The world’s first 3D-printed neighborhood is under construction in rural Mexico, thanks to digital manufacturing company ICON.
The Austin-based company’s mission is to make affordable and dignified homes available to everyone. Most recently, they’ve achieved this through a partnership with San Francisco nonprofit New Story and its partner ÉCHALE to construct 3D-printed homes in Tabasco, Mexico.
According to a statement on ICON’s website, each of the 500-square-foot homes took about 24 hours of print time using the company’s robotics software and a 3D printer called Vulcan II, the company’s first commercially available construction printer. It was specifically designed to work under the unique constraints of rural locations.
While only two have been built so far, the plan is to have 50 homes in total by the end of the project. All of the houses will be given to preselected families currently living in extreme poverty and makeshift structures.
The median income for a family living in Tabasco is about $76.50 a month, according to ICON. The majority of families here are also indigenous, which, like much of the world, is a vulnerable population that isn’t usually involved in government programs. When New Story partnered with the local government there to survey the community, 74 percent of respondents said they felt unsafe in their current living situation.
ICON also says the families living in Tabasco helped design the homes to ensure they fulfilled their needs. Each house will contain two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom. A close partnership with the local government also ensures that the community will have access to green spaces, parks, community amenities and basic utilities.
ICON first made a name for itself after building America’s first permitted 3D-printed home, right in its hometown of Austin in 2018. A year later, it partnered with Mobile Loaves & Fishes to construct the city’s Community First! Village, a neighborhood of 3D-printed houses for the homeless.
New Story was founded five years ago and has since built more than 2,700 homes in Haiti, El Salvador, Bolivia and Mexico. Its Mexican partner, ÉCHALE, an affordable home builder took care of the final construction on the Tabasco homes.
“The homebuilding industry is in need of a paradigm shift,” ICON’s co-founder and CTO, Alex Le Roux, told Fast Company. “We shouldn’t have to choose between things such as resiliency and affordability, or design freedom and sustainability.”
ICON plans to continue developing communities and the technology used to build them. New Story says they have already been approached by other Latin American governments wanting to also donate land to build similar communities.