Ashland’s Thalden Foundation is project’s initial funding partner
By Jim Flint for Ashland.news
In the aftermath of the devastating Almeda fire nearly three years ago that destroyed more than 2,500 homes in the Talent-Phoenix area, a proposal to build a new West Medford neighborhood of affordable, fire-resistant 3D-printed homes is turning into something solid.
“We hope that we will be able to make these homes available for $185,000 to $235,000 with no money down,” said Barry Thalden, retired architect and founder with his wife, Kathryn, of the Ashland-based Thalden Foundation, the project’s initial funding contributor.
Outlier Construction of Medford is in the process of completing site preparation work on New Spirit Village, with construction of the homes scheduled to begin in September.
The development, one of the first of its kind in the United States, will be built on a 6.1-acre site located on Meadows Lane, just south and east of the intersection of West Main Street and Lozier Lane.
The project will include 87 one-, two- and three-bedroom single-family homes, designed to be energy-efficient, fire-resistant and able to withstand extreme weather and earthquakes.
Instead of conventional materials like steel, aluminum and lumber, 3D-printed walls of the homes will be built by a computer program-powered robot extruder, squeezing a proprietary cement mixture out of a nozzle, layer upon layer, following the architect’s drawings.
The Thaldens dedicated the project to victims of the Almeda fire.
Potential home buyers must meet income qualifications and are being screened by ACCESS and Proud Ground.
“In line with a state funding grant, affordable homes must be sold to those with incomes below 80% of the median income,” Thalden said. “Priority will be given to Almeda Fire victim families.”
ACCESS, the community action agency for Jackson County, provides food, warmth, shelter and other essential services to low-income children, families, seniors, veterans and people with disabilities. Proud Ground is a HUD-approved nonprofit organization that helps provide affordable homeownership opportunities.
“Proud Ground is also responsible for the homes remaining permanently affordable,” Thalden said.
The first phase of the 87-home project is designed to complete 22 homes by the end of June next year. The plan is to proceed immediately thereafter to begin construction of the remaining homes.
All utility lines electric, cable, water, sanitary and storm sewers have been completed and buried for the first phase of the project.
Sidewalks are being completed. Stamped and colored concrete streets, to look like cobblestones, will be completed in the next few weeks. Lots for the homes have been staked by a surveyor.
Thalden estimates that it will take less than a week to print all the walls of one house, with the rest of the house completed over another three months.
The extruder will be brought in after site preparation is completed.
“We are in final discussions with Emergent 3D,” Thalden said. “They are from Redding and have completed one 3D-printed house there, with five more under construction.”
Three-dimensional printers have been used to make thousands of items, ranging from aircraft engine parts, guns, and tools to jewelry, prosthetics and bikinis. The technology typically utilizes layers of durable plastics and metals in liquid, powder and sheet form.
Until recently, housing wasn’t a part of the 3D printing revolution. But now, templates can be designed with 3D computer-aided design software. Full-scale buildings can be produced with concrete, foam and polymers.
Basically, 3D printing creates a wall system. The house still has to have a foundation and a roof. The 3D printing process does not create every component of a house but it can help lower costs considerably.
“Electrical wiring and plumbing are inserted in the double-wall cavity prior to adding insulation,” Thalden said. Spray-painting the exterior and interior corduroy-like walls is the final finish.
The roofs will consist of metal framing with panels of metal shingles.
Zoom meetings with Rogue Valley and state social service agencies have been conducted regularly over the past year as part of the planning process. The agencies had their first on-site meeting July 19.
Participating agencies include United Way of Jackson County, ACCESS, CASA, Coalicion Fortaleza, Energy Trust of Oregon, Habitat for Humanity, Housing Authority of Jackson County, Jackson County Long-Term Recovery Group, Oregon Housing and Community Services, Unite, Oregon Community Foundation, PacifiCorp and Rogue Retreat.
The development has 10 primary goals:
- To promote home ownership that will help working families build equity and wealth.
- Affordability through low selling prices, long-term mortgage payments, and requiring no down payments.
- A high-density plan that avoids multifamily units in favor of single-family homes.
- Permanent affordability achieved by a land trust model in which buyers own the house but not the land on which it is built, allowing them to sell it or to pass it on to their children but not to rent it.
- Utilization of new technology, energy efficiency and sustainability.
- Private, narrow, walkable streets.
- Disaster-resistant construction.
- Avoiding quality issues often associated with low-cost housing by building well-designed homes.
- Providing recreation opportunities by building adjacent to Medford’s eight-acre Lewis Park.
- Consulting potential buyers about their specific needs.
The Thalden Foundation is a philanthropic, nonprofit corporation, established and directed by the Thaldens, who retired and moved to Ashland in 2012.
The foundation, established to support the arts and to provide new opportunities for those in need, is focused on Ashland and the Rogue Valley.
The Thaldens created a sister foundation, New Spirit Village, to develop the new Medford housing project.
Thalden said he hopes it might become a model for others.
“There are no other projects planned. It is our hope that this unique pilot project will encourage other to follow our example,” he said.
Barry Thalden founded, and led for 43 years, what became a nationally known architecture firm with offices in St. Louis, Tulsa, Phoenix and Las Vegas. His experience includes designing tens of thousands of residential units from coast to coast.
Kathryn Thalden founded and operated a city planning and landscape architecture firm in Kansas City and later was the founding minister of the Unity Church of Green Valley in Henderson, Nevada.
Reach writer Jim Flint at firstname.lastname@example.org.