World's Largest 3D Printed Neighborhood

A new property development in Austin, Texas, is set to become the world's largest community of 3D-printed homes.

Scheduled to break ground next year, the project will feature 100 single-story houses "printed" on-site using advanced robotic construction and a concrete-based building material.

Digital renderings of the neighborhood, unveiled last week, show rows of properties with their roofs covered in solar cells. The homes will each take approximately a week to build, according to firms behind the development.

The project is a collaboration between homebuilding company Lennar and ICON, a Texas-based construction firm specializing in 3D-printed structures. The houses have been co-designed by the Danish architecture practice Bjarke Ingels Group.

Although ICON would not disclose the cost of the project, the company said its technology is significantly faster and cheaper than conventional construction methods -- partly because it requires less manual labor. The building process will involve five of the firm's 46-foot-wide robotic "Vulcan" printers, which pipe out a concrete mix called Lavacrete according to a pre-programmed home design.

The firm said it can produce homes up to 3,000 square feet in size and has previously printed the walls of a house measuring 400 to 500 square feet in just 24 hours (spread over the course of "several days"). Roofs, windows, doors and finishes will be added afterward by Lennar.

ICON's co-founder and CEO Jason Ballard described the Austin neighborhood as a "watershed moment in the history of community-scale development.

"Construction-scale 3D printing not only delivers higher-quality homes faster and more affordably, but fleets of printers can change the way that entire communities are built for the better," Ballard said. "The United States faces a deficit of approximately 5 million new homes, so there is a profound need to swiftly increase supply without compromising quality, beauty, or sustainability and that is exactly the strength of our technology."

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