Sustainable Home Designs: Corrugated Houses

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Steve Elias stands by his cardboard dome house in San Rafael, California.

There are domes, and there are domes … and then there are the bolt-together cardboard domes sold by Steve Elias of San Rafael, California.

Steve’s line of compact (14 feet across), lightweight (300 pounds) geodesic modules — which have recently undergone A.I.D. (Agency for International Development) field tests in Guatemala — combine an impressive array of virtues:

  • Low cost. (Steve sells kits for $400 each … little more than you’d pay for a comparably sized tent.)
  • Ease of construction. According to the kit’s designer, three unskilled people can build a dome like the one shown here in three hours (and seal it with caulking compound in another hour) using nothing but a screwdriver, tile knife, wrench, caulking gun, and clamps.
  • Durability. Says Steve: “What I’m using is NOT ordinary cardboard. It’s a double-layer, corrugated fiberboard bonded together with waterproof resin and impregnated — not coated — with polywax. Believe me, it’s tough!”
  • Livability. “I’ve been living very comfortably in one of these 160-square-foot units in my backyard for nearly a year,” claims Steve. “I’ve got lights, an Aladdin heater, a telephone, and all the furnishings — bed, desk, bookcase, wall hangings, etc. — of a regular bedroom.”
  • Versatility. Two or more modules can easily be linked together to create a “dome-house” with separate toilet, sleeping, and kitchen facilities. (Steve has even stacked domes!) Conceivably, a dozen or more units could be joined to form semi-permanent quarters for intentional communities, day schools, and so on.
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