A new modular home kit is a literal example of living lightly on the land: Instead of a typical foundation, the home balances on legs that barely touch the ground.
“It’s easier to install with a minimal foundation, because obviously less construction is involved,” explains designer Sam Booth, founder of Scotland company ECHO. “If you have a sloping hillside, you don’t have to come in with a bulldozer and flatten it; you just make some of the legs a little bit longer. If you have a field of flowers, they can continue growing under the building.”
The small pods that make up each house are constructed and finished off-site, including everything from the kitchen to lighting. Someone can move in the day it’s delivered. The modular design can be used as a single pod for a backyard office or vacation cabin or be added together to make a permanent home. Each pod is less than 100 square feet.
“You just add blocks until you get the size you want, and then you take out the internal walls you don’t need,” says Booth. “If at a later date you want to add another piece, that’s possible. Any format or layout is possible–a long line, or a group of buildings, or an L-shape, it really doesn’t matter. It’s whatever suits you and suits the site.”
Solar panels on the roof keep the building off the grid. “It’s a small building, so it doesn’t take a lot to power it,” Booth says. “You can run really a house that has no concessions to comfort, you can have nearly everything that you need in modern life.”
The kit is made from local materials as much as possible, including wool insulation from Scottish sheep and walls made of local Scottish timber, which Booth says not only reduces the carbon footprint but also wears better. This hyper-local focus means there will be some challenges to expanding the business, even though the seven-month-old company has already started to get requests from places like the U.S.
“It goes back to the notion of sustainability–it doesn’t make much sense us building in the U.K. to ship all the way to the States,” Booth says. But the company is considering designing a more efficient flatpack version, and may eventually start a franchise with local offices, so someone in Georgia or California could get a version made from local wood.