Could 3D-printing help to tackle homelessness and provide affordable housing for those who need it most?
Rural families in the region of Tabasco in south Mexico have been given new homes thanks to a project that is building the world’s first 3D-printed neighbourhood – made up of 500 sq ft homes for a community living in poverty
“These homes are for real people, with real needs, and everything we do is for them, and includes them in the process.” – Alexandria Lafci, COO, New Story
It is the work of California-based nonprofit New Story, which has partnered with Mexican construction business Échale and ICON, a 3D-printing technology company.
Their Vulcan II 3D printer is designed to build homes under the constraints that are common in rural locations, but the journey has not been easy. Power can be unpredictable and local rainfall has often flooded access roads to the construction site. This printer, designed to tackle housing shortages for vulnerable populations, is the first of its kind.
It rains a lot in the Mexican state of Tabasco. This kind of rain matters when you’re living in a makeshift home built out of whatever materials you could find. Cracks and gaps in roofs and walls let water in, causing flooding and making life extremely difficult for some of Mexico’s poorest people.
“The thing I am most excited about for my new house is having my own room where I can read. Where I live now, we can’t read much, because when our parents bought us books, they would always get wet because of rain coming in through the roof. I am excited to read in my new home.” – Alan, age 8, future 3D printed home resident
The 3D-printed homes feature two bedrooms, a living room, kitchen and bath. Co-designed with feedback from the families who will live in them, the homes have been created to meet the specific needs of the community. Resting within a seismic zone, the community and its homes were engineered above the standard safety requirements including robust foundations to ensure the homes will last for generations.
New Story is a nonprofit serving families in need of shelter. Since their founding just five years ago, the team has built more than 2,700 homes, serving over 15,000 people, using traditional construction methods across Haiti, El Salvador, Bolivia, and Mexico.
The partnership with ICON and use of the 3D printing technology allows New Story to impact more families faster, while simultaneously improving quality and design flexibility. The hope is that this catalytic R&D project will influence the sector as a whole. Through the technology, software, and advanced material, the teams will learn, iterate, and then share the learnings with other nonprofits and governments to help everyone improve and reach families faster.
The houses will be available to 50 families, some of whom earn as little as $3 a day. In this community are some of the lowest-income families in Mexico as a whole. That’s why New Story partnered with local government officials to survey over 500 families in the area and select the 50 with the greatest financial and physical need.
Makeshift homes are commonplace in Tabasco. The majority of the families in this area are from an indigenous population that has historically been left out of government programs.
Through partnership with the local government, the 3D-printed community is to be part of a larger community plan for the overall municipal area. The families will have access to green spaces, parks, community amenities, and basic utilities through this master plan provided by the local government.
Gretel Uribe is the Development Director of Échale: “We are living a historic moment, having the first community of 3D-printed homes being built,” she says. “But more than the technological accomplishment that this represents, which feels like science fiction meeting reality, I would like to point out that this technology is being developed and used to bring adequate housing to the most vulnerable families.
“I think this project is a lesson that if we come together to work, join talents and resources, and lead them to solve real problems, the dream of sustainability and social fairness is achievable.”
AtlasAction: Follow the story of New Story’s new community. and donate to homebuilding.
Brett Hagler, CEO, New Story, Jason Ballard, Co-founder, ICON & Ivan Ramirez, COO, ÉCHALE
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