3D-printed move from Dubai citadel to El Salvador slum

Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, signs on the board during the official opening of the world's first functional 3D printed offices in Dubai. (Reuters)
Updated 17 March 2018
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3D-printed move from Dubai citadel to El Salvador slum

BOGOTA: Dozens of families living in El Salvador’s slums hope to swap their makeshift wooden shacks for concrete 3D-printed houses next year, in what developers say is the first project of its kind in the world.

ICON, a Texas-based construction technology company has unveiled a 350 square foot (33 square meter) house, which it printed and built in two days using a gigantic, portable 3D-printer.

“Something that sounds like science fiction is real,” Jason Ballard, ICON’s co-founder, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We plan on printing a whole sort of development ... not just a 3D-print house but a 3D-printed neighborhood.”

Globally nearly 1 billion people live in slums, often in shacks made from scraps of metal and wood with dirt floors, according to the UN, which predicts the world’s population will reach 8 billion by 2030.

Innovators are racing to develop quick, cheap technology to address global housing needs. Dubai opened in 2016 what it said was the world’s first functioning 3D-printed office building.

Ballard said ICON’s house is the first to be built on site and receive a permit — from the UScity of Austin — allowing someone to live in it.

“We had to build it to the highest international standards of building safety,” he said.

New Story, which builds homes in developing countries, has partnered with ICON and they plan to transport an updated version of the 3D-printer to El Salvador and produce 600 to 800 square foot versions of the house in 24 hours.

They plan to build about 100 homes for people in slums in the Central American nation within 18 months, while reducing building costs to about $4,000 from $10,000.
“It represents the chance for breakthrough technology to come to developing areas first,” said Alexandria Lafci, co-founder of San Francisco-based New Story.
“Having a safe home is truly a foundation.”

Living in a hazardous shack or tent is dangerous for people’s health and wellbeing, making it difficult to perform well at school or work, she said.

A mix of concrete, water and other materials are pumped through the 3D-printer, which then pours out a hybrid of concrete mortar that hardens as it is printed, producing layers of structures used to build a house.

“The material has to be have some pretty unique features. It has to flow out ... but it can’t flow like water as you would just have a puddle of concrete and so it has to set pretty quickly,” Ballard said.

“This is meant to be long-term sustainable housing. Concrete is one of the most well understood materials on earth and it’s also one of the most resilient.”
Two possible sites where the 3D-printed homes could be built on have been identified, one outside the capital San Salvador and another about two hours away from the city, Lafci said.

Local authorities will grant the land on which the homes will be built on to the slum-dwellers, she said.

Families taking part in the project will pay a small, interest-free mortgage, which should take between five and 12 years to clear, she said.

“When they pay off their mortgage, they own both the home and the land that the house sits on,” Lafci said.

“Land ownership can be a stride to getting out of poverty.”


Abu Dhabi aims to lure start-ups with investment in new technology hub

Updated 24 March 2019
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Abu Dhabi aims to lure start-ups with investment in new technology hub

  • The initiative will help Abu Dhabi reduce reliance on oil
  • Mubadala hopes to attract Chinese and Indian companies

ABU DHABI: Abu Dhabi will commit up to $272 million to support technology start-ups, it said on Sunday, in a dedicated hub as part of efforts to diversify its economy.

US tech giant Microsoft will be a strategic partner, providing technology and cloud services to the businesses that join the hub as the capital of the United Arab Emirates continues its push to reduce reliance on oil revenue.
Abu Dhabi derives about 50 percent of its real gross domestic product and about 90 percent of central government revenue from the hydrocarbon sector, according to ratings agency S&P.
The emirate launched a $13.6 billion stimulus fund, Ghadan 21, in September last year to accelerate economic growth. Ghadan means tomorrow in Arabic. The new initiative, named Hub 71, is linked to Ghadan will also involve the launch of a $136 million fund to invest in start-ups, said Ibrahim Ajami, head of Mubadala Ventures, the technology arm of Mubadala Investment Co.
The goal is to have 100 companies over the next three to five years, Ajami said. “The market opportunities in this region are immense,” he added.
Mubadala, with assets of $225 billion and a big investor in tech companies, will act as the driver of the hub, located in the emirate’s financial district.
Softbank will be active in the hub and support the expansion of companies in which it has invested, Ajami said, adding that Mubadala is also aiming to attract Chinese and Indian companies, among others.
Mubadala which has committed $15 billion to the Softbank Vision Fund, plans to launch a $400 million fund to invest in leading European technology companies.
Incentives mapped out by the government include housing, office space and health insurance as part of the $272 million commitment, Ajami said.
Abu Dhabi will also announce a new research and development initiative on Monday linked to the Ghadan 21 plan, according to an invitation sent to journalists.