With today’s housing costs becoming higher and higher every day in close to any major city that you can think of, the idea of a low-cost 3D-printed village sounds almost too good to be true–according to a report by the Resolution Foundation, one in three of Britain’s millennials will never own their own home. Could low-cost 3D-printed houses be the solution to enjoying the privilege of ownership?
New Story, a non-profit organisation that builds homes for families in need, has partnered with the start-up Icon to create the world’s first 3D-printed community. The project will start this year and will utilise Icon’s newly unveiled 3D printer, the Vulcan II. According to New Story, this machine will print homes that are affordable, resilient and sustainable.
In March 2018, the printer had already created its first low-cost house in Austin, Texas, in less than 24 hours by piping layers and layers of concrete, with only a roof and windows needing to be added at the end. According to Icon, this printed home cost less than $4,000 to print.
New Story’s soon to be built community project will be located in Latin America, and would serve families without access to adequate housing. When finished later this year, it is promising to house more than 400 persons.
Alexandria Lafci, co-founder and head of operations of New Story, told Fast Company that the home recipients are hardworking families, “They work incredibly long hours in pretty dangerous, semi-toxic conditions, and part of their very little compensation is the shelters that they are given”. For these families, housing usually comes with their job, which means that they are often bound to the work accommodation they receive.
New Story hopes that this community of houses will bring local inhabitants the chance to find new work as well—devoid of the reliance on factory housing. The average family in the community is made of four individuals who are living on less than $200 per month, a combined salary far too low to ever be able to afford this kind of house in other circumstances.
While all of this sounds very promising, criticism of the project following its announcement showed people’s concern with the quality of the 3D houses. How could they be that cheap and still offer more than just a shabby roof over people’s head? Although the project seems to put a lot of attention into the homes’ aesthetic, can their longevity be assured with the impact that Global Warming is having on our planet now, and in the forthcoming years?
New Story partnered with the design firm Fuseproject to offer what it believes to be quality architecture. Alexandria Lafci explained that, “Even when populations are seemingly vulnerable, or seemingly will accept whatever is given, that’s not an excuse to not really push to have the highest quality of whoever you’re working with.” This raises another concern, one about craftsmanship. If 3D houses are the next big advance in architecture, surely this means that any profession that involves craft expertise will be changed, if not be replaced by machines. Jason Ballard, the CEO and co-founder of Icon explained to Wired, “You could print a house in the shape of a Fibonacci spiral if you wanted to. It’s just as simple as printing a square.” It’s fair to say that building this kind of house would cost far more than $4,000 and would employ a crew of builders for more than 24 hours.
Much like New Story, other similar projects are on the rise too; in Austin again, Icon is partnering with the real estate investment company Cielo to build housing for the homeless. While in France, a family has become the first in the world to move into a 3D-printed house. But the small village in Latin America will be the first project of its kind truly working towards creating a community around those homes.
Even though Vulcan II will only be breaking grounds in Latin America and the U.S. this year, Icon is actively accepting requests for 2020—meaning you will soon be able to create your dream house and have it built in 24-hours.
While this idea of a 3D-printed village sounds promising, questions should arise from this new way of creating communities. Innovation, technology, and social changes are factors that constantly transform creative industries. Does this mean that we will be able to accomplish more with the help of 3D printers, or are we slowly but surely killing any craftsmanship that we have left? Surely this can be considered good news for people that don’t have access to appropriate housing, and designing with greater social and environmental impact is necessary. Let’s just hope these 3D-printed homes last the test of time—and extreme weather conditions.
Co-living is not a brand new concept, and yet, recently, an improved version of the 1960s movement seems to be making a comeback in major cities across the world. So what is co-living and how has it changed from its previous commune connotation to one of the most innovative ways of using urban space today, attracting an entire host of tenants in search of something that better fits their needs?
