Getting Small

Getting Small

In the long history of fiberglass living pods (a number of which we have featured here, and here, and here, and here) this may be the smallest, and in some ways the most ambitious. (The “Igloo” pod is a bit smaller, but it is a modular design that can be expanded by linking modules, so it is potentially larger, too.)

The Eco-Capsule designed by Nice Architects, is a fiberglass pod so compact it’s practically form-fitting. It is 2.55m (8.4 ft) wide, 4.45m (14.6 ft) long, and 2.25m (7.4 ft) tall not including the wind-turbine mast. That includes a bed, table and two chairs, kitchen, toilet, shower, and two closets.  It weighs in at just 1500 kg (3307 lbs), about the weight of a compact car.  It can fit inside a standard shipping container.

It is designed to be not only self-contained but self-supporting off the grid, via wind and solar electrical generation and rain-water collection.  It also includes a filter allowing use of “any water source.”  Its concerns and design are in some ways reminiscent of some of the student work featured here a few weeks ago in How to Destroy Architecture.

Ecocapsule is described on its website as:  “…a portable house offering an unmatched dwelling experience. With its immense off-grid life span, worldwide portability and flexibility it is suitable for a wide range of applications: from an independent research station or a tourist lodge to an emergency housing or a humanitarian-action unit.”

Its roof is dotted with photovoltaic cells to collect solar energy, with a maximum output of 600W.  It sports a mast with a wind turbine for more electricity – an additional 750W.  (The mast gives it a total height of 4.5m (14.7 ft).) Its battery system can store 9744 Wh.  It has a water collection tank built in under the floor, and the rounded shape is said to channel rain down and around into the tank.  The designers claim that it can be self-supporting for almost in a year “in many off-grid locations.”

The description emphasizes that it is designed for living off the grid with many of the luxuries of a hotel – hot showers, cooked meals, and a warm bed.  To get to this hypothetical off-grid location, you can tow it on a trailer behind a car or truck, ship in it a container, or airlift it with your private helicopter.  They say it can even be moved by a pack animal, although presumably, the animal would have to walking on a road wide and well-graded enough for the trailer on which the capsule must ride.

The available info is intriguing, partially because so much is left unsaid.  No mention of thermal insulation, for example, although the renderings picturing it on snowy mountaintops suggests that it is probably well-insulated, and it seems small enough to be heated by body-temperature.  There is also no indication of where the sink, shower, and most importantly, the toilet, would drain to.  (It would be cool if it could purify and recycle water, but the silence on the entire drainage/hookup issue suggests that this feature is not included.)  Absent a water recycling system, or a built-in chemical treatment for the toilet, it would presumably require some treatment or disposal option for the toilet, a deep hole at minimum.  Shower and sink would need some sort of run-off mitigation to allow natural purification of their drain-water.

Nonetheless, it’s a big upgrade from a tent or a camper shell, and more self-sufficient than your standard Winnebago.

The prototype was first shown at the Pioneers Festival in Vienna, Austria in May 2015.  Price has not been set yet, but  will be announced when they begin taking pre-orders in late 2015, for delivery of the first capsules in early 2016.

All images via