The Texas 3D printing construction company Icon unveiled its new 2,000-square-foot home, House Zero.
I spent a night in the luxurious home and believe 3D printing is the future of home construction.
Icon’s printer system produced the most unusual walls I’ve seen inside a home.
I spent a night inside a luxury 3D printed home and am now convinced the technology has a place in the future of home construction.
In early March, the 3D printing home-construction company Icon unveiled House Zero, an over-2,000-square-foot 3D printed home in Austin, Texas.
The walls of the main home and its accessory dwelling unit were printed at the same time in eight days despite weather and hardware issues.
Icon began printing House Zero in May 2021 and the rest of the home — like window installation, wiring, and plumbing — was completed in February 2022.
When the home was completed, Icon invited me to spend a night in the new three-bedroom, 2-½ bathroom build …
… and the unique construction tech, curved concrete walls, and high-end finishes made House Zero one of the most interestingly designed homes in which I’ve stayed.
Spending a night in House Zero made me realize 3D printing homes could be a strategic and functional construction method while still producing beautiful yet comfortable homes.
Many 3D printing enthusiasts view the tech as a path toward alleviating housing shortages and improving affordability.
Like House Zero, a home that could take about a year to build “traditionally” can be printed and completed in just several months …
… enabling home builders to construct housing cheaper, faster, and more sustainably by using fewer materials and less labor.
But while the technology may be heralded as a way to build more-affordable homes quicker, House Zero is far from an example of a budget-friendly home.
The house — designed with the help of Lake Flato Architects — was styled to be a show home for Icon: a place to take investors, the public, and journalists.
It was meant to flex the range and practicality of Icon’s printing technology, Jason Ballard, Icon’s cofounder and CEO, told Insider in an interview.
And like all stereotypical model homes, House Zero is filled with high-end furniture and finishes meant to woo even the most discerning visitors.
The rounded walls caught my attention as I drove by the Austin, Texas, home for the first time …
… and were the first feature my eyes gravitated toward when I finally set foot inside the house.
I was immediately taken aback by the beautiful interior design and concrete curved walls, which far exceeded my expectations of a 3D printed home.
A building with this much exposed concrete is often associated with brutalist architecture, but nothing about House Zero screamed “brutalism” to me.
Icon’s in-house “high strength” concrete combined with the curved wall design made House Zero look organic and free-flowing.
Until this build I had never seen a layered sloping wall before. And now, I want something similar in my future home.
And it’s not just for aesthetic reasons. The shape strengthens the home’s structure while serving as a natural open-air separation of space.
Icon’s 3D printing technology enables it to easily print curved walls, a feat that would be remarkably more difficult if done using “traditional” construction methods.
“We’re not only going to invent robots — we’re also going to invent architecture,” Ballard said. “And it’s not clear that robotics companies have any business inventing architecture.”
Curvature aside, the striking layered walls — which were strengthened with steel and insulation — were unlike anything I had seen inside a home.
There was no need for art on the walls — the gray layers naturally became a focal point of the home’s rooms …
… while the wooden walls and accents kept the space from appearing too cold and drab.
The first room off the entryway is the open-concept kitchen, living room, and dining room.
To create natural separations of space, these areas were all sectioned off using the concave shape of the walls.
The dining room was enveloped in a cocoon of concrete, creating an alluring and modern space.
I had never seen a room like this before, and it instantly became my favorite part of the home.
Because it was only partially sectioned off, the dining room still flowed into the kitchen and the living room.
Compared with a New York City apartment, the kitchen in House Zero felt especially large …
… and had all the amenities of a luxury kitchen, including a walk-in pantry.
It also opened perfectly into the living room, which had comfortable seats and a wall-mounted television hidden behind a tapestry.
This would’ve been the perfect space for entertaining, but I was, after all, staying in someone else’s home.
A sizable workstation was located just behind this common space. I don’t enjoy facing a wall while I work, but there’s no denying this corner was beautifully designed and curated.
The hallway directly behind this space leads into the half-bathroom and primary bedroom.
The home has three bedrooms, and I opted to sleep in the largest one with an en-suite bathroom.
The bathroom far surpassed the ones I’ve seen inside a hotel or Airbnb.
The focal point of the room was the shower and bathtub, which sat in their own space separated by a small glass panel.
This bathing space also had a concave wall. But unlike the living room, the concrete layers were covered with a smooth gray finish.
The bathtub and shower relied on a touchscreen panel to control the water and its temperature, a tech-forward feature I had never used before.
But other than spending a few seconds learning how to use this system, I continued about my nighttime routine as I would in a “normal” home.
And the primary bedroom where I slept was just that, a bedroom. Though it was accented with this wavy printed wall.
Like the primary bathroom, the half bathroom’s layered concrete walls were covered in a similarly smooth but dark finish, creating a cave-like space.
The second full bathroom was located at the other end of the home between the two additional bedrooms, though one had been converted into a home office.
I spent most of my night in the primary bedroom and living room, so I didn’t frequent this half of the house.
But the morning light that streamed into the bedroom turned office beautifully highlighted its walls and wooden finishes.
My stay inside the 3D printed home wrapped up without a single mishap and with one good night’s rest.
In retrospect, I definitely gawked at the unique construction throughout my first few hours in the home.
But after the awe of staying inside a 3D printed abode wore off, the reality of my surroundings settled in.
In reality, House Zero was nothing more than a home filled with luxurious furniture and high-end finishes constructed in a unique manner.
It’s comfortable, perfectly livable, and unfussy. I had no difficulties or an adjustment period trying to make myself at home.
I didn’t feel as if I were missing anything. There were plenty of outlets, bright lights, and endless storage options — everything I could want in a home.
Sure, the furniture is nice, and, sure, they use fancy Aesop hand soap, but at the end of the day the pretty home is just that — a typical (luxury) home.
The only feature that differentiated it from any other high-end home was its layered and curved walls.
And in retrospect, that’s exactly what I was hoping for: a normal house.
The 3D printing home-construction technology is still in its infancy, but it already has the potential to build homes quickly, inexpensively, and sustainably.
We’re currently in a dire housing and homelessness crisis, and 3D printing seems to be a viable solution to this massive issue.
And if that’s the case, this efficient construction method could become the future of homebuilding.
And for those who don’t like change, House Zero proves that the tech can produce the type of homes we’ve grown used, just with a slightly cooler look and in a more efficient manner.
“I don’t want to build a worse world faster and cheaper,” Ballard said. “I want to build a better world faster and cheaper.”
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