Tour ICON’s Newly Unveiled 3D Printed “House Zero” During SXSW Festival


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Additive construction technology powerhouse ICON has finalized the construction of the highly anticipated “House Zero” and will open its doors for tours on March 13 and 14, 2022. Developed in cooperation with Texas firm Lake|Flato Architects, the new construction was built using ICON’s next-gen proprietary large-scale Vulcan 3D printer and its proprietary Lavacrete material. The single-story home blends mid-century modernist ranch house aesthetics and features an energy-efficient design for sustainable living.

As an official South by Southwest (SXSW) 2022 partner, ICON will open the doors to “House Zero” for tours during Austin, Texas’s annual tech, film, and music festival. Visitors can sign up for a tour of the house, which will run from March 13 through the 14.

ICON's 3D printed House Zero interior.

ICON’s 3D printed House Zero interior. Image courtesy of ICON.

Located in East Austin, “House Zero” features three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a dwelling unit amid its 2,000-plus square feet. Described by ICON as “the first home of its kind” and “a major advancement in modern architecture,” it could compete with other recently constructed 3D printed houses found in the US, including one built by SQ4D Inc. in Riverhead, New York; a 3D printed housing community in Rancho Mirage (if the construction materials are approved), and even ICON’s own 3D printed multi-home housing development, also located in East Austin.

Perhaps what sets this structure apart from all the others is that it features ICON’s resilient 3D printed wall system, which replaces a building system traditionally made up of multiple steps saving time, waste, and cost. The home walls are made with a proprietary cementitious-based material called Lavacrete, insulation, and steel for reinforcing. Lavacrete is a cement-based mixture developed by ICON which provides thermal mass that slows heat transfer into the home. Combining thermal mass, increased insulation, and an airtight wall increases energy efficiency and reduces lifecycle costs.

ICON's 3D printed House Zero exterior.

ICON’s 3D printed House Zero exterior. Image courtesy of ICON.

As the initial project in ICON’s new Exploration Series, “House Zero” is the first in an entirely new genre of homes specifically designed to leverage opportunities created by 3D printing.

Commenting on the project, ICON co-founder and CEO, Jason Ballard, said “House Zero is ground zero for the emergence of entirely new design languages and architectural vernaculars that will use robotic construction to deliver the things we need most from our housing: comfort, beauty, dignity, sustainability, attainability, and hope. Houses like this are only possible with 3D printing, and this is the new standard of what 3D printing can mean for the world.  My hope is that this home will provoke architects, developers, builders, and homeowners to dream alongside ICON about the exciting and hopeful future that robotic construction, and specifically 3D printing, makes possible. The housing of our future must be different from the housing we have known.”

ICON's 3D printed House Zero interior.

ICON’s 3D printed House Zero interior. Image courtesy of ICON.

According to the team that built the house, its curved walls create structurally efficient self-stability, while the rounded corners allow for softer, more naturalistic circulation routes throughout the home. In addition, doorways and windows were strategically placed to accentuate the accompanying landscapes, while eastern-facing high clerestory windows illuminate the living room with soft yet dynamic sunlight, minimizing the need for electrical lighting throughout the day. Moreover, the design will not clash with the natural surroundings since it was built with biophilic principles in mind, an approach to architecture that seeks to connect humans with nature.

Described by Lake|Flato associate Ashley Heeren as the future of homebuilding, the organic nature of the 3D printed concrete and curved walls are new design languages for the architectural team but still in line with the natural connections they seek in their work.

Lake|Flato is behind several eco-conservation projects throughout the country and designs structures rooted in the natural environment. Prioritizing the use of local materials, the brand has created environmentally responsible buildings unique to each region that foster a sense of connectedness between visitors and the natural environment.

“The 3D-printed wall design and its inherent biophilic quality conveys an ordered, yet non-rigid pattern invoking a rooted and timeless sense of natural refuge,” pointed out Lewis McNeel, an associate partner at Lake|Flato.

ICON's 3D printed House Zero interior.

ICON’s 3D printed House Zero interior. Image courtesy of ICON.

The home adds to ICON’s list of ongoing projects, including the development of an off-world construction system planned to support future exploration of the Moon and a similar one for 3D printing an analog habitat designed by BIG at NASA’s Johnson Space Center to help prepare for long-duration human missions to Mars.

Aside from Mars and Moon habitats, ICON also revealed in 2021 a 3D printed, student-led designed prototype rocket landing pad for the space agency. Other more grounded projects include barracks for the Texas Military Department (TMD), a 100-home 3D printed community set to break ground this year, and a neighborhood for people who have experienced chronic homelessness.

As the company continues to set new standards for delivering resilient housing at high-speed and lower costs, the 3D printed housing market could finally take off. ICON has been one of the most highly publicized companies in the niche field, raising $451 million to date in funding and awarded contracts and grants from several government agencies. At this rate, ICON is undoubtedly becoming a household name in 3D printed construction, and we can’t wait to see what it builds up next.

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