3D printed homes are popping up around Austin, TX amid growing demand


Around a hundred 3D printed houses are in development in Austin in a collaboration between a major home builder and a Texas startup.

Homebuilder Lennar Corp and Icon, a construction technology company, are expected to start building next year at what would be the largest site for this type of housing in the United States.

Houses of this type have already been built, but this will be a test to see if the technology can build more houses and increase consumer interest.

“We’re sort of going from singles and dozens of homes to hundreds of homes,” said Jason Ballard, CEO of Icon. The Wall Street Journal.

Freddie Mac, the mortgage finance company, estimated that at the end of last year the United States had a shortage of single-family homes of 3.8 million – something that 3D printing could help solve, especially in areas where affordable homes are scarce.

Homebuilding has declined as the pandemic caused supply chain problems, but labor shortages have plagued the industry for years.

LenX chairman, which focuses on venture capital and innovation within Lennar, Eric Feder, said The newspaper: “Skilled craftspeople are a dying breed, so there must be alternative construction solutions to overcome this labor shortage. “

Most newly built homes in the United States are built on site and use a wooden frame and traditional building methods, while Icon’s 3D printed homes use concrete frames. The company’s printers are 15.5 feet (4.7 meters) in size and can build the interior and exterior walls of a 2,200 square foot (204 square meters) home in a week, according to Ballard.

The newspaper writes that the printer “wrings concrete in layers, like toothpaste in a tube” and that printers can create curved walls.

Lennar will then complete the construction of the houses using more traditional methods. The wall system can be printed in the same range of time it takes Lennar to frame and partition a home using older methods, but the company said it hopes to speed up this process in the future.

Icon states that 3D printed homes are cheaper to build with fewer workers present and less waste produced compared to building traditional homes. But Mr. Feder said The newspaper that the planned homes would be priced similar to other Lennar homes in the same area.

The Austin Board of Realtors said the median price of a home in the city’s metro area was $ 450,000 last month.

Icon has already built 10 two-bedroom homes in Tabasco, Mexico, and seven small one-bedroom homes each in Austin. The company also built four single-family homes in Austin earlier this year alongside developer 3Strands.

Since its founding in 2017, Icon has raised $ 266 million, with Lennar and his colleague DR Horton Inc investing in the company.

Although Icon’s projects have been approved by local authorities, getting approval from municipalities in new areas can be difficult as the technology is unknown to some. They might also face hesitation from home buyers.

Whelan Advisory Housing Investment Bank CEO Margaret Whelan Recount The newspaper that homebuyers should be interested in homes built with less waste, as that could mean lower costs.

Gary O’Dell, CEO of 3Strands, told the outlet that a two-bedroom house they built with Icon was priced at $ 450,000 and sold for $ 530,000, with the four-house project applying a small discount on market prices when sold. A four-bedroom home sold for almost $ 800,000 – just below similar homes in the same neighborhood, Mr. O’Dell said.

Other companies are also planning to print similar homes elsewhere, with California-based Mighty Buildings saying it plans to start building 15 homes in the Coachella Valley in 2022. Developer Palari CEO Basil Starr said that interest was strong enough to plan the construction of additional units.

Demand for housing increased during the pandemic as buyers took advantage of low interest rates on mortgages as they switched to working from home, leading them to seek out places with more space.

National Association of Home Builders Chief Economist Robert Dietz said The newspaper: “I think 2022 is going to be a year where we’re going to see a renewed focus on innovation. Any increase in productivity, any innovation, will contribute to adding this additional offer.

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