ICON and Lake|Flato Architects unveil 3D printed 'House Zero' in Austin, Texas

Featuring curving, furrowed concrete walls 3D printed using ICON’s 'Vulcan' construction system, the revolutionary home will be open for tours from March 13-14 during SXSW 2022.

by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : Mar 11, 2022

Described as the first of a new generation of homes that harness the benefits of 3D printing to their fullest, 'House Zero' by ICON and Texas-based firm Lake|Flato Architects has been presented as a prototype for sustainable, energy efficient homes in the future that will be assembled over far shorter timelines than their present-day counterparts. In support of this latest venture into utilising 3D printing to tackle the challenge of providing affordable housing, US-based company ICON - a leader in the emerging realm of 3D printed architecture, has developed yet another groundbreaking case for this revolutionary technology in Austin, Texas. To a degree, this endeavour translates elements of the organisation’s earlier explorations into extraterrestrial architecture alongside Bjarke Ingels Group (such as Project Olympus and Mars Dune Alpha), into a liveable reality back on Earth.

The residence is the first project in ICON’s ‘Exploration’ series, 3D printed using the company’s ‘Vulcan’ construction system | House Zero | ICON and Lake|Flato Architects | STIRworld
The residence is the first project in ICON’s ‘Exploration’ series, 3D printed using the company’s ‘Vulcan’ construction system Image: Casey Dunn

"House Zero is ground zero for the emergence of entirely new design languages and architectural vernaculars that will use robotic construction to deliver the things we need most from our housing: comfort, beauty, dignity, sustainability, attainability, and hope,” notes Jason Ballard, co-founder and CEO of ICON, in an official release. He adds, “Houses like this are only possible with 3D printing, and this is the new standard of what 3D printing can mean for the world.” As the first project in their 'Exploration' Series, House Zero was 3D printed using ICON’s cutting-edge 'Vulcan' construction system, with walls composed of 'Lavacrete' - a proprietary cementitious material developed by the organisation for their 3D printing applications.

01 min watch Assembled with ‘Lavacrete’ - a proprietary cementitious material developed by ICON, the structure’s curved walls feature furrowed textures | House Zero | ICON and Lake|Flato Architects | STIRworld
Assembled with ‘Lavacrete’ - a proprietary cementitious material developed by ICON, the structure’s curved walls feature furrowed textures Video: Courtesy of ICON

Additive construction methods enabled the realisation of the mid-century modernist ranch theme that pervades the residential design. Over more than 2,000 sq ft of floor area, House Zero accommodates three bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, as well as a 350 sq ft single bedroom and bathroom accessory dwelling unit. The 3D printed wall system used in assembling the home is said to have significantly shortened construction durations and minimised material wastage as well as costs when pitted against traditional construction methods that require multiple stages for completion. Furthermore, the Lavacrete and reinforced steel wall assembly is said to have sufficient thermal mass to mitigate heat transfer when paired with insulation and an airtight configuration that optimises energy efficiency and life-cycle costs.

ICON’s ‘Vulcan’ construction system is a next generation robotic 3D printing mechanism | House Zero | ICON and Lake|Flato Architects | STIRworld
ICON’s ‘Vulcan’ construction system is a next generation robotic 3D printing mechanism Image: Courtesy of ICON

Furrowed concrete architectural masses are complemented by wooden members and canopies in the façade design, which remains understated in its articulation, relying on the play of textures and proportions to speak first. "While the organic nature of the 3D-printed concrete and curved walls are new design languages for us, House Zero was still entirely in line with the natural connections we seek in our architecture," says Ashley Heeren, an Associate at Lake|Flato, in a press release. “The home expresses our shared passions for craft and performance in an inviting and comfortable family home constructed through a totally new way of building. It’s been a thrill for our team to work with ICON on such an innovative home design and be a part of the future of homebuilding."

  • The system is said to significantly reduce construction times due to the lower number of phases it involves | House Zero | ICON and Lake|Flato Architects | STIRworld
    The system is said to significantly reduce construction times due to the lower number of phases it involves Image: Courtesy of ICON
  • ICON hopes to pave the way for a new approach towards providing sustainable and affordable housing to the masses | House Zero | ICON and Lake|Flato Architects | STIRworld
    ICON hopes to pave the way for a new approach towards providing sustainable and affordable housing to the masses Image: Courtesy of ICON

Lake|Flato Architects channelled elements of biophilic design and forms inspired by nature into the curved walls used in the home, which were 3D printed using the Vulcan construction system. As per the architects, the curved profiles of these walls impart greater structural stability to the ensemble, and also create softer circulation routes as part of the interior design. "The 3D-printed wall design and its inherent biophilic quality conveys an ordered, yet non-rigid pattern invoking a rooted and timeless sense of natural refuge,” relays Lewis McNeel, an Associate Partner at Lake|Flato Architects, in a press statement.

Curved walls create smooth circulation routes through the interior | House Zero | ICON and Lake|Flato Architects | STIRworld
Curved walls create smooth circulation routes through the interior Image: Casey Dunn

Careful considerations were also made in the placement and design of openings. For instance, high clerestory windows located along the home’s eastern face have been incorporated to allow for natural illumination in the living room during daytime, reducing the need for artificial light. Hence, despite the revolutionary new reimagination of homebuilding embodied within this project, the residence’s architecture does not lose sight of the essential tenets of this art form. Jason Ballard shares, “My hope is that this home will provoke architects, developers, builders, and homeowners to dream alongside ICON about the exciting and hopeful future that robotic construction, and specifically 3D printing, makes possible. The housing of our future must be different from the housing we have known.”

The interior design channels the aesthetic of mid-century modern ranch home | House Zero | ICON and Lake|Flato Architects | STIRworld
The interior design channels the aesthetic of mid-century modern ranch home Image: Casey Dunn

In its role as an official partner for the South by Southwest Festival 2022 (SXSW) occurring from March 11-20 in Austin, Texas, ICON will also be conducting guided tours of the residence between March 13-14. Additionally, the company’s CEO and Founder Jason Ballard will also deliver a featured talk at the event on March 15, titled It’s Time to Build: a Conversation with Jason Ballard. During the session, Ballard will discuss the prospective role of architecture, material technology, and robotics in addressing many of the human race's most pressing challenges including affordable housing, community health, sustainability, climate resiliency, and the advancement of human potential.

ICON will also be conducting tours of the home from 13-14 March during SXSW 2022 in Austin, Texas | House Zero | ICON and Lake|Flato Architects | STIRworld
ICON will also be conducting tours of the home from 13-14 March during SXSW 2022 in Austin, Texas Image: Casey Dunn

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