ISABEL RUBIO ARROYO | Tungsteno
Portable homes that fold and unfold, allowing their owners to travel the world with them. This is the creation of a Latvian startup convinced that "nowadays people are flexible and not attached to only one place." The houses are stored in a box and can theoretically be unfolded and assembled by two people in less than three hours.
From housing to office space to refugee shelter
"Imagine your cosy home anywhere!", the creators suggest. In 2019, they launched their first foldable cabin. They now have four different designs, with a usable area ranging from 16.5 to 27 square metres, which they suggest installing in different locations—hidden within woodlands, for example or "shining" in your garden—and used for different purposes. As well as housing, they can also be used as an office, tourist accommodation, leisure or commercial space, or even as a disaster shelter for refugees.
These small, prefabricated houses are equipped with all the necessary technology: from plumbing to electrical wiring and sewerage. In addition, the company offers different solutions depending on the location, such as pre-wiring the house with a solar energy kit and adding a pumping station with a water filter and sewage module. While the creators offer IKEA interior design collages, the customisation options are likely to be limited compared to a traditional house.
The houses can be assembled in just three hours, according to the manufacturer. Credit: Brette Haus
The houses are built using natural materials and panels made by gluing together several layers of Austrian cross-laminated timber under special pressing conditions. This eliminates the risk of house shrinkage, improves insulation and durability, and allows the owner to dispense with thermal insulation even in cold climates. According to the creators, their cabins "generate about 80% less waste and use 99% less water than standard site-built houses."
A special hinge system to move the house over 100 times
Once the house is purchased, it takes between eight and 10 weeks to build. The manufacturer takes care of the initial installation. While some houses do not have to be connected to the grid, others need to be hooked up to electricity and water, and connected to a sewer. If the homeowner wants to move the house later, they can hire a crane truck to fold, move and unfold it. The houses have a patented hinge system that allows them to be relocated 100 times, according to their creators: "Such transformable architecture as folding homes could be compared to a mobile estate."
The dwellings have a usable floor space of 16.5 to 27 square metres. Credit: Brette Haus.
While portable and tiny houses can be a good option for those looking for affordable, portable and sustainable housing, they do tend to have some limitations. In addition to being less durable than traditional houses—because they are made of lighter, more easily transportable materials—they may face regulatory restrictions and laws in some areas that make it difficult to install or use them as permanent housing.
The manufacturer says that in many countries, the fact that the house is designed to be folded up and relocated multiple times removes the need for planning permission. Still, the company advises that it is best to check with local authorities. "Considering the fact that you are getting a tiny home or a pop-up unit for the price of a car, this might not be so relevant," say its creators. The price depends on the model: it starts at 32,000 euros and there is one that exceeds 60,000 euros.
Austrian cross-laminated timber and other natural materials are used for its construction. Credit: Brette Haus
Brette Haus is not the only company working on portable housing. Others such as Ten Fold and Nestron are trying to make portable homes a success. Even IKEA has got into the act with its Tiny House project, which aims to "better educate and inspire consumers to bring sustainability into their own lives." It remains to be seen whether the demand for affordable, portable and sustainable housing will grow in the coming years, and whether these companies will succeed in their goal of making portable homes a market success.
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