The First 3D Printed House Is a Solution to Affordable Housing

We spend a lot of time at Homedit perusing, exploring and writing about the coolest home and interior designs to inspire you to create a stylish space of your own. Of course, that assumes that you have the luxury of a sturdy roof over your head, something that millions around the world do not.

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Building a low-cost but strong and functional home for people who don’t have housing has been a global challenge, but the answer might be found in a new technology: 3D printing. In fact, a company has created the first 3D-printed house — that meets permitting specifications — in less than 24 hours and for about $4,0000.

Austin, Texas-based ICON has come up with a way to print a one-story house out of cement in less than a day. This 650-square-foot home has a bedroom, a bathroom, a living room and a small office and was built to be showcased at SXSW 2018 and SXSW 2019. The company has partnered with a non-profit called New Story with the aim of bringing this type of housing to underdeveloped areas, beginning with El Salvador.

How much cost a 3D printed house?

ICON had earlier produced a smaller prototype — a tiny home of 350 square feet — that took 14 hours and $10,000 to build. At the time, the printer was running at only 25 percent of its capacity, making ICON sure that it could build a larger home for less, especially with its new upgraded model of 3D printer, called the Vulcan II. The amount may sound like a lot of money, but tiny houses typically run about $25,00 or more and take much longer to construct.

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To spur the construction of these 3D-printed homes, ICON is selling is improved printer, the Vulcan II, which could be used anywhere to make affordable housing. The machine creates the walls of the building on site, mixing and extruding layers of cement that build up to form the structure. It is capable of making walls as long as 28 feet and as high as 8 feet. After the main building is complete, the non-printable elements like windows and doors are added manually. Another technological facet at play with these 3D homes is that the construction is controlled via a tablet, meaning that very few people are actually needed to build the home.

How does it hold up?

Well, the ICON staff is using the Austin exhibit home as an office to test durability. Otherwise, the cement structure can stand up to extreme weather conditions.

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The next steps planned are to build 100 homes in El Salvador, where the geography is rough and flooding is common because housing construction there has been very difficult. New Story hopes that people will be able to occupy the homes later this year after safety and seismic testing is completed. And, according to reports from CNN, the non-profit wants to raise $1 million to print the 350-square-foot houses. Eventually, the organization would like to extend the project to house more of the world’s 1.3 billion people who currently live in slums, chipping away at the problem of global homelessness.

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A little closer to home, Cielo Property Group of Texas wants to use this same system to build affordable houses in the Austin area. What about 3D printing bigger houses? The average size of an American home is about 2,000 square feet, which could be printed for around $20,000, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal.

Related: 15 Cheap Building Materials for a New Home on A Budget

According to New Story founder and COO Alexandria Lafci, sturdy walls and a door that can be closed at night to keep us safe is another thing we take for granted. Her hope is that Sby using the 3D building technology, safety, security and a roof overhead is something that more and more families will be able to achieve.

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Things to know about 3d printed houses 

More Sustainable Construction

One of the benefits of 3D-printed houses is that they are more sustainable because the construction process is entirely different. Because components and parts are printed to a specific size, there’s less waste from trimming and adjusting. Some new types of concrete printers are being used to print the exterior of the home on site, further eliminating a lot of waste.

A Whole New Construction Process

Because 3D-printed homes are built with an entirely different technology, it can be difficult to get the right construction materials. Increasingly, the types of concrete and other building materials are proprietary and the material that will be used in your home will be the one that is used by that particular construction/3D printing company.

Lower Cost, But

While simple 3D-printed homes can be constructed for vastly smaller sums than can traditional homes, that doesn’t mean they will all be cheaper. Some new 3D-printed home communities are incorporating all kinds of extras to make them more sustainable as well as more luxurious. The companies building them know that these cheaper homes can solve a housing crisis, but they are also developing designs for the top end of the market that include major upgrades, decks and swimming pools.

