ICON Projects

Building Resilient 3D-printed Homes: Testing for Fire, Hurricanes and High Wind

By Brooke Bauguess

Learn more about ICON's testing processes to ensure our homes are resilient, durable and long lasting

2023 was a historic year of U.S. billion-dollar weather and climate disasters. According to the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) report, there is nearly 100 billion per year in natural disaster related damage. Insurance companies are raising premiums for homeowners and even choosing to not cover homes at all in locations experiencing frequent natural disasters.

With the frequency and severity of wind storms increasing and communities expanding into previously undeveloped areas, designing buildings and homes is more than just creating great architecture and vibrant communities. Part of the process is ensuring homes are resilient and ensuring performance with rigorous testing standards. This is critical for the design of homes and buildings that are not only comfortable and visually appealing, but also help to reduce the risk of loss in the event of wildfires, hurricanes, and tornadoes. Over the last several months, ICON has completed a series of standardized tests to demonstrate the benefits printed structures provide.


An estimated 4.5 million homes are subject to high or extreme risk of wildfire and home fires cause $7.3 billion in U.S. property damage annually according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). In response, we have designed a specific collection of homes to engage with architecture and advanced technologies to be a solution and conducted rigorous testing to design the wall systems of our homes more resistant to fire.

An essential measure for fire resistance in buildings is evaluated using ASTM E119. The standard, developed by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), operates as a benchmark for assessing how long constructed assemblies, such as walls, can endure the extreme heat of a fire before failure. The test involves a controlled fire with a graded temperature curve, gradually increasing with time. This is followed by a water spray to simulate a fire hose and structural loading of the walls to ensure load bearing walls continue to function after exposure during a fire.

ICON’s printed load bearing 2-bead wall has achieved a 2-hour fire rating and development is underway to surpass a 3-hour rated wall. This means that every structure printed with a 2-bead wall system has this rating. Built with printed walls tested to this standard, buildings and homes offer occupants an extended window for safe evacuation in case of a fire, thereby reducing the risk of damage and potential loss of property and life.


With the changing climate and rising frequency of severe weather incidents, communities across the country require protection from hurricanes as they continue to grow. For residents of hurricane-prone areas, wall assemblies need to go above and beyond fire resistance and a series of ASTM standards are used to test how wall assemblies perform under hurricane wind conditions. ICON completed and passed all of the required tests for printed walls to be used in hurricane zones.

The first standard, ASTM E 330, evaluates the structural performance of walls under simulated windborne debris impact. It assesses a wall's ability to resist the forceful impact of flying objects encountered during a hurricane. For this test a 2x4 “missile”, traveling at 30 mph, is fired at the wall in several locations at a prescribed distance from the wall. Passing this test ensures walls can safeguard against the dangers of flying debris creating a hole in the building’s walls, letting wind and rain inside where they will cause additional damage.

Two standards, ASTM E1886 and E1996 work hand-in-hand to assess a wall's resistance to sustained and fluctuating wind pressures experienced in hurricanes. ASTM E1886 focuses on the wall's resistance to steady wind pressure and ASTM E1996 tests the wall’s resistance to varying wind pressure, mimicking the repeated wind gusts characteristic of hurricanes. By withstanding this test, walls can better handle the constant and varying pressure exerted by hurricane winds, minimizing structural damage and protecting the building's integrity.

Combining ICON’s printed walls passing these standard tests, along with other key details like impact resistant windows and doors, homes can meet the stringent requirements of the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety’s (IBHS) Fortified Gold rating. Fortified Gold is the recognized industry standard for buildings that are at reduced risk of loss during a hurricane due to high winds.


Tornados present an even greater challenge for homeowners and occupants with higher winds and reduced notice of a tornado event. ICC 500-2020 standard ramps up the pressures and impact forces experienced in hurricanes to tornado speeds to test a wall's ability for use in the construction of a storm shelter. For this test, the speed of the 2x4 “missile” is increased to 100 mph and the cyclic loading is completed over a broader and higher range of pressures. ICON recently completed and passed testing with one of our wall systems to this standard, proving the ability to use the walls to construct tornado shelters within homes or buildings.


Each of these standards and tests play a unique role in shaping the more resilient, durable home designs that ICON develops and builds. They give us a clear baseline upon which to evaluate how our building designs will perform in real-world disaster scenarios.

Whether you're a homeowner seeking peace-of-mind that your investment will not only stand the test of time, but also the challenges of climate change, or a housing developer interested in creating resilient, high-performance buildings that look out for the safety of occupants, ICON’s innovative building methods and wall systems provide proven and tested solutions for construction.

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