The Chicon House By ICON Featured in Graphis Journal #377

When you think of a 3D-printed house, do you imagine a sunny, spacious, and cozy place to live? If not, ICON Technology will change your mind about that, and soon. Based in Texas, ICON is at the bleeding edge of sustainable, affordable home construction—all printed in concrete that’s squeezed out of their patented, house-sized 3D printers.

The first home to meet the US building code, ICON’s 2018 Chicon House in the company’s hometown of Austin is a prime showcase of the difference between most people’s perception of 3D-printed architecture and its real possibilities. At a petite but surprisingly uncramped-feeling 350 square feet, the house was printed in about 47 hours of print time across several days.

The Chicon House has a living room, kitchen, bath, two bedrooms, and a spacious covered porch area—a key feature for Austin’s warm climate with frequent storms. And that climate consciousness is built into the company’s approach. ICON homes can withstand extreme weather, including high-speed damaging winds and flying debris, far better than conventional homes. And their special cement formulation makes for walls that resist water, mold, termites, and fire damage, greatly reducing the impact of natural disasters. The concrete also offers thermal retention and buffering, reducing heating and cooling costs dramatically. 

Furthermore, the houses can be built at surprisingly low cost and at far faster speeds than traditional homes. The printed portion of the Chicon house (which doesn’t include the roof) costs under $10,000 to make, which is dramatically less than what the shell of a typical home of its size and quality would cost. This means houses like this can be an important part of the answer to the US’s (and the world’s) housing crisis, and ICON is already addressing that issue with communities of extremely affordable homes in both Mexico and the US. They recently completed a small community of homes for formerly homeless people, each offered by a nonprofit at only $4,000.

Chicon was printed with the first generation of ICON’s proprietary Vulcan construction system, which they’ve since upgraded many times. The system consists of the Vulcan printer and the Magma portable cement mixing unit that prepares ICON’s special cement building material, Lavacrete, for printing. All the hardware is driven by their own BuildOS software suite, which generates and prepares architecture for printing, and then controls the robotic hardware on-site to turn digital plans into actual homes.

ICON’s out to make a massive and positive change to the way the world builds homes, in a valiant and much-needed attempt to address global homelessness and environmental sustainability in kind. They’re already well on track.

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To read more, preorder Journal #377 here and view the digital edition now.

Author: Graphis