Infinite Possibilities

Perhaps one of the biggest plusses for designers is that anything is possible for 3D-printed homes. No longer does a home have to consist of squared-off walls and sharp corners. Wavy designs, rounded walls and specialty features are all possible when looking at building a 3D-printed home.

Take a look at these projects that are under way around the globe and you’ll get an idea of where we are with 3D-printed homes as well as what the future might hold.

More 3D Printed House Design Ideas

Innovative 3D printed house with a Minimalist Design

Innovative 3D printed house with a Minimalist DesignView in gallery


ICON’s construction technology is the basis of the first multi-home project by Kansas City developer 3Strands. Located in the eastern part of Austin,Texas, the 3D-printed development includes sizes ranging from two to four bedrooms, all designed by Logan Architecture, and using the Vulcan construction. This type of housing pushed the envelope in residential construction and is now being looked at as the future of homebuilding for the mass market.

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Each home takes just weeks to build and uses and an advanced material that is designed to withstand natural disasters like floods, wind and fire. Equally important to home buyers, these innovative homes have all the features people want open-concept space, vaulted ceilings in the master bedroom, home offices and a minimalist aesthetic. Called the East 17th St Residences, the homes also boast interiors that focus on natural woods and earthy colors.

3D-Printed house, California Cool

3D-Printed house, California CoolView in gallery

Taking sustainability a step further, construction technology company Mighty Buildings is creating a community of homes that are built with prefabricated3D-printedpanels and will have net-zero emissions. The company says that the Rancho Mirage, California development will be the world’s first such neighborhood.

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While solar panels will run the community, individual homes can opt for using Tesla Powerwall batteries to store solar energy. Owners can also incorporate charging stations for electric vehicles and new technologies like the AI-driven wellness program called DARWIN. This new tech can adapt lighting to the circadian rhythm of the residents as well as filter air and water. The new neighborhood should be completed in 2022.

Two-Story Modern Monolith printed

Two-Story Modern Monolith printedView in gallery

While most 3D-printed houses are made of individual factory-printed components that are then assembled, a new modern Belgian house was printed entirely on site. Located in Westerlo, the home was constructed by Kamp C, a center for sustainability and innovation in construction, using the largest 3Dconcreteprinter in Europe. Amazingly, the two-story home took only three weeks to build.

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Standing eight meters tall, the home has 90 square meters of floor area, which is on par with the standard homes in the area. The company says that printing the house in one piece on site reduces costs because there’s no need to consider any extra cold bridges that arise when different parts are put together. Kamp C says that it won’t be long before an entire house can be printed in as little as two days. The house is designed to use little energy and features floor and ceiling heating along with solar panels on the facade and a heat pump as well as different types of walls.

Not Your Average House Shape

3D printing a collection of concrete housesView in gallery

The Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands is 3D printing a collection of concrete houses that will be a rental community. The Dutch university says all the homes will have the modern comfort people expect. The first house, is a single-story, three-bedroom bungalow. The others will be multi-level constructions inMeerhoven, west of downtown Eindhoven near the airport.

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Houben & Van Mierlo Architectenheads up Project Milestone, in which the last house will be fully printed and assembled onsite. Unlike most other 3D-printed homes that have angular profiles, these houses have curving walls, recessed balconies and deeply set windows and entrances. The university says that the unique shapes highlight a major feature of 3D-printing, which is that it can create almost any shape.

Robotic Prototype 3d printed house

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Built to showcase during a previous Design Week in Milan, this 3D-printed concrete house was constructed using a portable robot. Developed by Cyber Construction of The Netherlands, the 100-square-meter house was built on site in the matter of a week on a piazza in Milan. It is composed of 5 modules and has curved walls, a living area, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom.

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The overall structure is actually a proprietary combination of concrete and additives that was developed by Italcementi, a leading global cement supplier. Features like the doors and windows were added after the house was printed. Although it is a prototype, the technology is moving forward to being used in real homes. The creators say that construction with 3D printing minimizes waste by improving efficiencies in many ways.

