Free/open spherical lollipop houses

A UK project called Ekinoid aims to produce free/open plans for spherical houses that perch on poles seven feet off the ground. The goal is a house that can be built in a week.

Ekinoid homes will be designed to be as easy as is pratically possible to fabricate (ideally using no expert knowledge or skills), house a family of three/four, and will take under one week to build. Ideally, the main structure should last over 100 years (and then be recycled). Build each town using unskilled labour.

All parts of an Ekinoid home will be designed to suit the local climate and terrain, and will be delivered on-site for fabrication. We think one crane (possibly two) and a team of approximately four people (one skilled, three unskilled) would be adequate for the one-week construction of each house; and after, these newly-skilled people (the new owners) might then help to build more Ekinoid homes, and train new owners. This training would, in principle, work exponentially and would therefore service the whole new community in a very short time.

All the land under the houses would remain useful and accessible.

The Ekinoid Project: 2012 (via IO9)


  1. Copper?   May as well plate the damned thing in gold for the attention this would garner from sticky hands.

  2. This is just silly. About the only advantage this thing has over a traditional box-shaped house on the ground is that the area under it is (somewhat) usable (but maybe not for growing food since it’ll usually be in shade). In other respects it’s a less efficient use of space than a box and more materials for the same amount of living space.

  3. These could be practical along coastal areas, assuming you could make them water resistant enough, and perhaps bury the supports to a decent footing.

  4. Good solutions to sustainability need to work with the local environment, not in spite of it. A house design that supposed to work in any environment/climate will end up, in practice, working well in none of them. Looks to me like the opposite of a good idea.

    1. 3/4 of the home’s workforce being unskilled doesn’t bode well for the future either.  What a long week that would be.

  5. I think it would make more sense to create an open-source, sustainable, cheap, and light design for SIPs (structural insulated panels). I like the idea of the production of a particular building module that can be used flexibly rather than an all-or-none design. Folks could build traditional houses or go nuts with variations on the hexiyurt.

  6. For some reason, this fills me with cheer on a Monday morning after the sekrit gummint planes deployed Doubt-Gas in the contrails.

  7. If the notably wasted space of a spheroid (given our orthogonal world) doesn’t fret then why not go with a proper geodesic sphere and have all your ‘virus’ building subunits be identical? (and then you could paint it up like a proper football and all) 

    Morbius: “No record of their physical nature has survived…except, perhaps, in the form of this characteristic arch. I suggest you consider it in comparison to one of our…functionally designed human doorways”

  8. While prefab constructions are a useful way to go for developed but underserved communities, designs using local materials to best effect would less limiting.

    The site specifies energy and sewage needs dealt with on-site, though, and that seems intriguing.

    2011 was a year with so many natural disasters that it would make a good study for how different strategies worked and didn’t work in the various areas affected.

  9. “Areas we may have previously considered unsuitable for human settlement therefore become possibilities: Australia is three million sq. miles (21 million people), Siberia is […etc…] And remember, all the land underneath each house remains useful and accessible.”

    Surely the whole reason these places aren’t currently suitable for settlement is because the land here *isn’t* useful. How designing self-contained funky-looking pods* suddenly make it desirable to live in a desert?

    Also, stairs suck for people who can’t use them.

    *(btw, round/geodesic looks cool from the outside, but is a total MF when it comes to fitting all the furniture in)

    1. This question is actually “answered” in the preceding two paragraphs:

      it will allow occupants to fulfil their own power needs (and meet their requirements for potable water and in-house sewage treatment; and some of their food needs).

      Because Ekinoid homes will all be off the grid, there will be no need to put in the infrastructure commonly demanded for normal utilities and services – which means that in many suitable areas roads, power lines, pipes, drainage etc., need not be built.

      Their logic seems to be that since these homes are not designed to have water piped into them and since it is impractical to pipe water around a large desert then it follows that these are the perfect structures to house townfulls of people in the Sahara.

      1. I like your use of “answered” in quotes. 

        If my family is getting untreated water from a stream or shared well, and carrying out buckets of night soil every morning, I think that a copper-plated spherical house is probably not my highest priority.

  10. maybe someone needs to read lloyd kahn’s retrospective analysis of his (and his generations) love of spherical/round/non-rectangular houses.

  11. A sphere of course contains the most volume for a given surface area.  Which makes it the ideal shape for pressure vessels but not for houses.


    1. This house will need insulation on all “sides”, not just walls and roof.  If water and sewer are provided via the support columns, better not buy this house in an area where sustained freezing temperatures are likely.
    2. Each story will have a floor either much greater in area than the ceiling or vice versa, making cabinets and closets either uselessly small, or deep and unreachable.

