Posted on: December 20, 2019 at 12:44 am

Homelessness is a heart-wrenching epidemic that’s rising in the U.S. Over 550,000 Americans are homeless on an average night, and about 1.4 million people spend time in a shelter every year. [1] It’s a complicated issue that many people have tried to solve, but this plan has got to be the cheekiest: Why don’t we print houses for homeless people to live in?

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Printing a Home

The first house was 3D printed two years ago in Texas. The entire printing process took 24 hours. Thanks to New Story, a nonprofit organization that is pioneering ways to end homelessness, the first ever 3D printed community is ‘under construction’ as two homes were already completed in Mexico. [2]

New Story and ICON — a construction technology company — planned this project for 18 months to figure out the question that everyone must be wondering: how?  They ended up developing the Vulcan II, an enormous 3D printer that is specifically created to work under constraints that would arise in rural areas. It’s no surprise to know that the Vulcan II is the only one of its kind. [3]

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These homes are resilient, 500-square-feet, printed in a day by ICON, and built by ÉCHALE, a nonprofit partner with New Story based In Mexico.

Although printed materials make most people think of flimsy pieces of paper, these houses were built to last in rural Tabasco, Mexico. They will be granted to nearby families who live in extreme poverty and are barely making it by in inhabitable, unsafe shelters. When the project is complete, the 3D printed community will have 50 houses in all. [4]

Printing a Community

Seventy-four percent of 500 families in this area went on the record saying they don’t feel safe in their current living accusations. The 50 families were selected to join the printed community were among those who had the greatest financial and physical restraints. 

Each home has two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, and a bathroom. The design was created with the help of the families who will eventually live in them to meet whatever specific needs they have. It’s a sure-way for the new residents to be satisfied with their new living space, and they deserve to enjoy their new homes to the fullest.

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These families’ monthly incomes are around $76.50, among the lowest-income families in the Mexico area. Many of these people are notably from indigenous backgrounds who have been excluded from government programs in the past. [5]

“I think it’s important to remember what makes this project different, what makes it matter,” said Alexandria Lafci, the COO of New Story. “We’re not an R&D company just for the sake of innovation, and we’re not here to turn a profit. These homes are for real people, with real needs, and everything we do is for them, and includes them in the process.”

Printing a Future

Since New Story began five years ago, it has constructed over 2,700 houses using traditional building materials and helped over 15,000 people Bolivia, Haiti, El Salvador, and Mexico. They’ve spent millions of dollars and hours for developing solutions to the homeless, to create homes efficiently and effectively.

“Imagine if we could slash the cost and time it takes to build a home while improving quality and customization. This 3D home printer has that potential,” said Lafci. “Change is an open-source pursuit so we are not working with ICON to bring this technology to only New Story projects, we are bringing it to the world. Our goal is to power our sector, every government and organization building homes for the poor, to do their best work.”

Pairing New Story with ICON was a match made in heaven since the 3D printing technology allows them to help homeless families more quickly while maintaining quality. Who knows how this project can influence construction and solutions for homelessness? Especially as these findings are shared with other nonprofit and government organizations who deal with this issue.

“Conventional construction methods have many baked-in drawbacks and problems that we’ve taken for granted for so long, that we forgot how to imagine any alternative,” said Jason Ballard, the ICON co-founder. “With 3D printing, you not only have a continuous thermal envelope, high thermal mass, and near zero-waste, but you also have speed, a much broader design palette, next-level resiliency, and the possibility of a quantum leap in affordability. This isn’t 10% better, it’s 10 times better.”

The 3D printed community is becoming a part of a bigger plan for that area. It will join a municipal area, giving the newly-moved in families parks, utilities, and community amenities provided by the government. 

“We are living a historic moment, having the first community of 3d printed homes being built,” said ÉCHALE Development Director Gretel Uribe. “But more than the technological accomplishment that this represents, which feels like science fiction meeting reality, I would like to point out that this technology is being developed and used to bring adequate housing to the most vulnerable families.

“I think this project is a lesson that if we come together to work, join talents and resources, and lead them to solve real problems, the dream of sustainability and social fairness is achievable.” [6]

  1. Andrew Van Dam. The surprising holes in our knowledge of America’s homeless population. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/09/18/surprising-holes-our-knowledge-americas-homeless-population/ September 17, 2019
  2. New Story. https://newstorycharity.org/
  3. ICON https://www.iconbuild.com/
  4. Christina Zdanowicz. The world’s first 3D-printed neighborhood is being built in Mexico for families living on $3 a day. CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/2019/12/12/business/worlds-first-3d-printed-neighborhood-trnd/index.html December 12, 2019
  5. USA Today. This is the world’s first 3D neighborhood in rural Mexico. https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2019/12/13/3-d-printed-home-neighborhood-rural-mexico-first-world/2640942001/ December 13, 2019
  6. Good News Network. World’s First Community of 3D Printed Homes is Set to House Mexico’s Poorest Families. https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/worlds-first-community-of-3d-printed-houses/ December 12, 2019
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Sarah Schafer
Founder of The Creative Palate
Sarah is a baker, cook, author, and blogger living in Toronto. She believes that food is the best method of healing and a classic way of bringing people together. In her spare time, Sarah does yoga, reads cookbooks, writes stories, and finds ways to make any type of food in her blender. Her blog The Creative Palate shares the nutrition and imagination of her recipes for others embarking on their journey to wellbeing.

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