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3D printed homes bring hope to slums

March 19, 2018

A new example of using the technology to produce habitable houses hopes to bring relief to the slums of El Salvador.

South China Morning Post reports that a Texan construction technology company has displayed a house in Austin created using a giant 3D printer, which its co-founder has described as “something that sounds like science fiction is real.”

ICON printed the house, which covers 350 square feet, “to the highest international standards of building safety”, according to co-founder Jason Ballard, who says the company aren’t resting on their laurels.

“We plan on printing a whole sort of development, not just a 3D-print house but a 3D-printed neighbourhood,” he explained.

Now, ICON has launched a partnership with New Story, a San Francisco company specialising in building homes in developing countries, with plans to transport an updated version of the printer to El Salvador to produce houses in a timespan of just 24 hours.

Many families in the slums of El Salvador are currently residing in makeshift wooden shacks, and this innovative project could be the answer to their dreams.

Together, the two companies hope to build around 100 homes within the next 18 months, with building costs forecast to more than halve, from $10,000 to $4,000.

New Story’s co-founder, Alexandria Lafci, also described the benefits to a resident’s health and well-being of the project.

“It represents the chance for breakthrough technology to come to developing areas first,” she said. “Having a safe home is truly a foundation.”

The printer prints a hybrid of concrete mortar combined with a mixture of materials pumped into it, and produces layers of the structure, similar to other additive manufacturing processes.

“The material has to be have some pretty unique features,” explained Ballard. It has to flow out [] but it can’t flow like water as you would just have a puddle of concrete and so it has to set pretty quickly. This is meant to be long-term sustainable housing. Concrete is one of the most well understood materials on Earth and it’s also one of the most resilient.”

The homes will be printed on land granted by local authorities, on sites on the outskirts of San Salvador, as well as a further site two hours from the capital. Slum-dwelling families taking part will pay a small mortgage with no interest, for between 5 and 12 years, Lafci speculated.

“When they pay off their mortgage, they own both the home and the land that the house sits on,” she said. “Land ownership can be a stride to getting out of poverty.”

According to the United Nations, almost a billion people live in slums across the globe, mainly in rudimentary shacks made from metal and wood scraps. The world’s population is expected to hit 8 billion by the year 2030.

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