Silicon Valley Non-Profit Is 3D-Printing Houses For $4,000

New Story, a nonprofit based in Silicon Valley, is working with tech construction company Icon to produce a 3D printer that can build a house in approximately two days for around $4,000. The printer, named the Vulcan, will be displayed at SXSW for the first time, along with a printed home that now stands in a backyard in Austin, reports Fast Company. The idea is that these structures could provide fast solutions for people living in extreme poverty without adequate shelter.

In the past, New Story has worked to build low-cost houses in places like Haiti, where other construction efforts came up short following an earthquake in 2010.  However, the nonprofit discerned the most effective processes of traditional construction still couldn’t create the number of homes necessary.

“We thought, what would it look like to have more of an exponential breakthrough for such a big challenge?” CEO Brett Hagler said in FC.

The team set forth three goals:

1 – Cut down on the cost of house construction by a significant margin using inexpensive materials and simple designs.

2 – Speed up the process.

3 – Do so while improving the quality of the final product.

3D printing was the answer following seven months of research. Hagler recalled his early skepticism of the option.

“We were very skeptical of the viability of this. It took doing a lot of research and a lot of due diligence to figure out that it could actually solve those three design questions.”

Later on, it is possible the 3D house will only cost $3,500. While the organization’s current human-made design takes between 13 and 20 days to build, the printed design can be completed in 12-24 hours. The software can adjust to different family sizes with simple changes.

While other operators in the 3D-printed structure space are targeting higher-income options, few are focused on the world’s poorest and their living conditions.

“We thought, okay, what if the bottom billion weren’t the last ones to get this, but the first ones to get this?” Hagler said. “It made sense for us to try to leapfrog what’s happening domestically because our homes are so simple.”

The hardware is easily transportable by truck to rural locations, though it is similar to other equipment on the market. Beyond that it is also durable, and meant to withstand rough weather conditions.

The printer works with a mortar available anywhere and concrete foundation New Story has already been using to build houses in remote locations.

“The big difference, between a developed world and developing world context is you have a much more limited set of materials to work with,” Jason Ballard, cofounder of Icon Technologies said in FC. “Number one, just because of access, you want to restrict your material mix to things that you could find very ubiquitously around the globe. And you also want to avoid expensive materials.”

Going forward, the company wants to work on research and development, securing more funding, and prove the concept in order to make it possible for this structure to spread through the nonprofit world.