November 20, 2022


Workforce Housing Summit panel members, from left, Kelly Moreno, Workforce Solutions; Georgianne Hewitt, The Wesleyan; Debbie Hoffman, Habitat for Humanity Williamson County; and Rita Healey speak at the Sheraton Austin Georgetown Hotel. Katherine Anthony

Georgetown Mayor Josh Schroeder, right, and District 2 Council Member Shawn Hood toured unfinished 3D printed houses, the product of homebuilder Lennar and manufacturers ICON, Tuesday, November 15. The homes are part of a 100-house section of the Wolf Ranch master planned community. Photos by Brigid Cooley 

 

Georgetown welcomes 3D printed homes in Wolf Ranch

news photo

The shell of one of 100 homes being built with 3D printers in the Wolf Ranch master planned community.

 

 

3D printing machines

ICON’s 3D printers work on constructing homes.

 

By BRIGID COOLEY 

In an attempt to cut construction costs and timelines, homebuilder Lennar is partnering with ICON — an Austin based home manufacturing company — to bring 3D printed houses to Georgetown. 

Once built, the 100 units planned will be sold as a part of the Wolf Ranch master planned community. Homesales are expected to begin in 2023, with anticipated costs starting in the mid-$400,000s. 

Georgetown city leaders and members of the media were given a tour of the construction site on Tuesday, November 15, after both companies announced the project earlier this month. 

According to ICON spokesperson Dmitri Julius, the company is creating sustainable and efficient alternatives to traditional homebuilding practices through the use of 3D printing robotics, software and materials. By implementing new methods, developers can address increased housing needs throughout the country, he said. 

“The earnings reports for a lot of homebuilders came out not too long ago and if you took every qualified stonemason, master planner, architect, builder and put them to work, we still wouldn’t be able to keep pace with the current demand for housing,” Mr. Julius said. “We really need to fundamentally think of different ways to execute on building houses. Our mission is to create beautiful, diverse, dignified neighborhoods and homes for people to live in and that’s what we’re going to focus on.”

With that in mind, ICON is partnering with Lennar, as well as codesigners BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group, to bring 100 homes ranging from 1,500 to 2,100 square feet to the Wolf Ranch development.

Wolf Ranch is a 755-acre master-planned community south of West University Avenue on Wolf Ranch Parkway. It is being developed by Hillwood Communities and, once complete, will house 2,500 units built by a combination of six different builders. 

The addition of 3D printed homes will assist in setting Wolf Ranch apart from other developments, while also demonstrating ways to make homebuilding more sustainable, Hillwood Communities president Fred Balda said.

“Inflation is just crazy,” Mr. Balda said. “The prices of homes have been unsustainably high, so this is an attempt to really bring it back down to some sort of normalcy. Although it’s happening here in Wolf Ranch, I promise you all the developers and builders in other parts of the country are watching this to see if it can work so we can now use another method to deliver homes.”

Homes printed by ICON are made out of a specialized concrete called Lava Crete. Each 3D printer traces the outlines of a home’s floor plan, laying down three-fourths inch concrete layers one at a time to form the walls of a home. With approximately 160 layers needed to construct a 10-foot tall wall, the process leaves homes with an earthy, ridged aesthetic once complete. 

The process cuts down on labor costs since printers only require about four

people to operate it, with some supervising each printer and others ensuring enough concrete is prepared for each home. With at least six printers onsite, the process also cuts construction timelines in half, Mr. Balda said. 

While the walls will not have traditional drywall, homeowners can paint over the walls and hang things on them, said Charlie Coleman, division president for Lennar in Austin.  

Once the walls have been constructed, Lennar will come in to finish the house, installing metal roofs, solar panels and all the inside details, including cabinetry and flooring, Mr. Coleman said. 

Additional information about the homes, as well as the process of building them, is available online at www.iconbuild.com.