Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Worst Idea in Housing 2011

Clay model of the Ekinoid base module.
I have seen and heard some truly bad ideas in housing development over the past 10+ years of my career. From self contained foam homes that can be constructed in minutes and given to homeless people, giant indoor cities where no one has to go outside, or homes built on stilts 15 feet high and wrapped in accessible ramps, I’ve seen more than my fair share of bad ideas.

Recently I learned about the Ekinoid project. As the creators put it, “Imagine self-assembling a sustainable, off-the-grid town for 10,000 people - in six months. And then doing that in 10,000 places previously considered marginal or uninhabitable land …”. Upon reading this my first thought was, Why?

The creators provide some doom and gloom statistics about population growth and unsustainable development patterns, which in many ways I agree with them. They also like to repeat statistics on regarding the weight of typical housing in Britain, without really letting us know why heavier houses are bad for the environment. They also appear to have some aversion to "onerous" mortgage agreements and payments, as if the benefits of freedom of leasing a home provided some greater return than the equity that homeowners can build. However, like most projects of this nature there are more assumptions than applications that are provided by the designers.

My favorite part of this “ideal” housing plan is that there is no consideration given to aesthetics or functionality.  Sure, the idea of a bubble house floating above the ground may appeal to a few people, but for all practical purposes, these homes on stilts have little in the way of attractive design features. More importantly, functionality for children, the elderly or persons with disabilities is completely ignored. While some of the designer's plans show spiral ramps that climb more than 30 feet in some cases, they ignore the basic functionality that modern home design provides.

Along with everything else, I must admit that the biggest complaint I have is the designer’s assumption that these will be both easy to assemble and low cost. Now I’ve written about my suspicions on other such projects that claim to be affordable and easy to assemble. And I will continue to call out projects and plans that I am skeptical about, but the Ekinoid project takes the cake, and is therefore my vote for the worst housing idea of 2011.

Dave,

p.s. Apologies for taking a long hiatus from posting. I hope to be more diligent in the future.