    3. Fitting wall and floor coverings to curved walls and floors (the former with varying radii from floor to ceiling) is an insanely complex exercise when compared to cutting sheetrock and carpet to rectangular spaces.

    4. The fairings needed to fit flat windows and doors to the curved surface are perfect breeding grounds for insulation and leakage problems.

    5. (should probably be #1) There is a reason why the basic small house shape has not changed in 200+ years.  To wit: what looks trendy and cool in the year of construction can easily look weird and dated twenty years later when the owner wants to sell.  The geodetic house and the concrete flying saucer houses of the fifties have not exactly taken over the housing market, after all.

  12. I can’t help but to think that all of those odd angles (square windows on round roofs) are going to be seriously leak prone, especially when installed with “unskilled labor”.  The high (and rising) cost of copper certainly isn’t going to be good for the affordability of this home too. 

  13. So is this, like, a real thing?  Or is it like the washing machine / arcade game, where someone’s done something clever enough to garner attention without having actually built the thing and find out how practical it is or is not?

    1. They’ve built some (tiny) scale models using materials and techniques that I can’t imagine would scale up.  From the website, I see no indication that they’ve even addressed any of the issues they claim this form of housing would solve.  But hey – shiny, round futuristic house!

  14. The design is execrable. This is a piece of impractical architect’s wanking.

    While it might seem like a great idea, it suffers from several flaws, not the least of which is the need for staircases everywhere.This project immediately is unusable by the over 15% of the population who are disabled in some way or another. (Seriously, can you see your grandparents having to deal with these houses? [And everybody gets old, if they don’t fall down, or are pushed down, those friggin’ stairs.])

    It might seem usable but suffers from and through the use of circles, which would produce the most wasted material as mass-produced building materials are all made on a linear plan since they are the excreta of a production line.

    A far more adaptable construction method would be to use lots and lots of mass produced short (16″) pipe segments to construct tetrahedral segments which can be assembled into incredibly rigid and strong space spanning structures* which are light, provide lots of internal space and structure for attachment of wiring, pipes, recessed lighting, etc.

    The same structure can be used in a horizontal plane for floors of virtually any size and in a vertical plane for walls of virtually any size.They can also rest on relatively few supports requiring minimal ground preparation.

    Earthquake resistance can be provided through the use of ‘self-leveling’ liquid support structures and the entire structure becomes the usual damping counterweight.

    *) Extremely large examples of such structures can be found at Mirabel airport. (It may be a failure as an airport because of politics and location, but its a wonder of construction and engineering.)

    By controlling the length of the piping between the tetrahedral joints, the space spanning structured can be arched or domed in any direction.

  15. I’m surprised that they describe these as eco-anything and don’t even mention connected services — where’s the consideration of power and water, or the planning to put a utility core or drainage in the lollipop?  Without this, it’s no more serious than the occiasional hubless concept bike seen breathlessly posted on Wired.  It’s art, not architecture.

  16. I live in an apartment where the plumbing was put in by two unskilled workers (although they called themselves plumbers), and I’m still paying to fix things several years later.

  17. Perfect for my post-zombie apocalypse compound. Or for when global warming really kicks into high gear, in case I’d like to stay in the Bay Area.

  18. If they think that the only reason places like the Saraha desert or Mongolia aren’t densely populated because no one put houses there before then they are more mad than even the basic design of these houses would suggest.

    Hell why not stick them all over Antartica. There isnt anything there after all… I hear property taxes are low there too.

  19. “the Ekinoid home will very significantly reduce raw material requirements, and will free up the land underneath; it will allow occupants to fulfill their own power needs and meet their requirements for potable water and in-house sewage treatment; and some of their food needs”

    reduce raw material
    requirements = nope the logic doesn’t cut it
    the rest = wat? oh right teh green veggies you are growing on the staircase.. those oh so magical stairs.

  20. Absolutely nuts. To build a sphere is far more difficult and materials wasting than a cube, plus what about fitting furniture, or hanging something from a wall that is either sloping in or out.

    Are you sure this is not an early April 1 post?

  21. The project goals are laudable, and the copper-sphere-house is gorgeous, but I do agree with the dissenters — round-construction leaks, at least with modern techniques.

    If they want to build a large amount of cheap housing using an open-source design, why not start with the shipping container?

    They are nigh-ubiqutous, and can be obtained for a song, or song-like donations from some philanthropical shipping magnate.

    See also:

    (I’m not suggesting that the examples are for cheap housing; more the principal of re-using shipping containers)

  22. The sphere uses more material for the usable area vs a box home.. We build boxes because they are cheep to build! 
    why not build a hobbit house??? dugouts are by far more doable off grid then something stuck in the air that would constantly need heated and cooling!  I can build a dugout for 1/4 the cost of any other house out there!!! $10-20/sq foot! 

Comments are closed.