February 2013 Archives

February 22, 2013

TEDxGateway, Mumbai: The $300 House

Watch for Harvey Lacey, Patrick Reynolds, and Mahindra and Mahindra:

February 18, 2013

Harvey Lacey's Ubuntublox House


Harvey Lacey's entry in the $300 House Design Challenge placed a respectable 12th, but what sets him apart is his relentless drive to make a difference. A welder by profession, he's the "redneck innovator" from Texas - using ingenuity, hard work, and not-so-common sense to build a new type of structure built of Ubuntublox - blocks built of recycled styrofoam.

WATCH THIS FIRST >> Here's a must-watch video clip from the Discovery Channel.

Here's the original Ubuntublox house:

And, here's a clip using the remains of pressed Vetiver (khus in India), a plant used in Haiti for its fragrance:

Naveen Jain wrote a wonderful article about Harvey in Forbes. In it, he describes how "Harvey is helping to solve more than just one global problem with his Ubuntu-Blox project; he is addressing at least three acute needs: plastic pollution reduction, the global housing crisis and extreme unemployment in underdeveloped countries."


How did Harvey Lacey get into this?  On the phone, he told me about his childhood, growing up poor in a trailer park. Once, when he had no food in the house, his gypsy friends brought his family a truck-full of food. Harvey has never forgotten that act of kindness, and now its seems he is paying it forward, as the cliche goes.

For more info, visit HarveyLacey.com. The man just doesn't stop!

Continue reading Harvey Lacey's Ubuntublox House.

February 12, 2013

[UPDATED] Patrick Reynolds' "Village in a Container"

[UPDATE: I added a few notes at the end of this post based on emails from Patrick and Vivek]

I first learned about Patrick Reynolds during the $300 House Design Challenge when Vivek Bhatnagar submitted his work as an entry. Instead of a design or a sketch, Reynolds just went ahead and built a house, took some photos, and submitted his work... His concept: the "Village in a Container."

While the cost was somewhat more than $300, what he accomplished was startling.

Towards the end of last year, I was back in Texas, and went to visit Patrick to check out his concepts, and here's what I found.

In the classic tradition of the Edison-style inventor, I discovered Patrick in the heart of his solar powered farm, surrounded by experiments of all shapes and sizes. The house he had designed for the contest was there as well, smack-dab in the middle of scenic Central Texas:


Patrick Reynolds' house had been turned into a hunting lodge, and along with the main farmhouse and several other structures, was powered by the sun.  The "Village in a Container" idea, it turns out, is based on Patrick's business - which includes water treatment, solar-powered contraptions to treat groundwater, and now, "pop-up" houses. Patrick showed us around the house (the window awnings - below - are solar panels which power LED lights on the inside):

patrickreynoldshouse.jpgThe ground floor, complete with a sofa-bed, table, wall-AC unit, and the proverbial kitchen sink:

patrickreynoldshouseinside.jpgThe toilet under the stairs (is that good Feng Shui?) empties into an underground septic tank.

patrickreynoldstoilet.jpgUpstairs, the bunk bed stands next to a get-away door (in case of emergencies). A second wall-AC services the upstairs to provide relief during the hot Texas summer.

patrickreynoldshouseupstairs.jpgThe side of the house, showing the the two wall-AC units.

patrickreynoldshouseside.jpgBehind the house, Patrick's solar garden of arrays blooms - following the sun all day long.

patrickreynoldssolarflower.jpgPatrick also showed us his solar control room (the batteries last 15 to 20 years if looked after properly):

patrickreynoldscontrolroom.jpgAnd here's an experimental low-velocity wind turbine he has developed:

patrickreynoldswindmill.jpgThere were some other interesting experiments going on as well, like a solar-powered golf-cart, an outdoor rover for handicapped folks to get out into the wilderness and hunt, several experimental wind turbines, and a full scale manor house (not pictured) which Patrick was building by hand - brick by brick! But what impressed me the most was Patrick's generosity - of both his time and spirit!

UPDATE: After posting the blog post, I got a few additional points from Vivek and Patrick via email:

  • The house can be erected/put together by a team of two to four people without having to use any powered tools (other than a battery powered drill) in a matter of hours
  • It can house up to two adults and four children or four adults
  • The house, because of its design and durability of the components, is sturdy enough to last 20-30 years
  • Like a tree branch, the structure (has a light gage tube steel frame) has been designed to move gently with high winds so that it won't topple over or break (when anchored as designed)
  • In the frontal photo you will notice a removable panel in the exterior wall for access to an external module bathroom that may be desirable in some parts of the world