The partnership between construction technologies startup ICON, homebuilding company Lennar, and architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has reached a significant milestone: the first 3D-printed model home at the 100-home community of Wolf Ranch in Georgetown, near Austin, Texas, is now open for public visits. This marks a significant advancement in the largest-scale development of 3D-printed homes globally.
The Wolf Ranch neighborhood master plan, situated north of Austin, encompasses eight different home designs. With sizes varying from 1,500 to 2,100 square feet, these three to four-bedroom homes also feature two to three bathrooms. Designed with sustainability in mind, these homes combine the material savings and automation associated with additive construction with solar panels, aiming to mitigate the housing crisis in Austin without sacrificing environmental considerations.
Using ICON’s Vulcan construction system, the method 3D prints wall systems that are said to be energy-efficient, and resistant to mold, water, and fire, while also limiting waste during the construction process. Advanced materials have been incorporated to minimize temperature fluctuations, as well. In addition to claims of efficiency and sustainability, the technique is said to enable quicker delivery times and more creative design possibilities. The large-scale project was first announced in 2021 and has already seen multiple home sales, with more than 80 sites actively under construction and nearing completion. The first homeowners are slated to move in by September 2023.
It’s worth noting that ICON is not alone in pushing the boundaries of this promising technology. In Europe, Danish tech company COBOD is making strides in the field by expanding its footprint across the continent, North American, and Africa. Meanwhile, Alquist 3D’s recent project in Iowa City is the state’s first 3D-printed neighborhood, a significant step in demonstrating the practicality and benefits of additive construction. Using a slew of robotic tools, Diamond Age is aiming to revolutionize construction with a residential community in Arizona, in partnership with a leading developer.
Despite the layoffs at ICON earlier this year, as well as a fire at its warehouse, the successful unveiling of the first 3D-printed model home at Wolf Ranch signals the company’s overall resilience. The layoffs, while challenging, appear to be part of a broader trend within startups and high-tech industries where rapid expansion is often followed by adjustments to better align resources and strategic goals. This does not diminish the achievement of the Wolf Ranch community. Instead, it could be seen as a sign of the maturing process within the additive construction industry, where companies like ICON are navigating the growing pains associated with pioneering new technologies. It remains to be seen how ICON will continue to evolve and navigate its path forward in this dynamic and emerging field.