SETX native co-founded company that's 3-D printing homes

SETX native co-founded company that's 3-D printing homes

Bridge City’s Jason Ballard is one of the minds behind America’s first city-approved 3-D printed homes.

ICON, a construction technologies company co-founded by Ballard, Alex Le Roux and Evan Loomis in 2017, unveiled its 350-square-foot concrete home earlier this month at Austin’s South by Southwest (SXSW) conference.

The home’s concrete walls, floors, roof and porch were created in around 47 hours using a Vulcan 3-D printer, a mobile printer Ballard called “revolutionary and paradigm-shifting technology.”

He predicts in the near future that 3-D printed homes can be constructed in less than 24 hours. The price tag is around $4,000, he said.

“We think this has potential whether you want a 300-square-feet house in El Salvador or a 2,000-square-feet house in San Francisco,” Ballard, 35, said.

READ MORE: Austin company is building 3D printed houses for less than $4,000

ICON is partnering with the non-profit New Story to build a community of 3-D printed homes in El Salvador by 2019, he said.

“Usually the poorest of the poor are the last people to get advanced material and they’re the people who need it the most,” Ballard said.

Vulcan’s technology allows builders to construct durable homes faster and with less waste, he said.

Ballard said his work with ICON and TreeHouse, an eco-friendly home upgrade company he founded, is largely inspired by his upbringing near the Piney Woods.

Ballard, who graduated from Bridge City High School in 2001, spoke fondly of the nearby Big Thicket, saying it is one of the most biodiverse regions in America.

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He said growing up near such beauty and some of the nation’s largest oil refineries gave him conflicting views of the area’s “amazing natural landscape and the desecration of that landscape.”

As an adult, Ballard said he’s learned that gas guzzling SUVs and private jets aren’t necessarily the problem.

“The big problem is buildings,” he said.

“We can’t rip our homes apart every time a storm hits Southeast Texas,” Ballard said. “I would be shocked if anybody remaining in Southeast Texas had any confidence in two-by-fours and drywall after Harvey,” he said.

The concrete poured by Vulcan was put “through a whole battery of tests,” Ballard said, and is more resilient than traditional construction materials.

He said he felt confident the prototype home in Austin could withstand a tornado.

Ballard lives in Austin with his family and is using the newly-printed building as an office. It is outfitted with a living room, bedroom and bathroom. He said future models will include kitchens.

“I didn’t want the world to have to choose between having an affordable home or having a home that is beautiful, resilient, healthy and sustainable,” Ballard said of his work.

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