I retired in April 2013 after 25 years as a librarian at the British Library specialising in inventions. This included running numerous workshops; writing books on inventions and a work blog; carrying out searches for clients; and one-to-one meetings with inventors. [more]


21 December 2013

The Hivehaus® modular house

The Hivehaus® is a modular housing concept where hexagonal cells are built by using identically-sized panels, with additional cells being added as required or wanted. Like a honeycomb, hence the hive. "Haus" is I suppose a reference to Passivhaus, the highly ecological housing standard.

Each cell is the same size, and has a skylight (and so, even if surrounded by other cells, has natural lighting). The walls can vary, so some can contain windows or doors. Each cell is 100 square feet in size. Each wall panel is put together out of four connecting equilateral triangles.

Barry Jackson, who lives near Wigan, England, thought it up. He applied for the UK trade mark on 2 October 2012 but I have not found a patent application in his name or that of his company, ipothosis ltd., who have an interesting website. The company was formed a week later, on 10 October 2012. Below is what it looks like, complete in this case with decking.

There are at least four UK registered designs, such as this one:

These are hard to find (I intend to post soon on the limits placed on the searcher by the official UK designs database, where I was forced to search just for Jackson as a proprietor, though I knew his first name). I don't regard designs as a very effective tool in his case as it is the concept rather than the exact look that is important.

I first came across Hivehaus® in George Clarke's Amazing spaces TV programme. I love architecture, and I love sustainable, low-cost solutions. Although the company website does not seem to mention costs or prices (and the product won't be launched until 2014), it is clearly meant to be an economical and flexible way to self-assemble a well-insulated home. The TV episode suggested £10,000 per cell. Flexible jacks mean that it can be built on an uneven surface. Presumably it saves money (and ensures each cell has natural lighting) not to build above a ground floor level, though that does limit the concept to areas where there is some space to expand (unless you surrender the ability to do so in the future). You are also limited to rooms of the same size and configuration (and colours, though perhaps other colours than black and white will be offered). I'd like one with an interior courtyard. That's one of the points -- you can to a degree design it to your own needs and wishes.

Is the idea so radically new ? There is a patent classification for hexagonal-shaped housing construction, indexing patent specifications such as the Pre-cast polygonal shelter by Lane Lythgoe of Heber, Utah as illustrated below. That's the point: Jackson's is more flexible in putting the cells together, and can easily be added to, not pre-cast.

At present there are 492 patent specifications listed for that class, many in German. More manageable are the 143 published in the USA or in the UK.

Below is a fun time-lapse video showing the building of a Hivehaus® cell.

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