Ultra-efficiency and portability were the inspiration for the Ecocapsule, an incredibly compact housing unit designed by Nice Architects in Slovakia. As the designers explored materials that would bring these goals to fruition, they decided to use composites to make a lightweight, durable shell.
A 2009 design competition around the theme “Small is Beautiful” led the Nice team to create the Ecocapsule. “We didn’t win the competition, but we got serious interest from the media, and consequently many people started to inquire about Ecocapsule,” says Tomas Zacek, partner in Ecocapsule. “We knew we were on the right path.”
The small, portable pod was conceived as a comfortable way to allow people to live or work off-grid anywhere in the world. For some, “comfortable” may sound like a stretch for a home that measures about 15 x 7 feet, with barely 70 square feet of usable floor area. But for others, the Ecocapsule fits beautifully into today’s growing interest in the Tiny House movement.
TinyLife.com describes “Tiny Living” as a social movement where people choose to significantly downsize the spaces in which they live. American homes average around 2,600 square feet; a typical tiny house might be between 100 and 400 square feet. The reasons for downsizing vary, but include environmental concerns and a desire for more freedom. These factors were key drivers in the design of the Ecocapsule.
To achieve this sense of freedom, the designers knew the housing unit would need to be lightweight for easy towing. While the designers considered many materials for the shell, GFRP ultimately was selected in part because of its light weight. Durability was another factor, as the designers envision these small homes potentially protecting occupants for year-round use in remote locations.
A composite shell also allowed the designers to achieve the capsule’s complex, egg-like shape. That shape is more than just a striking differentiator from traditional homes, Zacek says. He explains that the oval “is the best energy-saving shape.” Sloped walls, filled with high-performance thermal insulation, are designed to minimize thermal loss. In addition, the rounded shape makes the unit ultra-efficient in collecting rainwater and dew. As rainwater pours down the side, it is collected for later use in one of two tanks at the bottom of the pod. A series of filters, including a reverse osmosis filter, reportedly remove 99.99 percent of dirt to provide clean drinking water.