 3D printing technologies and cutting-edge materials, ICON provides sustainable solutions to a number of our world’s most pressing issues, including the global pandemic of homelessness; the increasingly inaccessible cost of home ownership in America and abroad; fundamental issues of sustainability, resiliency, and building performance of conventional construction methods; and the challenge and opportunity of constructing off-planet space habitats.
How much does it cost to 3D print a home?
The first permitted, 3D printed house was created in ~48 hours of total printing time and for around $10,000 (printed portion only). The 350 square foot home is in Austin, TX. The home serves as proof-of-concept and was created in partnership with the non-profit, New Story. New Story’s goal is to print a community of homes in El Salvador in the coming 18 months with each home being around 600-800 square feet, printed in less than 24 hours and costing $4,000 per home.
No really, how long does it take?
Yes, our goal is to print in less than 24 hours! The Vulcan I delivered a total print time of ~48 hours on our first house running at roughly 25% speed. We’re presently working on Vulcan II, which should be able to print a standard house in under 24 hours.
24 Earth hours?
But does it look good?
We sure think so, and are personally excited to move into the space for our office over the next several months. Someday we will all live in 3D-printed homes...it’s just a matter of time.
ICON’s mission is to allow you to download and print your home in 24 hours for half the cost. We’re aiming to begin printing homes in the U.S. beginning in 2019.
How much will it cost to print homes in the U.S., and when will this happen?!
We’re glad you’re interested in the future of homebuilding and considering a 3D-printed home. While we are not currently working with individuals, we encourage you to sign-up for our newsletter so we can keep you updated on our progress and printing within the U.S. and beyond.
When can I have one?
I know it sounds crazy, but it would be a lot crazier to fly sheet rock and 2x4’s to MARS. There are distinct advantages for leveraging 3D printing in space, namely that there isn’t a need for oxygen or food and local materials can be utilized.
ICON is actively pursuing research on printing technologies for off-planet space habitats. We look forward to having more to say on this in the future! Co-founder, Jason Ballard, will be speaking on the subject at Silicon Valley Comic Con April 7, 2018 in San Jose if you want to attend!
And did you say SPACE earlier? Are you all joking?
We’ve been tinkering for about two years, and actively in stealth mode creating the Vulcan printer and our first material formulation for about 9 months.
How long have you been working on this project?
The three founders each started working on it independently about two years ago. Jason has spent the last decade+ of his life starting and growing a company called TreeHouse, whose whole mission revolves around sustainability and health in the built environment. After working on literally thousands of homes, Jason began saying to himself, "Surely there is a better way to build homes that is more affordable, less wasteful, and more energy efficient than conventional building methods." Approaches to construction hadn't changed in so long it was like people had forgotten how to even imagine a different way. That began a months-long study and research project (including prefab, insulated concrete forms, SIP panels, advanced framing, robotic bricklaying, architectural fungus, etc.) that landed Jason on 3D printing as the most promising technology to create a true revolution that checked all the boxes he cared about. He re-connected with his TreeHouse co-founder and friend Evan Loomis, and the two decided to start working on it and build a prototype in a warehouse in Austin on the weekends. Meanwhile, a fresh college-grad and engineer named Alex LeRoux was working on a similar project in Houston. His prototype was actually able to print a mortar-based tiny home. Eventually, after hearing rumors of each other for months, Alex and Jason met at TreeHouse and decided to start working together.
Fast forward to today... ICON is a for-profit construction technologies company using robotics, software, and advanced materials to reinvent the homebuilding industry. The 3D printer dubbed the "Vulcan I" is the first product/project and was developed in collaboration with New Story, the non-profit bringing homes to underserved populations. Together we have achieved the first site-printed, permitted 3D printed house in America. It is truly the first of its kind.
Tell us about the origins of ICON and your mission.
Yes. The first 3D-printed home in Austin, TX was printed all on-site and is a permitted, permanent structure.
Is the first printed home by ICON a permanent structure?
Beyond torrential downpours in Austin over the printing time period, the challenges of 3D printing a home that is the first to be permitted in the U.S. included mostly structural engineering and foundation adjustments, as the city had never seen a building of its kind.
For the most recent building in Austin, weren’t there challenges meeting housing codes?
