"A transformational geodesic world is definitely coming," says Morgan Bierschenk, who lived off the grid for six years before founding the design and manufacturing start-up Geoship. The company aims to build incredibly strong and sustainable geodesic dome homes—and they've partnered with Zappos, Buckminster Fuller Institute, and others to build transitional villages for the homeless living in and around Las Vegas.
The domes offer an alternative approach to single-family housing and community living, and they're practical, rugged, and smart. They’ll be built with water-activated ceramic cement, which can withstand massive floods and raging forest fires with temperatures up to 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit. The material is nontoxic and recyclable; it can withstand salt, mold, and rust; and the structures have a shelf life of over 500 years. The designs can also be customized to suit different applications and aesthetic requirements.
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Bierschenk suggests that the homes can help us "free ourselves from the artificial systems that imprison our minds and political systems." It's a lofty conceit—but on the ground level, the domes could indeed create real change. Online shoe retailer Zappos is already investing in a prototype community near their Las Vegas headquarters.
"The product is rated for a long, long time and needs very minimalistic maintenance, whereas the problem with RVs, trailers, or tiny homes, is that there's a lot to maintain," says Tyler Williams, Zappos director of brand experience, according to an article by Fast Company. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh gets it; he already lives a low-impact lifestyle in an Airstream village in Las Vegas.
The structures are modular and mobile, and they can easily be shipped anywhere and snapped together "like legos" on-site, according to Bierschenk. C3—the ceramic cement company that produces the bioceramic—touts the material’s flexibility. Should impending catastrophic weather conditions threaten domes or communities, they can be easily uprooted and rebuilt elsewhere.
Geoship expects the domes to cost less than conventional homes, and, as technologies advance to produce them, will drive costs down further. Buyers will get anywhere from 30% to 70% stake in the company (a set amount will be determined when the design is brought to market). The cooperative business model aims to inspire a new level of ownership—one that encourages responsibility not only for one’s own castle, but for the well-being of the entire village and the future of the planet.
Geoship and Bierschenk are reading tea leaves that have long been ignored by formal building practices, paying homage to the likes of Buckminster Fuller, who first popularized geodesic architecture and the Spaceship Earth worldview. "We're starting with the people who need it most," says Bierschenk, before adding a quote from Fuller: "It has to be everybody or nobody." The future of housing is coming.