Discovering how economies of scale impact 3D printed houses has been one of the most highly anticipated aspects of the tech. I got the unique opportunity to visit the active construction site where Icon currently has 7 of their Vulcan concrete printers extruding their proprietary Lavacrete mix.
CEO Jason Ballard and I walked around brand new homes just starting their first layer all the way to the first home they printed which has already been turned over to Lennar for completion after printing. You can follow along our tour or listen to the podcast we did at the bottom of this article.
Icon is serving as the subcontractor for this Georgetown project at Wolf Ranch. They agreed to a fixed price $.01 below what the Lennar wall contractors would typically charge. This means the onus is on Icon to deliver the homes and even if the cost to them comes out higher in the end, Lennar will not be on the hook. Fixed construction contracts are rare these days and it is a testament to the confidence Icon has in their technology and team.
After printing, Icon has one responsibility left before the handover to Lennar for completion and thats attaching custom CNC routed wood to the top of the printed walls to which the roof trusses can be secured. This makes installing the roof a very typical process for Lennar and Icon is handling the challenge of joining the roof to the curvy shapes of the wall.
Most importantly we got an answer to the economies of scale question. Having a big project, big team and big partner helped drive down costs compared to one off printed homes or smaller developments. This is because the teams can be more specialized instead of having a 3-4 man crew for the whole process. Icon also gets more negotiating leverage with suppliers now that they have a big partner and bigger order quantities.
This 100 home project is huge, by far the biggest construction project in the 3DCP world at the moment but it’s still only the beginning. There are millions of homes to be built and Icon is working hard to build the machines that can scale to that many homes. This project is offering tremendous learning opportunities for Icon and Lennar, traditional construction intelligence still plays a big role in 3D printed construction projects and fine tuning the details will unlock further efficiencies making construction automation more competitive with time.
One more thing I have to mention is the data collection happening. I got a glimpse at Icons HUD of their project showing comprehensive data on all the active prints going on and the projects progression over the many days. Some of these infographics were developed in house others utilize Palantir tech and both were incredibly impressive, it really felt like the future of construction.
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