The ICON team printed the full home using the Vulcan 3D printer and once completed, our partners at Alchemy Builders constructed the finishing touches including the roof, windows, doors and electrical/plumbing with conventional methods.
Are the roof, windows and other finishes done conventionally or also 3D printed?
ICON’s leadership team includes:
Alex Le Roux, co-founder and CEO
Jason Ballard, co-founder of ICON; co-founder and president of TreeHouse
Evan Loomis, co-founder of ICON; co-founder of Saturn Five
Who are the folks behind this?
In the near future, ICON will deploy the Vulcan printer to El Salvador to begin printing homes in partnership with the non-profit, New Story.
Additionally, ICON is working to identify and begin work on domestic projects in both affordable and custom housing.
What is in the near future for ICON?
We’re excited to hear from you. Please fill out our contact form and someone will be in touch.
I’m an investor, how can I help?
the printer & technology
The printer, dubbed the "Vulcan", is the first of ICON's construction technologies to be unveiled in partnership with New Story, and was designed specifically for the developing world. The mobile printer fully prints on-site and does not require printing in an off-site location nor does it need to piece together different portions. The entire home is printed seamlessly and it sustainable, produces nearly zero waste and highly durable, low maintenance, and energy-efficient to operate.
What distinguishes this printer from other 3D printers?
The Vulcan I is a gantry-style printer on rails. We have several patents pending on both the hardware and materials.
What category of 3D printing are you using? Is this under ICON IP? Or is this a material innovation?
Conventional construction is slow, fragmented, wasteful, and has poor thermal properties which increase energy use, increase operating costs, and decrease comfort. Also, conventional materials like drywall and particle board are some of the least resilient materials ever invented. By contrast, 3D printing offers the following:
Lack of manual labor
Concrete is a well understood, affordable, resilient material
Concrete has a high thermal mass (comfort & energy efficiency)
3D Printing produces a continuous, unbroken thermal envelope (comfort & energy efficiency)
Replaces multiple systems of the home in one technology (foundation, structure, insulation, interior & exterior sheathing, moisture barrier, finished surfaces, etc.)
Near zero waste
Tremendous design freedom (curves and slopes are no more challenging or expensive than straight, plumb lines).
Why is 3D printing the most appropriate technology for addressing affordability and building performance in construction?
Size: 20 ft X 11 ft X *infinite length* of build volume since the printer is set on tracks
Speed: The printer will be able to print a single-story, 600-800 square foot home in less than 24 hours for $4,000.
Design: Nearly any 2D floor plan imaginable can be printed.
What are the capabilities of the 3D printer in terms of complexity of design, size, speed?
The printer uses a proprietary small-aggregate cementitious material (also known as a mortar). Since the mix has relatively easy to find constituent parts, local procurement is expected to be feasible.
What feedstock does the 3D printer use? Will you need to import it?
As much as we’d love to say we invented concrete...we did not. Concrete formulations from one to another can be as different as people. We did develop a proprietary formula that is unique for our current and future printing projects.
Did you invent the concrete or material used?
This first printer developed specifically for the developing world is meant to be mobile and weighs around 2,000 lbs.
How much does the printer weigh?
The code that the printer needs to print is called gcode. Then the portion of the printer where material is fed is called the "hopper" and has a level detecting switch to measure how full the container is of the material to add/adjust as necessary.
How do you go from the design (CAD) to printing and what is next?
FIRST PROJECT WITH NEW STORY
New Story and ICON unveil first permitted 3D-printed home created for the developing world on March 12th at a private event in Austin, TX.
ICON is a construction technologies company dedicated to revolutionizing homebuilding. Through their proprietary 3D printing technology and cutting-edge materials, ICON provides sustainable solutions to a number of our world’s most pressing issues, including the pandemic of homelessness in the developing world, the difficulty of constructing off-planet space habitats, and the exorbitant cost of customized housing.
New Story is a non-profit focused on providing safe homes for families living in slums around the globe. To date, they have built more than 850 homes for families in Haiti, El Salvador, Mexico, and Bolivia.
ICON has created the first 3D printer developed specifically for underserved populations with partner New Story in order to provide higher quality homes and impact more families faster at a lower cost.
The printer, dubbed The Vulcan, has successfully printed the first permitted, 3D home, built to US housing standards, in Austin, Texas.
