The Kickstarter pitch video for Elevate, a micro-housing concept from Hawaiian civil engineers-turned-entrepreneurs Nathan and Tiffany Toothman, is a bit confusing. After all, the micro-home in question, greenery-covered digs perched atop a pedestal, isn’t really featured that much aside from a couple of quick, teasing glances at the beginning and end of the clip. Instead, we’re treated to nearly two minutes of sexy, surfboard-touting twenty-somethings frolicking amidst a sun-drenched tropical landscape.
But perhaps that’s the point — to draw potential backers in by selling a lifestyle concept before the project itself. You too can spend the afternoon sailing on catamarans and eating shaved ice with your attractive friends if you decide to live in a 250-square-foot studio apartment resting atop a hollow “trunk.”
I’m pretty much sold. It’s an alluring proposal and, needless to say, the prototype unit conceived by the Toothmans just outside of Honolulu in a Kailua industrial park is incredibly easy on the eyes.
As you can see, aside from the gorgeous living walls, the most notable feature of Elevate is its dainty footprint: the elevated prefab dwelling, ranging between 250 and 400 square feet, sits on a 5-foot-by-8-foot pedestal foundation inspired by, you guessed it, a tree. “The architecture is a direct interpretation of a tree,” reads the Elevate Kickstarter campaign page.
While not technically a tree house, Elevate is akin to other arboreal-ish housing concepts such as Oas1s and Primeval Symbiosis. Jono William’s tricked-out Skysphere project in New Zealand retreat also comes to mind.
Such a small physical footprint, important in a state where both available land and affordable housing are scarce, also opens up Elevate to a wide range of applications beyond residential usage.
As team Toothman explains, the solar-powered, rainwater-harvesting structure was originally conceived as an off-grid micro-retreat for Oahu’s rugged North Shore. However, during the initial design process it became clear that the structure had the potential to become much more: a drive-through (or walk-through) snack bar, a commercial office space, a backyard guest house/studio, a lifeguard tower and on. The Toothamans also envision the structure as a pop-up retail store, a homeless shelter, a zoo/safari observation tower and a tattoo parlor. (“Sometimes you don’t necessarily want people looking into your business.”) I’m thinking it would make for a killer shaved ice stand.
The structure itself is accessible via stars or ramp leading from ground level up to an entrance built into the side of the structure. Alternately, a small staircase, ladder or a lift could be incorporated into the hollow base — that is, if you don’t opt to fill that space with a 1,500-gallon-capacity rainwater cistern.
The Toothmans are firm in the belief that an elevated micro-home is ultimately a safer micro-home. Elevate offers refuge from floods and tsunamis, deters burglars and provides “security from predator threats.” However, something tells me that the structure is very much not immune to Hawaii’s gargantuan cane spiders.
In addition to safety and security, the Elevate concept offers sustainability in spades: solar panels can be incorporated into the roof or along the lushly planted living walls that provide insulation and shade and absorb CO2. The exteriors walls can also be planted with herbs, fruits and veggies for further self-sufficiency. Rainwater collection/reuse is also a key component of the home.
Reads the Elevate homepage: “Inspired by nature, our goal is to infuse sustainability and innovation into every aspect of a single structure and in return, help nature, individuals and communities around the world.”
On the topic of help, the Elevate Kickstarter campaign is raising funds to further usher these good-looking and deep-green tiny houses into production. Speaking to Honolulu Magazine, Nathan Toothman anticipates that a single Elevate unit, if and when they go into production, will cost between $75,000 and $125,000 depending on interior customization.
We've built our prototype which showcases the application as an office/micro-home. Our plan is to use the funds received in this campaign towards leasing space in a commercial parking lot/public lot and put up an Elevate structure to showcase the commercial application. This allows access for the public to experience an Elevate Unit. Businesses can use the structure as a pop-up.
What would you do with an Elevate micro-home or office?