Incredible houses printed from cement could help to end the global housing crisis, according to the company behind their creation.
The properties, which are currently at the concept stage, will soon be used to provide safe shelter for people in El Salvador and could one day be expanded worldwide to house billions.
The homes currently cost £7,200 ($10,000) to construct and take up to 24 hours to build, but for the production version this cost should be reduced to around £2,900 ($4,000).
They could also offer a viable option for the construction of off-world colonies on planets like Mars in the near future, the firm says.
Austin-based startup Icon unveiled its single-story 650-square-foot (60 sq m) house at the SXSW festival.
Around 1.2 billion people globally live without adequate housing, according to the World Resources Institute’s Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.
A spokesman for the firm said: ‘History has been punctuated with advances in technology and materials that provide an order-of-magnitude decrease in cost and time required to build a new home.
‘And while recent decades have brought major advances in personal technology, construction practices remain relatively unchanged since the 1950s.
‘Icon aims to change this, ushering in a new era in construction to meet the needs of the future.’
The firm has teamed up with New Story, a nonprofit that invests in international housing, and plans to build around 100 new homes in El Salvador within the next 18 months.
New Story previously worked to build low-cost houses in Haiti, where other construction efforts failed after the 2010 earthquake.
The company’s Vulcan printer is used to create the properties, which can be built as large as 800 sq ft (75 sq ft) – around twice as large as the average ‘tiny house’ and comparable to one-bedroom apartment sizes in cities like New York and London.
Icon first creates a schematic, which is then fed into a computer that instructs the printer how and where to place the cement.
The model unveiled at SXSW has a living room, bathroom, bedroom, and a curved porch. The roof is the only part that is not 3D-printed.
It was built in the backyard of a converted house used as office space by Icon. Staff plan to use it as an office, where they will tweak the design based on their experience of spending long periods of time in the space.
Once testing of the design has been completed, Icon will move the Vulcan printer to El Salvador to start building work on its new planned community.
The process is designed to minimise labour costs and waste materials.
Icon aims to provide the printer, which they believe will be able to produce at least 1,000 homes, for less than £72,000 ($100,000).
New Story says Vulcan cost just under £180,000 ($250,000) to research and develop.
‘There are a few other companies that have printed homes and structures,’ Jason Ballard, one of Icon’s three founders, told The Verge, ‘but they are printed in a warehouse, or they look like Yoda huts.
‘For this venture to succeed, they have to be the best houses. The use of cement as a common material will help normalize the process for potential tenants that question the sturdiness of the structure.
‘I think if we were printing in plastic we would encounter some issues.’