It is designed to work under the constraints that are common in places like Haiti and rural El Salvador, where New Story works. Power can be unpredictable, potable water is not a guarantee, and technical assistance is sparse.
The 3D printer has been under wraps for the last 8 months during building, testing, and development.
ICON and New Story believe 3D printing technologies are set to transform global homelessness and will print their first community of homes in El Salvador in the coming 18 months.
In the future, New Story plans to open this breakthrough technology from ICON to other nonprofits and governments around the world that are focused on providing safe shelter for underserved families.
The high-powered innovators behind ICON and the first global initiative with New Story include a cross section of engineers, environmentalists, designers and entrepreneurs. ICON and New Story worked in close partnership with several other organizations to develop the Vulcan printer including Pump Studios, Yaskawa Electric, Alchemy Builders, TreeHouse, Keep Real Estate, Andrew Logan Architecture, Linestar Automation and The University of Texas.
Through mutual friends and business associates, co-founders Jason and Evan, met New Story’s CEO, Brett Hagler, in 2017 and quickly realized they had a united mission to transform human’s most basic need: shelter. New Story was looking for an innovation that could bring more homes to more families, faster than ever. ICON was developing the construction technologies and 3D printer that was fit for the important work. About 8 months later, the first permitted, 3D printed home was unveiled in Austin, TX and is the proof-of-concept they needed to move into their second phase of taking the mobile 3D printer into El Salvador to print the first community of homes for those in need.
How did the collaboration with New Story come about?
133 million people live in slums in Latin America. Globally, 1.3 billion people live in slums. That’s 14% of the world population, and growing. New Story is focused on impacting those 1.3 billion in slums by providing safe housing.
How big is the need for better housing in the areas where New Story is building?
New Story works with families who live without one of the most basic needs – safe shelter. The majority of families live on less than $2 per day. Additionally, in the countries of work (Haiti, El Salvador, Bolivia and Mexico) families have no support system to fall back on. “Homeless shelters” and similar services for the most part do not exist in countries where so many are faced with these issues.
What are the circumstances of the communities and families that New Story is helping?
The printed homes are expected to last as long or longer than standard Concrete Masonry Unit (CMU) built homes. The homes are built to the International Building Code (IBC) structural code standard.
How long are the 3D printed houses expected to last?
Families who receive a home through New Story’s program own the home and maintain it on their own. Homes are purposefully simple without unnecessary items to reduce maintenance costs.
What type of maintenance will the houses require? What is the estimated cost of maintenance and is this covered by the families or New Story?
New Story currently provides approximately 4 jobs per home using traditional construction. It is currently estimated that the printer will reduce the number of jobs but local labor will still be required for aspects of communities. Since the mix has relatively easy to find constituent parts, local procurement is expected to be feasible.
You currently partner with local workers and use locally sourced materials. How does building with a 3D printer change that? Will jobs performed by local workers be eliminated?
New Story and ICON will be taking the printer to the field in the coming 18 months and begin in El Salvador. Cost, quality, and efficiency once the printer is in country will determine the roll-out plans for 2019 and beyond.
What is the roll out plan for this technology. Will all New Story homes be built using 3D printing?
The printer is projected to be in the field in the coming 18 months and families will begin to move-in after printing, seismic, and safety tests are completed, likely in Q2 or Q3 of 2019.
When will the first family move into a 3D printed home?
These printers are designed to work under the constraints common places like Haiti and rural El Salvador where power can be unpredictable, potable water is not a guarantee, and technical assistance is sparse. Building the printer to not rely on these items was crucial to bet on the reliability of the printer in the field.
What are the challenges of 3D printing in less than ideal conditions?
Safety & durability: The printer currently operates in Austin, TX, a city with some of the world’s toughest building codes. Safety, durability, and specifications have been focus of New Story & ICON since day one.
Underserved population focused: These printers are designed to work under the constraints common places like Haiti and rural El Salvador where power can be unpredictable, potable water is not a guarantee, and technical assistance is sparse. Simply put, it’s designed for the developing world and to tackle housing shortages instead of building with profit motivation.
Flexibility: The printer is the largest in the world. With an axis set upon a track, the printer has a theoretically unlimited print area.
There are others who are working on 3D printing homes. What are the particular strengths of this technology?