Global Housing Initiatives
In 2019, the world witnessed the first 3D-printed neighborhood in Tabasco, Mexico, in partnership with nonprofit charity organization New Story and ICON, an Austin-based company developing advanced construction technology. Together, the groups built two houses within a week, a process that would usually take months. As a result, New Story is tackling the challenge of global homelessness in a cost-effective, efficient and sustainable manner through the implementation of 3D printing in global housing initiatives.

The Beginnings of New Story

After the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti, New Story co-founder Brett Hagler met with struggling families. The destruction of homes due to the natural disaster displaced thousands of Haitians. However, this experience did not leave Hagler who would then go on to partner with Alexandria Lafici and Matthew Marshall to found New Story in 2014.

The organization’s original focus was on the earthquake victims that hit Haiti. It crowdfunded for building homes with a goal of roughly $6,000 for each building before construction began, as TechCrunch reported. Each house would have a timeline of approximately 45 days to build and involve the partnership of local nonprofits to vet families in need of housing.

Speaking with Sarah Buhr from TechCrunch, Brett Hagler discussed the importance of houses, saying, “there are a number of things we don’t think about that go along with not having a home, such as rape and kidnapping of children.” Additionally, from 2014 to 2018, New Story expanded from Haiti to communities in El Salvador, Bolivia and Mexico and built more than 850 homes. In addition, it has created partnerships with leading organizations around the world such as Salesforce, DocuSign and Amazon.

Now, New Story is transforming the global housing initiative with 3D-printed homes through its partnership with ICON.

ICON and New Story

In 2018, New Story partnered with ICON, an Austin-based robotics construction company using 3D printing robotics, software and advanced material, to bring 3D-printed houses to those who most need them. In March 2018, the two organizations exhibited a permanent 3D-printed home at the SXSW festival in Austin. According to CNN Business, the home had three rooms consisting of a bedroom, a living room and a small room that could either be another bedroom or office. The two constructed the house within 48 hours using a 3D printing machine.

The two organizations developed the Vulcan 3D printer. It can print homes and anyone can operate it with basic training. ICON expects the 3D-printed houses to last as long or longer than standard Concrete Masonry Unit (CMU) built homes. Printing with Lavacrete, a concrete mixture, construction projects can stay within the schedule and budget. Building homes and structures that boast impressive statistics, such as compressive strength of 2,000 – 3,500 psi, the Vulcan 3D printer changed the world with its innovation, leading to the world’s first 3D-printed neighborhood.

The World’s First 3D-Printed Neighborhood

In December 2019, New Story, ICON and ÉCHALE, a nonprofit in Mexico, built the first 3D-printed neighborhood in Tabasco, Mexico, as CNN Business reported. According to Sarah Lee, a blogger for New Story, the organization met with many families “who had to be resourceful to stay afloat.”

Many times, these homes experienced overcrowding and were falling apart. In Tabasco, a state prone to flooding in Mexico, factors like the ability to withstand an earthquake and keep families dry during heavy rains played a significant role in the design process.

Each 3D-printed home spanned 500-square-feet with two bedrooms, one bathroom, a living room and a kitchen. The houses had curved walls and a flat roof painted with cool roof paint on the outside, Lee reported. This paint ensures that the tiles are waterproof and deflect heat from the house.

The rest of the houses that New Story provided in the neighborhood comprised ecoblocks, a “compressed earth block technology that uses 90% local earth and only 10% cement.” In total, New Story, ICON and ÉCHALE provided 65 homes for struggling families.

Global Housing Initiatives to End the Global Housing Crisis

New Story and ICON brought innovative technology to implement global housing initiatives and help families and people worldwide. These 3D-printed homes are the newest chapter in global housing initiatives and only time will tell where the 3D printing industry will go.

Gaby Mendoza
Photo: Flickr

3D Printed Houses in Mexico
Tabasco, Mexico, a state located in the southeast of the country, hosts a population of over 2.5 million people, and more than half of the population lives in rural areas. As with many poverty-stricken countries, struggles with poverty hit the rural areas of southern Mexico disproportionally hard. While residents of Tabasco report among the highest levels of life satisfaction, unemployment and poverty create undue challenges, especially in rural populations. Luckily, 3D printed houses in Mexico are providing residents of Tabasco with affordable homes.

Living in Tabasco, Mexico

Tabasco first became a state in 1824 and now consists of different governmental areas called municipios. The region experiences a rainy season, in which the land is subject to flooding due to its mostly low and flat relief. Heavy rains and floods can be particularly devastating for those living in poverty in Tabasco. Oftentimes, residents who cannot afford to purchase housing will craft their own out of wood, metal and other scavenged or purchased material. When heavy rains come, these homes can flood drastically, sometimes for months at a time.

A New Look at Affordable Housing

In December 2019, the struggle for affordable, safe and durable housing took an innovative turn in one neighborhood in Tabasco where residents live on an average of $3 a day. Developers have begun using a large-scale 3D printer to build houses for residents in the neighborhood, planning to complete the construction of 50 new homes by the end of 2020. The prospect of these 3D printed houses in Mexico has numerous implications for Tabascan residents and the fight for affordable housing at large.

These massive printers emit a sturdy concrete that one can layer into a wall, with the complete simultaneous construction of two homes taking only 24 working hours. The homes feature 500 square-feet of living space, with two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen and a living area.

The Organizations

The three foundations that are collaborating to make these 3D printed houses in Mexico a reality are ICON, a construction technology company; New Story, a San Francisco-based nonprofit; and ÉCHALE, a Mexican nonprofit.

ICON focuses on revolutionizing the construction of homes, utilizing printers, robotics and other technology tools to contribute to efforts surrounding affordable housing construction. ICON developed its first commercially available construction printer, called the Vulcan II, in 2018.

ÉCHALE saw its beginnings in 1985 and has since become a successful organization that works for social housing and community development in Mexico. ÉCHALE focuses on the main sustainable development goals for 2030, including ending poverty, promoting gender equality and responsible consumption and production.

Founded in 2014, New Story aids families in need of housing and shelter. Since then, New Story has built over 2,700 homes using traditional construction methods in Haiti, El Salvador, Bolivia and Mexico. ICON and New Story first collaborated on a 3D printed home in Austin, Texas in March 2018.

Most importantly, these three organizations that are creating 3D printed houses in Mexico have worked with residents of the Tabascan neighborhood every step of the way. They hired local construction workers to complete aspects of building such as land clearing and installing windows and roofs, ensuring that printing homes do not take jobs away from residents. The design of the homes also came from a collaboration with the very same residents that will live in them, ensuring that these houses will meet the specific needs of the community. This type of community involvement is critical for the long-term success of affordable housing programs, and one that can serve as a model for future technology-based affordable housing solutions.

Elizabeth Baker
Photo: Flickr