Once again, South by Southwest® Festival (SXSW®) in Austin became a public lab for innovations designed to make life in the city easier – and a lot more pleasant. Ever since, we can’t stop thinking about our three favorite projects.

ICON: ready-to-print buildings

SXSW Innovation: the 3D printed houses by ICON
Sustainable and affordable: the 3D printed houses by ICON.
Photo: Iconbuild

A new home from scratch, ready in 24 hours, fresh from a huge 3D printer. Replete with kitchen, patio, bedroom, and workspace. The cost: around $4,000. It’s fast, sustainable, and surprisingly affordable. The minds behind this construction revolution work at ICON, a US start-up.

the facade of a 3D printed home by ICON
The 3D printed homes by ICON are made from locally sourced materials.
Photo: Iconbuild

For years, founder and managing director Alex Le Roux has been tinkering with 3D printers large enough to build entire homes. Now, he and his colleagues have made their decisive breakthrough: This March, their massive, yet mobile “Vulkan” printer produced its first ready-to-move-in house in Austin, Texas.

GrubTubs: one ton of garbage, please

What can we do to make farming more sustainable, while keeping costs low – especially for smaller businesses? US-based company GrubTubs has come up with a surprisingly simple answer and solution: a slightly unusual exchange of goods between city and countryside.

woman sitting on the ground between chickens, laughing
Healthy and happy: these chickens take a pass on industrial feed.
Photo: Grubtubs

Once a month, GrubTubs collects organic waste from restaurant kitchens and then delivers these spoils to farmers in nearby rural areas. Here, the compostable refuse becomes a nutritious substrate for maggots, which are then fed to chickens as a cheap alternative to industrial feed.

A concept that not only benefits the participating restaurants and farmers, but also supermarket shoppers – and our shared environment.

Plume Labs: smartphone vs. air pollution

Plume Labs is no tech newcomer. Back in the summer of 2016, smart magazine already reported on the intriguing French start-up. Since 2014, the team around managing director Romain Lacombe has been working towards their vision of clean air for all.  

Beyond launching a smartphone app that displays real-time air pollution figures for the user’s location, Plume Labs has even experimented with using pigeons as flying measurement devices. The Plume crew’s latest coup: Flow, a portable device that measures air quality at the touch of a button and sounds an alert at the first sign of heightened air pollution.

person using the app Flow by Plume Labs on a smartphone
Flow users know how keep their lungs clear of pollutants.
Photo: Plume Lubs

Based on the data reported by all Flow users, Plume generates a map for app-based smartphone use. It’s a great little helper for anyone who spends plenty of time outside walking, biking, or running and prefers to keep their lungs clear of particulates and pollutants. Ready to ship in summer 2018, Flow is already available for pre-order now.