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Cheap, climate-friendly dream homes: New AI architect and 3D printing transform construction industry

Affordable and climate-friendly dream homes could be possible thanks to a new AI architect and 3D printing (image: Icon)
Affordable and climate-friendly dream homes could be possible thanks to a new AI architect and 3D printing (image: Icon)
The world's largest 3D-printed housing community has been completed - and the company behind it has now developed an AI architect who designs customized homes that are then built by a robot in record time. As well as reducing costs and making housing more affordable, the smart technology, combined with low-CO2 concrete, is also helping to protect the environment.

A new AI architect is responsible for constructing the world's largest 3D-printed housing complex, the 100-home Wolf Ranch in Austin. However, the AI from startup Icon has also designed many climate-friendly homes for individuals at different price levels, independent of the current housing development. While the AI is responsible for creating the buildings, a giant robot is taking care of the 3D printing of the two-story houses, including the roof and foundations.

In principle 3D printing can offer unique advantages to address affordable housing prices issues because it can substantially decrease building time and potentially material usage.

- Maria Paz Gutierrez, an associate professor of architecture at the University of California at Berkeley

People interested in a new home answer a series of questions to the Vitruvius AI programme, which then suggests different versions of the dream home, including all the floor plans. From a cozy hobbit house to an aristocratic villa in the style of a Gothic church, the most unusual design ideas can be realised. Humans are still needed to complete the building plans, but by the end of the year, the programme should be able to work completely on its own.

The AI will then take care of all the tedious tasks, such as creating construction documents, permit applications, budgets, material lists and a construction schedule. Once the software can do everything on its own, it should be possible to build a house in half the time and for around $100,000 less on average - until then, the artificial intelligence is currently being trained with requests from around 100 beta testers.

Over time, the cost of building with a robot should approach $3 an hour while the cost of human labor is going to be approaching $20 or $30 an hour.

- Jason Ballard Founder and Managing Director of Icon

Will human architects soon be out of a job? According to Jason Ballard, founder and CEO of Icon, the main purpose of AI is to free humans from tedious tasks such as bureaucracy. Architects could also benefit directly from the software by submitting their own designs to the company's CodeX catalogue of programmes, in return for one percent of the construction cost of each house built to their design:

Every time we build one of your designs, we will send you a check so that people have access to good architecture again without paying $30,000, $60,000, $100,000 or $200,000.

- Jason Ballard

Icon's CodeX launches with over 60 home designs from star architects such as the Bjarke Ingels Group, ranging from under $99,000 to well over $1 million. But things get complicated when it comes to the environment - conventional concrete is a climate killer - an estimated 8 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions come from concrete production. Concrete is a mixture of cement, water, sand, gravel or lime chippings and various additives. Sand and gravel in particular are becoming increasingly scarce resources worldwide.

Icon currently uses a patented concrete mix called Lavacret, which is applied in layers and has a significantly higher carbon footprint than wood-framed alternatives. However, the company has recently introduced a low-carbon concrete formulation called CarbonX, which is claimed to reduce the emissions of a house by 2-6% compared to a timber-framed building. Hopefully this is a much more climate-friendly solution and not just greenwashing.


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> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2024 04 > Cheap, climate-friendly dream homes: New AI architect and 3D printing transform construction industry
Nicole Dominikowski, 2024-04-27 (Update: 2024-04-27)