3D Printing Is Being Used to Build Houses for the Homeless With ‘Lavacrete’ Walls

An Austin, Texas, technology company named Icon was the winner of the “general excellence” category in this year’s World Changing Ideas Awards by Fast Company for their development of a 3D printer for building houses.

Their Vulcan II machine is already at work building a neighborhood of homes for Austin’s homeless population and building homes in Mexico for that country’s poor population currently living in shacks. Below is a picture of one of those Mexican homes and a closeup showing how Icon’s 3D printer works, applying layer upon layer of a specially designed mixture called Lavacrete. That product sets quickly enough that another layer can be applied on the machine’s next go-round.

All the walls of a home can be poured in 24 hours spread out over two or three days. The framing of windows and doors and construction of a wooden roof is then done using, when possible, local workers who get on-the-job training, learning skills they can apply in other jobs.

Lavacrete is a propriety adaptation of concrete which overcomes many of the shortcomings of concrete, especially in terms of aging. Because the walls are solid (no room for ducts), the homes are heated and cooled using my favorite method — heat pump mini-splits — which are also far more economical than gas forced air furnaces.

The Mexican project is in a rural area near the southern city of Nacajuca under a partnership with New Story, an international non-profit whose mission is to “pioneer solutions to end global homelessness.”

I remember seeing TV footage showing Icon’s 3D printing machine at work. Prior to that, I attended a presentation by New Story at the Rotary Club of Golden, which, as I recall, joined Rotary International in providing financial support. I am proud to be a financial supporter myself, and you can do so too at www.NewStoryCharity.org.  

3D printing of homes makes sense. I have seen how 3D printers can build various products applying layer upon layer of resin as instructed by a computer program. As with those table-top machines, all that’s needed to build the interior and exterior walls of a home is a larger flat surface (a concrete slab) and a massively larger printer to float above it. Taking the process to yet a higher level, Icon has successfully built the walls of three side-by-side homes simultaneously in Austin, which is impressive and, of course, more cost effective. Here’s an aerial view of 3D printing at work:

Partnering with local non-profits and using local materials and laborers, New Story delivers its fully finished homes free to the Mexicans it is serving, but I can see it being practical in our country to offer such homes with low-cost mortgages and nominal down payments to the homeless or working poor. 

The homes built by Icon for the Austin non-profit Mobile Loaves & Fishes were permitted by that city. When fully built out, their Community First Village will house an estimated 480 formerly homeless individuals, representing 40% of that city’s chronically homeless population.

Support Habitat for Humanity — Buy a Pumpkin

    Golden Real Estate is happy once again to support the pumpkin patches at Garrison & Alameda in Lakewood and at 78th Avenue & Wadsworth in Arvada. Operated each year by Jeffco Interfaith Partners, a coalition of a dozen local faith groups, the profits from these two volunteer-manned patches have funded 15+ Habitat for Humanity homes over the past two decades. The pumpkins are grown on a Navajo reservation in the Four Corners area, so the sales also benefit that community.

    Yes, the pumpkins sold at our two patches may be more expensive than at your local supermarket, but you have the satisfaction of making a difference with every purchase, and 40% of your purchase is tax-deductible. Our thanks go out to Mile Hi Church and to Trinity Presbyterian Church for providing these two great venues each October.

Habitat for Humanity – Turning Pumpkins Into Houses

The annual pumpkin patches benefiting Habitat for Humanity are just about here. The pumpkin patch at Garrison & Alameda opens this Saturday, Oct. 5th, and operates from 10 a.m. to dusk every day until Halloween. The patch at 77th Ave & Wadsworth operates from Thursday, Oct. 10th, through Halloween from 10 a.m. to dusk. Buy your pumpkins at either site and 40% of the purchase price goes toward building a Habitat home — and is tax deductible, for which you’ll get a receipt.

    If you’d like to volunteer at the patches, you can sign up at www.WestMetroPartners.org.

Broker Associate Carol Milan to Embark on African Mission

If you know Carol Milan, you may know that she is a registered nurse and that her husband, Kevin, is an Assistant Fire Chief with South Metro Fire Rescue, overseeing all firefighter training. In November they are embarking on an 11-day trip to Kenya with Africa Fire Mission, where Carol will work on the medical team, while Kevin handles training of the firefighters.

Firefighter deaths in Africa are excessively high, largely due to lack of training. We are pleased to support Carol and Kevin in this humanitarian mission, and encourage your support too.

The website for making donations is https://provide-training-in-africa.everydayhero.com/us/milan-africa-fire-mission.