Imagine spending a glorious day skiing on one of the highest mountains and snowiest places on earth in the Cascade Range. Then you retire to a private vacation dome tucked into a forest of pine trees with a huge skylight that lets you stargaze from your bed. The people behind the new Oculis Mountain Side project at Mount Baker, Washington plan to disrupt the traditional hospitality industry by providing eco-friendly, yet fabulously appointed, alternative accommodations.

Right now, this underserved area only has one small hotel and a handful of cabins. Oculis Mountain Side is remedying this lack of accommodations by tucking domes in between trees, rather than uprooting old-growth forests to build massive structures and parking lots. Visitors will be able to enjoy their privacy and views of stars and trees from luxurious one or two-bedroom domes. They’ll feel close to nature as they relax in a hot tub after a day on the slopes. And they’ll feel good about their vacation accommodations, knowing that Oculis is designed to LEED standards. 

Two people in blue jackets standing outside a white glamping dome.

Built with sustainable materials

Oculis Mountain Side features monolithic domes instead of traditional cabins. These domes are fabricated by shooting concrete over an airform — an inflatable, balloon-like structure that determines the shape and size of the finished building. In this case, the result will be one or two-bedroom suites, though the same eco-friendly technology has been used to build structures as large as schools, churches, gymnasiums and stadiums. 

The new Mount Baker Project uses the most sustainable materials commercially available. The result is an airtight space that requires 50% less energy for cooling and heating than traditional buildings with a strikingly modern look. 

“Everyone treats sustainability like it’s a return to the past. It’s a thing made of sticks and thatch and mud,” said Chris Minchella, co-founder of Oculis Mountain Side. “It’s not. Sustainability is a thing of the future, and it should feel less like a log cabin and more like a moon base.”

Monolithic domes are also more economical than other building methods. Construction on Oculis is expected to cost 67% less than other types of vacation rental homes in the same area. Of course, it’s important to have experts on your team. Construction Consultant Mark Buehrer is the founder and director of 2020 ENGINEERING and a recognized authority on green buildings. He’s also an author, inventor and a registered professional civil engineer. Architect and designer Eduardo Castelazo Sanchez specializes in architectural and urban 3D visualization.

A rendering of the inside of a glamping dome decorated in a boho style.

Better than glamping, hotels or vacation rentals

Traditional hotels and alternative accommodations are already a $1.1 trillion industry. And it’s getting bigger. The vacation rental market share is expected to increase by 62.97 billion dollars from 2020 to 2024, with the market’s growth momentum accelerating at a compound annual growth rate of 7%, according to Technavio. The COVID-19 pandemic increased the public’s appetite for private, self-contained vacation rentals, rather than enduring the proximity of hotel lobbies, check-in lines and elevators.

Glamping and private vacation rentals have soared, but these options also have some drawbacks. People are often disappointed when arriving at a rental whose reality doesn’t match the photos on the website. Sometimes the size, hygiene and aesthetic appeal leave a lot to be desired. Glamping structures can be adorable but insufficiently insulated for weather. Both types of accommodations frequently lack onsite managers and can even put vacationers at risk of being scammed.

Oculis Mountain Side combines the best aspects of hotels, vacation rentals and glamping. Vacationers will be warm and comfortable inside their well-appointed domes, enjoying Wi-Fi and full kitchens. If they don’t want to cook, they’ll be able to order food and beverages. Visitors can easily access items from Oculis’ virtual pro shop, such as ski goggles, and get them delivered to their unit.

A rendering of the inside of a glamping dome decorated in a boho style.

Vacation destinations should be more sustainable

The new Mount Baker Project is part of Oculis Mountain Side’s goal of making more vacation destinations sustainable. Founder Youri Benoiston was formerly involved with a dome vacation property in Costa Rica and has now turned his focus to Washington State and beyond.

Igloo Beach Lodge opened in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica at the end of 2019 and did well in the pandemic. The luxury ecotourism project featured monolithic domes arranged around a swimming pool. 

While vacation rentals might be a new use of monolithic domes, the eco-friendly dwellings date back to the 1970s. They are surprisingly versatile, performing well in every climate, from blazing hot to frigid. People have built monolithic domes around the world, from Canada to South America, to Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. They’re energy-efficient, durable, low-maintenance and able to stand up to natural disasters, including earthquakes, fires and tornadoes.

Oculis has big plans to build sustainable dome tourism developments in the U.S. and internationally. Once the initial 50-unit campus at Mount Baker is completed, Oculis projects an annual recurring revenue (ARR) of $7.1 million. The company aims to build three sustainable vacation properties in the next five years, bringing that ARR up to $22.4 million.

A rendering of a bedroom decorated in a boho style.

Be part of the sustainable vacation movement

Mount Baker campus is just hours from Seattle and two hours from Vancouver. The location at Mount Baker has an A+ rating on AirDNA, a site that tracks the performance data of 10 million Airbnb and Vrbo vacation rentals in 120,000 global markets as far as occupancy rates, revenue and pricing.

If you’re interested in being part of the sustainable vacation movement, Oculis is accepting investors. The company is currently raising money on its WeFunder site with a goal of $150,000. Minimum investment is $100. All investments over $800 will get one free night at the new Oculis in Mount Baker.

“We can build faster, for less money, less waste and less damage to the environment,” said Founder Youri Benoiston. “And we can do this all while delivering something that looks better than anything you could find on any other platform and as close to the mountain as is legally possible. All we need now is the investment to allow us to move forward.”

A pool surrounded by several white glamping domes.

+ Oculis Mountain Side

+ WeFunder

Images via Oculis Mountain Side