Ákos Blaskovich came up with the idea of a self-sustaining, mobile house while circumnavigating the world.
Your dwelling is called “Noah's house”. It produces more energy than it uses to support its inhabitants. What makes it different from other advanced developments in housing?
The first, perhaps most important difference, is that the building rests on three-and-a-half-meter-long piles that are driven into the ground. The house itself sits a few inches above the ground, which is useful because it eliminates the need for laying a classic concrete foundation. If you ever want to move the house, it is possible, although disassembling and reassembling it is not easy. However, once you do move the house, you will not leave any iron, concrete or other debris in the ground.
What forces can these piles withstand?
We had to comply with strict building regulations when developing the design. Without the relevant licenses, it would not be possible to manufacture or sell Noah houses. The structure of the building can withstand a level 7 earthquake, winds of 180-200 km/h, heavy rains and snow cover as thick as three meters.
The idea was born in the Pacific Ocean. Can you give us some details?
I used to be one of the owners of Folprint, Hungary's first green printing press. I had a long-time desire to circumnavigate the Earth, but I wanted something special for the event. So, we collected the available green technologies and created a unique ship that produced everything we needed for the voyage. While the solar panels and the wind turbine were generating electricity, the built-in machines made drinking water out of seawater. We used only renewable sources of energy for an entire year of sailing.
That voyage was quite long, back in 2011. So I had plenty of time to think. I concluded that if a ship can be self-sustaining, then a house can be as well. After the expedition ended, I started looking for the building I had imagined. It had to be both mobile and self-sustaining. I couldn't find one, so I decided to build such a house myself. Our ship in the ocean was much like Noah's ark, in the sense that it was an island of survival. So we called our house, “Noah's house”.
How did you finance the development?
We had enough money for producing the prototype and developing the needed technologies. However, we needed external sources for funding serial production and market launch. So we had to find an investor. The OXO Labs group liked the project and provided the necessary investment.
Noah's house is not connected to any utilities. How can you have enough water?
The house can store 40 cubic meters of rainwater, which is filtered and disinfected by special equipment. The electrical energy needed for this process is supplied by solar panels.
What happens if there’s not enough rain?
Forty cubic meters of water is enough for up to six months, as we have reduced our average water use by half. For example, the water used by the shower, the washing machine and the wash basin goes to the toilet tanks. This “grey” water is used for flushing the toilet. With present precipitation levels in Europe, it is unlikely this reservoir of rainwater will ever run out. Still, if a certain location proves to be too dry, the house can simply be moved to an area with greater rainfall. Hopefully that will only be a problem sometime far into the future.
With the intention of selling more Noah houses, the goal was obviously to keep costs low. Where could you save money when building such an active house?
We decided to use the simplest solutions. We chose intelligent design over unnecessary and energy-consuming, smart-home gadgets. For example, the terrace roof is designed so that during the winter, the sun shines through the window glass of the living room to warm the house. In the summer, the roof shades the terrace to help keep the indoors cool and enhance the outdoor experience. We also made very good insulation while using only natural materials, such as wood and wood-wool or cellulose.
The goal was to keep the price of the house on the same level as other houses of good quality, so the price per square meter would be around 400 to 500 thousand forints. The difference is that this house is completely utility-free after moving in. Currently, two types of Noah houses are available, with either 100 or 137 square meters living space. The terrace on the smaller model measures 16 sqm, and 48 sqm in the larger model.
Is even the process of making the house environmentally friendly?
Each part of the house is made by computer-controlled machines using high-quality raw materials. There’s hardly any waste, and even that can be recycled.
How many people currently work for your company?
In addition to my business partner and me, two other people are employees of the company. One is an architect who deals with product development, serial production issues and other design matters. The other is a marketing professional who handles sales and customer relations. We also have a permanent contract with a mechanical engineer. Other partners include contractors, designers and subcontractors.
What building do you personally live in?
I live in the Noah House prototype, located in Pilisjászfalu. I have lived there along with my two children and my wife since 2016.
The houses have been on sale since spring 2018. How many orders do you have?
Currently, we have almost 20 orders, and many more customers are interested. We have so much work now that we won’t have any spare capacity until the middle of next year.
Will this business become profitable in the foreseeable future?
The development has taken a lot of capital, but our company is expected to be profitable next year. There are more and inquiries from abroad, even from national parks in China. Our company is already known in America, Australia and New Zealand. In the future, we would like to build more houses for export.
That is why our invention has been patented abroad. We believe there is a huge, world-wide potential in this business. According to the EU Directive on the Energy Performance of Buildings, only houses that use hardly any energy at all will be allowed to be constructed after 2021. As they have virtually no eco-footprint and utilize renewable energy, sustainable and mobile houses like ours will gain more and more value in the fight against global warming.