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Good People, Good Work

New Story and ICON: Pioneering Solutions to Homelessness

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When Brett Hagler of the United States was 18, he developed a rare form of cancer. Surviving that experience changed the way he thought about his life and what really matters. Brett visited Haiti several years after the 2010 earthquake and was shocked to see tens of thousands of people still living in tents and other temporary accommodations. When he returned to San Francisco, California, USA, he met Alexandria Lafci, who shared his sentiments, and together they decided to develop ways of providing housing to families that need it the most. With their friend, Matthew Marshall, they cofounded a nonprofit called New Story Charity, and started raising money through crowdfunding to build five homes in Haiti. The success of New Story’s first project inspired Brett and Alexandria to challenge themselves. In 2017, New Story connected with a construction technologies company in Austin, Texas, USA, that had reached the same conclusion. Jason Ballard, co-founder and CEO of ICON, was looking for a home-building solution that would be affordable, scalable and sustainable. New Story and ICON partnered to design a 3D printer that could build a house. Instead of extruding plastic like smaller 3D printers, their machine pumps out a special mortar-like material that they call “Lavacrete.” New Story and ICON have evolved the printer and the process so that they can provide homes even faster and cheaper. The second iteration of the 3D printer is called the Vulcan II. It is gantry-style on rails, meaning a bridge-like structure with a platform that supports the actual printer as it moves around the building’s floor plan. ICON’s Lavacrete is adaptable for ambient temperature and humidity, the altitude of the location as well as the desired printing speed. With the Vulcan II, all mixing, pumping and delivery are automated via the software, thus no manual measuring or dumping is required. Using a layer-by-layer approach, Lavacrete is extruded from the printer head and stacked up according to a digital model. Finished structures are beautiful in their simplicity, long-lasting and afford protection from extreme weather conditions. At New Story, the word “employee” is not used. They prefer to think of themselves as a team of founders. They cherish a shared vision of putting an end to homelessness and consider it a rare privilege to be able to give hope and happiness to so many people.
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