3D-Printing Affordable Housing

Katie Sheehan (kes2221)

Problem: Population Growth and Lack of Affordable Housing

Urban communities around the world face a coming reality of population growth that outpaces the supply of safe, affordable housing, with many cities having already reached that point given the presence of large slum neighborhoods with “structures” made of tin, dirt, tarps, and other non-permanent materials. To be able to grant everyone the right to safe shelter, communities need an inexpensive and more permanent way to house low- or no-income residents.

Solution: 3D-Printed Houses (ICON)

ICON is a building company that uses a proprietary printing system called Vulcan that can print concrete structures up to 10.5 feet in height. In a recent collaboration with the U.S. non-profit New Story, the Vulcan created the world’s first 3D-printed community for homeless citizens in Tabasco, Mexico. The structures were printed with a floor plan of two bedrooms, a living room, kitchen and bathroom and each were printed within 24 hours – local workers were used at the end of the project to install plumbing, wire electric service, and install windows/doors. The structures can withstand earthquakes and other natural disasters, with the goal of having “generational impact” for low-income residents.

Beyond building completely new communities in areas such as Texas and Mexico, ICON has also piloted a 347 sq. ft. home that has potential to be built as an ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit), making communities more affordable for both new and existing residents where extra space is available.


The two primary groups of stakeholders in these types of projects/communities are municipalities and low-/no-income residents and/or homeless population. Both groups benefit from an inexpensive, more permanent housing structure that has the opportunity to raise health/social outcomes for these populations – by providing a safe, permanent structure with the potential for running water and electricity, residents can fulfill one major component of the base level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and focus on improving other needs such as food, water, employment, health, and education.


The successful construction of these new communities open the door for opportunities elsewhere around the world, in both developed and developing countries. ICON could continue to partner either with NGOs or municipal governments to locate, fund, and construct suitable sites in order to create additional housing. Implementation would be fairly quick given the short printing time of a Vulcan structure (24-48 hours), though the front-end logistics would be more involved given the size of the equipment (shipping concerns) and the amount of community planning required.


One thought on “3D-Printing Affordable Housing

  1. This is a great idea trying to address the affordable housing issue with 3d printing. Amazingly, a completed unit can be printed in 24-48 hours. I don’t know if these units will stand up to current building codes, but it makes it more appealing if they do. One downside I see is finding affordable land in areas like New York City.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s