Welcomecenter at communityfirst exterior
ICON Projects

Printing Homes for the Homeless in Austin

By Brooke Bauguess

We're delivering dignified, affordable housing at the country’s only master planned development designed specifically for the chronically homeless.


Press Kit

AUSTIN, TX, SEPTEMBER 10, 2019 – ICON, the construction technologies company shifting the paradigm of homebuilding using robotics, software and advanced materials, today announced its partnership with Mobile Loaves & Fishes (MLF), the Austin non-profit widely known for its compassionate service to the area’s homeless community. With one of ICON’s recently debuted Vulcan II printers, a nearly 500 sq ft ‘Welcome Center’ was printed in less than 27 hours across several days at the heart of Phase II of MLF’s innovative Community First! Village. The special project was commissioned by Cielo Property Group as part of their initiative to bring affordable housing to Austin and use real estate as a force for good.

“The whole ICON team was honored to deliver a beautiful welcome center for Community First! Village, one of the most innovative developments in Austin,” said Jason Ballard, co-founder and CEO of ICON. “Their non-stop work to love and serve our sisters and brothers experiencing homelessness is inspiring and makes all of us at ICON want to bring the very best of ourselves to the job. All the late nights, blood, sweat and tears at the lab… this is what it’s for. We’re proud to deliver buildings like this to Community First!, and I think all of Austin can be proud that two local, home-grown ventures are working on these issues together in such an innovative way. I hope this makes Austin proud too.”

The only neighborhood of its kind in the nation, Community First! Village provides affordable, permanent housing and a supportive community for men and women coming out of chronic homelessness. A development of Mobile Loaves & Fishes, this transformative residential program exists to love and serve Austin’s neighbors who have been living on the streets, while also empowering the surrounding community into a lifestyle of service with the homeless.

“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. “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. We completely see that as a large, future goal and one that will continue to demonstrate why Community First! Village is at the epicenter of innovation in our country in terms of communities and movements that are effectively addressing homelessness.”

Ballard continued, “We couldn’t be happier with how the welcome center turned out. I think anyone who sees it will feel like this is a future they can get behind. People can get cynical about issues like homelessness and whether or not it can be solved. I think projects like this give us reasons to be hopeful. We are grateful to our partners at Cielo, our builder Cedar Creek Interiors, Logan Architecture for designing this home and all our homes so far, Fort Structures for structural engineering, Claire Zinnecker for lending her interior design talents to the project and Industry West for donating beautiful furnishings and accessories to the center to make it warm and welcoming. This marks the beginning of what we hope is a long-term relationship with MLF. We’re ecstatic to announce our next step with MLF will be to print a series of homes to house some of Austin’s most vulnerable.”

Phase II of the northeast Austin development adds an additional 24 acres to Community First! Village, bringing the entire property to 51 total acres. When Phase II is completed and at full capacity, Community First! will have an estimated 480 formerly homeless individuals living in the Village—which represents about 40 percent of Austin’s chronically homeless population.

Architecture designs created by Logan Architecture and structural engineering by Fort Structures for the next phase of ICON’s work at Community First! Village are currently underway and will feature multiple home designs arranged to be printed simultaneously to further increase speed and reduce cost. The set of six total 3D-printed homes will break ground this year and for the first time ever, three homes will be 3D-printed at the same time. ICON’s 3D-printing construction process, which makes use of robotics, automated material handling, advanced software, and a proprietary concrete, Lavacrete, offers a new way to quickly build homes that are both resilient and beautiful in a price range significantly below comparable conventional approaches.

For a behind-the-scenes look at the beginnings of this special project:

About ICON

ICON is an Austin-based technology company dedicated to revolutionizing homebuilding and making dignified housing the standard for people throughout the world. Using proprietary 3D printing robotics, software and advanced materials, ICON is solving a plurality of problems in the contemporary building industry with their breakthrough technologies. In March 2018, ICON unveiled its first 3D printer and America’s first permitted 3D printed home in Austin, Texas. The next step on ICON’s journey to transform homebuilding will be to deliver strategic, signature projects currently underway in Latin America alongside the non-profit, New Story and with various partners and in Austin, TX. ICON closed a $9M seed round led by Oakhouse Partners in October 2018 and began printing homes with its latest Vulcan II technology in 2019. For more information, visit www.ICONbuild.com and follow @ICON3DTech on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

About Mobile Loaves & Fishes

Mobile Loaves & Fishes (MLF) is a social outreach ministry that has been empowering communities into a lifestyle of service with the homeless since 1998. The organization’s innovative Community First! Village is the country’s only master planned development designed specifically for men and women coming out of chronic homelessness. Through the support of thousands of volunteers, Mobile Loaves & Fishes food trucks hit the streets of Austin 7 nights a week, 365 days a year to provide food, clothing and other life-sustaining items to our homeless neighbors who are struggling to survive. With more than 5.5 million meals served, MLF has grown to become the largest prepared feeding program to the homeless in Central Texas and has spawned similar food truck programs in other cities across the country. For more information, visit www.MLF.org.