Today is the first day of West Coast Green, and this year’s showhouse is a stunner! Designed by San Francisco-based Green Horizon, the self-sustaining prefab home is an immediately deployable emergency shelter that can be configured to adapt to a remarkable range of situations. By focusing upon simple sturdy construction, prefabricated modular parts, and a bevy of green building strategies, Green Horizon has created a home that can sustain a family of four with a week’s worth of food, electricity, and water without external support. I met with CEO James Pope to take a tour of the modular wonder before the show – read on for the full scoop!
James Pope got started building structurally insulated panels out of OSB, foam, and siding 30 years ago – long before most people knew what SIPS were. He stuck with the idea over time, and when Hurricane Katrina hit, Pope had an epiphany – he envisioned a versatile shelter based upon a metal frame that would be immediately deployable and prioritize the sustainability of its inhabitants and the earth. He set to work drawing out plans for just such a shelter and, remarkably enough, the first full-sized model came together exactly as planned.
Green Horizon‘s prefabs are constructed from 100% recycled or recyclable materials and feature a metal frame construction that allows for a nearly endless array of configurations. The unit on display is a single family home, but they also offer plans for medical units, communications units, offices, and community centers. The prefabs come complete with electrical and plumbing systems, are sturdy enough to be stackable, and entire communities of the units can be linked together to share resources such as power and water. They’re even capable of generating their own electricity using photovoltaic panels and biofuel generators, and could potentially sell excess energy back to the grid.
One of the prefab’s hallmarks is the ease with which it can be deployed. Green Horizon is currently constructing the units in their Stockton factory, from which they can be towed by truck, carted by train, and they even fit into a shipping container for travel by sea. In order to accomplish these feats the entire unit is capable of shrinking to a compact size in 1 minute 30 seconds flat. As the extended width section of the unit telescopes inwards, the solar panels on the roof fold flat so that they are protected by the prefab’s outer shell. A set of wheels on the prefab’s side automatically extend down and slides under the prefab when it’s ready to move.
Pope explained to me that Green Horizon is aiming for zero environmental impact – literally. Their prefab home sits on stilts that touch the earth lightly while allowing for a great deal of versatility. These stilts can be fitted with wheels for easy loading into a shipping container, and in the event of emergency flooding the stilts can be extended to raise the house up to 6 feet off the ground. Underneath the unit are collection systems for recycling greywater and blackwater.
Rather than being junked as they age, Green Horizon‘s prefabs can be endlessly recycled by simply swapping out and repairing individual components. Their first home has proven that they’re certainly a company to watch, and we hope to see more from them in the future. And yes FEMA, they’re certified formaldehyde-free.
All photos by Mike Chino