Australian Architect Stephen Sainsbury has spent decades researching materials to reduce environmental impact. This has culminated in the development of the Ecoshelta prefabricated modular building system.
Based on an extensive evaluation of the environmental impact of building materials and other factors, the Ecoshelta Pods are constructed using a combination of eco-friendly timber, a composite panel roof, the latest wall and floor technologies and marine grade structural aluminum alloy.
Some may consider the choice of aluminum slightly controversial as it’s not the first material that springs to mind when considering a green alternative. However, Sainsbury’s 20 year study found aluminum to be a highly durable, long-term product that can be recycled repeatedly with minimal impact. It is also five times as strong as steel and half the weight, with only a quarter of the material needed.
The buildings were originally designed for installation in remote areas, with the ability to withstand extreme temperatures and conditions. The use of aluminum means that fire and cyclone rated buildings can be made directly from the material, without having to add any other resources to it.
But it’s not just the raw materials that have undergone intense scrutiny. Every step in the design process has been through a calculated evaluation of the potential environmental impact. This includes a thorough examination of the mining and manufacturing processes, transport and logistics, with consideration given to where the product is made, how far it has to travel and whether it will pollute the internal or external environment.
The Ecoshelta Pods can also be transported and delivered to any location, near and far. A recent commission saw Sainsbury and his team on a million acre station in the Kimberley, installing an accommodation building in 130 degree heat, hundreds of miles from the main gate. Another Pod was packed and shipped to Hong Kong for installation as a garden pavilion.
The Pods are usually assembled by a team from Ecoshelta or overseen by an Ecoshelta supervisor but for those with a keen sense of determination, the assembly can be managed as a DIY project. Each structure takes between one and five days to construct and needs at least four people to assemble.
A feature that makes the prospect of DIY more attractive is the innovative one-screw connection system. The average structure contains around 3000 screws, all alike, used to assemble the entire building. Think of it as a sophisticated Ikea package, with a power-driven screw in place of the Allen key. Although as with Ikea assembly, skills in the trades would be advantageous.
As part of the overall design, careful consideration has been given to light and airflow, natural ventilation, passive and active solar design which can be used for heating, cooling, fans, lights and powering a building.
The outcome is an aesthetically pleasing and versatile building that can be customized to your own taste. It’s almost like buying a car, selecting from half a dozen basic designs and then tailoring it to meet your needs. Everything can be custom selected from the various roof forms, different cuttings, linings, windows, doors, even down to the bathroom and kitchen details.
A basic model can cost around US$25,000 (AU$35,000), but most buyers spend anywhere from $38,500 to $54,000 per Pod. For those wanting a larger home, a 1600 square foot house would be in the region of $270,000.
For Sainsbury, the research continues. He is committed to the business of sustainability and exploring cutting edge technologies to minimize environmental impact. For the environmentally aware, an Ecoshelta Pod would be the ideal way to go green in style.
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