A 3D-Printed Neighborhood Is Being Built for Low-Income Families

Ballard’s excitement about this project finally preparing to break ground is palpable in his voice — especially when talking about sustainability. As Ballard tells Green Matters over the phone, he actually comes from a conservation biology background and years of working in the sustainable building field. 

ICON’s 3D-printed homes are made out of concrete, and printed by the company’s 3D printer, the Vulcan II. Ballard explains that concrete has a high embodied energy, which is the total energy that goes into making a building material, including the process of extraction, manufacture, delivery, and more, as per Level. That makes embodied energy a way to measure a building material’s environmental impact. Because of concrete’s high embodied energy, some people may not see concrete as an environmentally-friendly material. However, in terms of lifecycle, “concrete or any resilient structure is going to last a lot, lot longer than most conventional building materials,” Ballard tells Green Matters over the phone. “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.”

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