3-D printing technology is incredible, and as one formerly homeless man in Austin, Texas, is showing, it can even transform lives.
Tim Shea, a 70-year-old former heroin addict who was last living in an RV, has become the first person in the world to move into a 3-D printed home.
The fascinating technology, utilizing ICON’s 3-D Vulcan II printers and a type of concrete it’s created for the printers, called Lavacrete, is on display in Austin’s Community First! neighborhood.
That neighborhood is billed as “a 51-acre master planned community that provides affordable, permanent housing and a supportive community for men and women coming out of chronic homelessness,” and the ICON-printed concrete tiny houses, each 400 square feet, are part of the neighborhood.
“When I found out I’d be the first person in America to move into a 3-D-printed home, I thought it was pretty awesome,” Shea said in a New York Post article covering his story. “The very people I used to run away from, I’m running to. If you’ve been on both sides of the fence, you know some people just need a little encouragement and support.”
Shea’s house, like others in the neighborhood, works a bedroom, a bathroom, a full kitchen, a living room and a “large porch with sweeping sunset views” into the floor plan. Though the exterior of the house is printed, providing a less wasteful process than typical homebuilding, it is finished out through conventional construction processes.
Concrete “is going to last a lot, lot longer than most conventional building materials,” said ICON CEO and co-founder Jason Ballard in a Green Matters story on how the houses are made.
“So we think that on the full, zoom-out, wide analysis, that the slightly higher embodied energy of using a material like concrete is outweighed in the long run by transitioning to a way of building that’s much, much more resistant.”
As Ballard told the New York Post, the technology shows the possibility of “make dignified housing accessible to everyone, everywhere.”
For Shea, the house is a point of pride and provides him inspiration for the new life he’s leading.
“It’s a sense that I’ve settled somewhere, and it’s such a way of embracing me,” Shea said in a video provided by ICON.
“I feel like I am embraced in this house. There are no tight corners, it’s rounded, it feels like it envelops me. I just love sitting in there and looking at the interior of it. It’s just a very comfortable, very warm, welcoming place, and I am so proud to be living in it.”
“It’s just a miracle to me to be living there in a house this beautiful,” he added. “I could never have imagined from where I came from that I would ever have this beautiful place to live in.”