Co-living is a form of housing that combines shared communal facilities with private living spaces—it’s basically a home that promotes both social contact through community events alongside much needed personal space and privacy. It’s about time we realise that the future of cities and living needs to undergo a big change, and companies providing co-living spaces like The Collective are putting some fascinating ideas on the table.
When it first opened in 2016, The Collective was the U.K.’s first large-scale co-living space operating in the field. Today, it provides co-living locations in London, in Old Oak and the recently opened Canary Wharf in, New York, and planned sites in Chicago, Miami, and Germany, while operating out of three offices globally. To give a sense of scale for the demand for this new way of living, to date, The Collective has raised $800 million.
Migration to big cities like London and New York is on the rise, which puts the already limited housing stock under pressure. Add to this the unavailability of small and reasonably-priced flats in trendy areas plus the uncertainty of living with strangers, and you’ll quickly realise why co-living is evolving alongside a growing demand for fully furnished houses that offer good facilities and utilities, while also making tenants feel less isolated.
Co-living then tackles the space and the loneliness issues in one swift go, something that has become urgent in the U.K., with inner city people more likely to be lonely than those in any other area, and 23 percent of the population most likely to feel on their own—despite having hundreds of followers on Instagram and however many Facebook friends. Talking to Screen Shot about what led him to create this community-driven living space, founder and CEO of The Collective Reza Merchant said, “I came across how difficult it was to find good quality accommodation whilst I was studying at the London School of Economics. It was hard to find a place that was homely and didn’t isolate me from the community around me. This struck me as a very unnatural way to live, as by nature we’re social creatures. At The Collective we want to reinstate our social needs which is why we’ve made it our mission to build and activate spaces that foster human connection and enable people to lead more fulfilling lives”.
The movement of co-living is offering our ever-changing world new ideas of how we’ll be living in the future. The way we use the space we live in has changed. We’re out during the day, out during the night; we need flexibility in everything we do. And what about those empty flats we leave behind for probably 80 percent of the day? Doesn’t it make sense that we find a way to reduce the sheer mass of empty space? “As we increasingly become global citizens, rather than citizens of just one country, owning a property has become less of a priority. We’re much more concerned with personal fulfillment and shared experiences than material possessions”, Merchant notes, adding that, “Cities are huge playgrounds for this, which is where co-living is making a real difference. We’ve welcomed members from all walks of life, with each getting much more than just a roof over their head. Their shared experiences enrich each other’s lives, whether that be collaborating on work, forming new friendships, falling in love, or just simply hearing different stories over dinner”.
Co-living spaces are curated for a new and specific living experience where it’s all about sharing the right amount of space and the right amount of time with the right amount of people. And what makes The Collective different from other companies operating in the field is that it works to accommodate tenants of various ages, nationalities, and professions through communal events and spaces—creating a melting pot at your doorstep.
The Collective doesn’t stand out just because of the aesthetically pleasing design of its spaces, but, most importantly, due to its new approach toward co-living. It wants you to live in a nice and clean space, yes, but also for you to feel connected to the community and be inspired by the people and the spaces that surround you, so you can get more from your home than just a good night’s sleep and a hot shower.
What’s next on the agenda, then? And what more could we get out of this new concept of living? The lifestyle that companies like The Collective are offering us is a step toward demanding more from where and what we call home. Pretty buildings with gyms, pools, terraces, and TV rooms are not what make this whole concept interesting; rather, it’s the community that can come out of it. To establish a global network of co-living communities that are built on continuous learning, innovation and improvement, The Collective looks at the long-term operation and how it can improve to give you the best co-living experience.
Looking at how people live in communities now, and at how it sometimes works out and sometimes doesn’t, co-living is only at the beginning of its journey. For now, at least, it looks like our bright future is made of shared spaces, communal experiences, and a bit of alone time in a thoughtfully designed private space.
This is the first article of a three-part series looking at co-living and what the future of this new trend will hold. Parts two and three will soon be published on Screen Shot online.