Futuristic 3D printed house Design

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Your definition of a cabin may change in the future as 3D-printed buildings become more widespread.A 3D-printed structure called the “Book Cabin” built by robots is now open in Shanghai’s Baoshan Wisdom Bay Science and Technology Park. Although designed as a meeting space and showpiece, it is meant to demonstrate the 3D printing is not only possible but desirable because it saves on labor and materials, can be done quickly and is very efficient. Moreover, the sky is the limit when it comes to design because any shape is possible.

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The cabin was printed with special fiber concrete and the structure does not add steel bars or use formwork. The walls feature a hollow wall design, that has thermal insulation. It also has two kinds of texture on the surfaces: is a laminated one made with laminated printing and a second woven pattern texture on the side wall in front of the entrance.

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Improvements in 3D printing have propelled it into the housing construction market and now Germany has its first 3D-printed residential home. Located in Beckum, North Rhine-Westphalia, the two-story detached home built for a client has 80 square meters of living space on each floor. Built by PERI GmbH, and designed by MENSE-KORTE ingenieure+architekten, the home features triple-skin hollow walls that are filled with an insulating compound. More importantly, empty pipes and connections can be added to structure while the printing is in progress.

A Whole New Type of “Off the Grid” Living

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Going off the grid usually means doing without a lot of creature comforts but this futuristic-looking structure is actually a 3D-printed house that’s powered by a 3D-printed vehicle. The concept design was created by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Using 3D printing, the design demonstrates complex construction and incorporates insulation as well as moisture barriers and a wall exterior cladding into one shell.

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Energy for the home comes from the Photovoltaic panels as well as a natural gas generator that is on the 3D-printed vehicle. The panels charge the building’s battery power isn’t being used the vehicle provides additional power. More than just a shell, the building includes a micro-kitchen with advanced digital display screens, an under-counter refrigerator, induction cooktop and waste-filtering faucet and sinks. Called the AMIE, developers say it’s another step toward a new type of life off the grid.

Focused on Affordability and Sustainability

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For regions that have a serious housing shortage, 3D-printed houses could be the answer to quick relief. From fabrication to on-site assembly in eight weeks, 3D-printed Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are cost-effective and quick to build. This house by construction technology company Mighty Buildings is inSan Diego, California and was built using 3D printing as well as robotic automation. The ultimate result is housing that is more affordable and sustainable.

Made with two modular units, the 700-square-foot prefabricated home is constructed with a thermoset composite called Light Stone Material (LSM) which hardens when exposed to UV light. Large expanses of glass on the face let in lots of light and make the home feel spacious. These homes also have plenty of high-efficiency elements like appliances and lighting, along with eco-friendly materials including non-VOC paints.

3D All the Way

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As a testimony to the possibilities of 3D-printing for revolutionizing home interiors and exteriors, TheUnited Arab EmiratesNational Innovation Committee built the world’s completely 3D-printed structure. What’s different about this one is that absolutely everything, from the structure to the interior finishes to the furniture, was all created with 3D printing and assembled on site.

The resulting 2,000-square-foot building now houses the Museum of the Future headquarters in Dubai. The construction took just a few weeks and costs were greatly reduced, with labor down 50 to 80 percent and construction waste cut down by up to 60 percent.

The Artful Side of 3D Printing

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Even if you’re not in the market for a new house, you can use 3D technology to enhance the design of your existing home by exploring the artistic side of this technology. The unique tree-like column at the front of this preschool in Aix-en-Provence, France is a fabulous example of the possibilities. Designed by Marc Dalibard, the four-meters-tall column was made using an industrial robot arm that extruded a special concrete mixture to make the shape, which was then filled with another type of concrete. The outside was also filed down to creates the smooth look of the tree-like shapes.

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To this point, 3D-printed homes have been more of a concept construction to show off the possibilities of the nascent technology. Now, however, technological advances, new materials and experience are allowing companies to use 3D printing technology to create all sorts of very livable structures. Indeed, it could be that 3D-printed homes are the future of housing, big and small.