AUSTIN, Texas - From Washington D.C. all the way to an East Austin backyard...H.U.D. Secretary Dr. Ben Carson toured construction tech company "Icon's" prototype home Thursday morning.
It's a 350-square-foot 3D-printed home that took just under 50 hours to print.
"This is exciting because it's new technology that has wide applicability," Dr. Carson said.
Jason Ballard is CEO and co-founder of the Austin-based "ICON."
The prototype house made its debut about a year ago. "One of the really fun things that happened after we unveiled this house last year at SXSW was the number of Americans who said 'Hey I would like a house like that' and so that really encouraged us that we were on the right track," Ballard said.
So what is it made of?
A special concrete material that gets deposited layer by layer. "You can build a house as fast as 24-hours or as long as about a week depending on size and complexity," Ballard said.
Back to Dr. Carson's visit Thursday morning, Ballard says it's hard to talk about the problems in housing without also thinking about public policy. "He has a job to understand what new ways forward because he's stuck in some of these issues and that department is stuck in some of these issues as well and for us, we need to have our technology and approach validated by the decision-makers in the world," Ballard said.
As for entrepreneurs like the folks at ICON...
"All we have to do if we really want to experience great success is get out of their way. The government should be helping to facilitate these things," Carson said.
Secretary Carson tells me 3D-printed houses would be a great solution after natural disasters like the tornadoes in Alabama last week. "Because there's a place where you already have infrastructure in place in terms of sewage and things like that so all you would need to build something like this is the foundational platform. Very easy to put that in and then...in two days you've got a house," Carson said.
The tech could also help with affordability challenges. Dr. Carson says a third of the population is burdened when it comes to housing costs.
"They're paying over 30% and in many cases up to 50% of their income. Now when you're doing that just for housing, you don't have a lot of time to concentrate on other things. We want to free people up, to really enjoy the pursuit of happiness of our country," Carson said.
Ballard says ICON's goal is getting to half-price houses.
"I don't want to represent that we're offering half price houses today but if we don't get to something like that I will feel that the technology failed," Ballard said. The folks at ICON say they've partnered with a non-profit called New Story and they'll be printing houses like the prototype in Latin America later this year.