Over the last few years, a start-up called ST Bungalow LLC has been working with Molinelli Architects and Solar-Tectic LLC. to crack the code on an affordable, eco-friendly and solar-powered hut-like home for remote areas. The group has recently made immense progress, receiving two patents for its model: the first for its innovative roof method and the second for the design of the home. Although the prototype is geared toward developing countries, its lessons may be of interest to U.S. builders as well.
When creating the concept for this affordable house, the team wanted to make sure the house fit in with its surroundings, says Ashok Chaudhari, managing director of ST Bungalow.
“An eco-friendly housing product should be compatible with the environment in a way that respects the local culture and has a pleasing design,” he says, adding that Simal Shrestha, an architect and solar system designer working with ST Bungalow, is from Nepal.
According to Chaudhari, builders in Nepal construct homes designed to hold a second story for additional space such as a storage room, so the roof needed to be flat. Yet, the structure also had to be lightweight and easy to ship.
Mike Molinelli, the architect credited with inventing the roof method while working with ST Bungalow and who had previous experience with a project in Haiti, turned to arched fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP) molds. The FRP forms, which are stackable and interlocking for shipping, are placed on top of the compressed earth bricks (CEB) constructed house, and then concrete or CEB are placed on top of the forms.
The team’s first model, which is currently under construction, just survived its first winter, and has held up well, says Chaudhari.
ST Bungalow has received considerable interest from several U.S. and international companies and Chaudhari says the team hopes to work with them to bring the product to market and find business routes to deliver them to communities in need. They will also sell the roof product separately for other building design needs.