In a rainy, rural site in the Mexican state of Tabasco, a pair of 3D-printed homes represent a milestone: They're the initial two structures in a community that aims to be the world's first 3D-printed housing development. 

This month, a team of designers and philanthropists unveiled the houses, which are part of a planned 50-home neighborhood for low-income families.

It's the result of a collaboration between New Story, a San Francisco-based housing nonprofit, and Icon, a construction-technology company that designs 3D printers. 



Icon's printer, known as Vulcan II (shown above), weighs about 3,800 pounds. It can operate during a power shortage and comes with LED lighting for printing at night. 

The Vulcan II is operated via controls through a tablet, so only a few workers are required to print a home.

The company's cement mixture is stronger than traditional building materials, so it can withstand extreme weather conditions. 

The up-front cost of building the homes and necessary infrastructure was funded by New Story donors. The nonprofit declined to say how much the houses cost, but it previously estimated that it could build a 600- to 800-square-foot home for $4,000 or less. 

A local nonprofit, Échale, helped select the winning families, most of which are among Tabasco's indigenous population. 

The nonprofit also solicited feedback from future residents about the community's design. The vast majority of families wanted flat roofs so that it would be easier to add to or customize their home.

The mortgages come with zero interest and the money goes into a community investment fund meant to be spent by the residents.

In 2017, police registered nearly 390 murders there — triple the number in 2012. In 2018, a Mexican journalist was shot and killed in Tabasco.

"I can't wait to have bedrooms where my family can sleep more comfortably and more protected from the cold and the mosquitoes," Isela, one of the community's future residents and a mother of two (who did not provide her last name), said in a statement. "If it rains, I know it's not going to make our floors muddy; that is how my home is now." 

Almost all of the families surveyed asked for green space near their homes. A quarter of those surveyed said they considered green space the most important feature of their future community. 

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"The journey has not been easy," New Story said in a statement on its website. "Power can be unpredictable and local rainfall has often flooded access roads to the construction site."

Instead, New Story plans to use a material called Eco-Block: a type of brick made from organic waste that's stronger than traditional concrete and produces fewer carbon emissions. The nonprofit will then compare whether Eco-Block or 3D printing holds up better over time.

"The thing I am most excited about for my new house is having my own room where I can read," 8-year old Alan (who did not provide his last name) said in a statement. "Where I live now, we can't read much, because when our parents bought us books, they would always get wet because of rain coming in through the roof." 

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