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A DESIGN FOR LIVE-IN

31-03-2007

eco-pod

The Eco-Pod was unveiled at the National Home Builders exhibition at the NEC last week - and stole the show. But would you really want to live in one? Dionne McCarthy investigates.

The Eco-Pod is the brainchild of designer Aidan Quinn who boats that it'sthe ‘home of the future'; a proactive step towards cutting CO2 emissions and conserving our fossil fuels. The main question, however, has to be: ‘Who would live in a house like this'?

The Pod was strategically placed in front of the show's entrance. It's got a rocket-like appearance, but it's natural, organic essence made it less space age and more piglet and pooh! Whatever, it certainly attracted a huge crowd and all day there was a queue waiting to get inside. I got in line and read some bumf.

The first thing you notice is how tiny it is; just four metres in diameter. It's quite a feat of engineering cramming a bathroom complete with shower, kitchen, living area and bedroom into this tiny space!

The Pod is manufactured in sections with polyurethane blown into moulds, which are bolted together and sprayed with lightweight concrete 60mm thick giving the structure strength and insulation. It is then covered in tiles made from recycled car tyres that look like slate, with solar panels installed in the upper section.

Compared to an ordinary house, energy requirements (and therefore costs) are reduced by a staggering 90% and The Pod produces virtually no CO2 emissions.

It is connected to water, electricity, gas and drainage so isn't a step back in terms of modern living. The idea, though, is that it should be completely self-sufficient thanks to a 1kW wind turbine, solar panels to heat water, photovoltaic panels which use energy from the sun to create electricity, a solid fuel burning stove, rain water harvesting and filtration, and - what every girl dreams of - an odourless dry toilet.

So what more could anyone want or need you may ask? Well for starters room to swing even a tiny newborn kitten might be nice.

The Pod is minute. After you've crammed in the furniture, the downstairs has almost no floor space and one person standing made it crowded. It is simply an un-realistic alternative to modern living in its current state.

The designer Aidan Quinn admits that many people might not want to live in the Pod but are more likely to consider it as an alternative play area or office space at the bottom of the garden. This though leads us onto the next problem; at £46,000 this is not an option open to most of us!

It seems a pity that whenever an ecologically friendly alternative to modern life is created the price alienates the majority from it. This is more likely to be a quirky addition to the gardens of the wealthy, given to the kids as a wendy-house and a conversation starter for guests, perhaps even a way to make amends for the Range Rover parked on the driveway.

Okay so I might be generalising but the fact remains that this is simply too expensive to consider as an addition to most gardens and too small to live in. If a four meter diameter model costs £46,000 and a six meter Pod in the region of £75,000 I dread to think what an actual, real sized home would translate into!

There is no denying the Pod is ingenious and so is perhaps more of a sign of the ecologically friendly engineering of the future rather than the home of the future - that's less catchy I know, but rathermore plausible.

Maybe we could have Eco-Pod holiday parks, an alternative to caravan parks. If every family took a two-week holiday a year in one of these Pods the energy conserved would be huge. I might start campaigning now!
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