It’s Alive: Convert Empty Shells into Livable Houses, Quickly

To convert any weather-resistant shell into a modern functioning, versatile house, you need to give the shell a modern heart: Plumbing, HVAC, Electricity, water heating, bathroom, kitchen with appliances, plus gas and data services as required. All of those functions can be factory built into a central modular insert, for later insertion in-situ into the house shell.

Observe in the graphic, the contents of the “central module.” It is built in a separate location, then transported to the house shell for rapid conversion to livability, on-site. From above, you can observe kitchen, bathroom, utility room, and the compartment for electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and hot water systems. The cantilevered yellow windowed addition on the right, also contains external hookups for water, power, gas, cable, data, etc.

The Heart of a House http://modusoperations.com/

The Heart of a House
http://modusoperations.com/


If you want a quick shelter to get in out of the rain, you can quickly create one from a number of weatherproofed shell constructs — including shipping containers, an inflatable tent, concrete impregnated fabric, a balloon constructed shotcrete dome, using 3-D printing, a tiny house, a delivery van or schoolbus, or a conventional frame house shell, among others.

Turn the shell into a living house by inserting a custom built “heart:”

Home Systems Contained Within ModPod http://modusoperations.com/design

Home Systems Contained Within ModPod
http://modusoperations.com/design


The “modpod” system was originally designed with the idea of “urban renewal” in mind, with the “modpod” built in a factory setting — for later insertion into an open hole cut in the side of an urban shotgun house. Insertion of the modpod, and weather-proofing after insertion, take place in a single day.

The first ModPod was inserted in a shotgun house at the corner of Bastrop and Stuart, a house known locally as the Bastrop House. Pre-fabrication took place two blocks away at the Rice Building Workshop ‘Work Yard’, which provided shelter from the elements and an on-site workshop outfitted with everything needed to assemble the prototype. We fabricated the components for the ‘highly secret structural system’ off-site, a system that resulted in a lighter, stronger, more efficient core. Everything else was designed around conventional residential construction methods, which allowed greater flexibility for in field adjustments and finishing.

As the prototype neared completion, we demolished the existing bathroom and non-structural partitions in the Bastrop House and framed an opening to accept the ModPod. Once everything was ready, the ModPod was transported by forklift from the Work Yard to its new home. Insertion and weather-proofing occurred all in a single day: this is where the speed of this delivery method really became apparent. __ http://modusoperations.com/prototype

In one short day, this old, decrepit urban shotgun house was reborn as a modern, fully functional hide-in-plain-site studio residence.

Rapid and efficient urban renewal is a fine idea, but the true genius of the idea of separating the construction of the house shell from the careful assembly of an integrated living core, is the ability to centralise your systems expertise (plumbing, electricity, HVAC, data handling, carpentry, appliance installs, etc.) in one location, to achieve rapid factory-style, year round weather controlled and efficient manufacture.

ModPods are sized and dimensioned to be delivered using a variety of vehicles — without special pre-arrangements with highway officials. Since the modpods are not “wide loads,” they do not cause an inconvenience to others on the road. ModPods could also be delivered by helicopter or other air-freight handlers, for more remote locations.

No Location Too Remote

No Location Too Remote


The on-site shells themselves could be constructed in any number of ways for rapid house-raising, in various styles to suit the community and the new residents. Simple housing shells can be raised quickly, or in the case of shipping container shells — can be delivered in as large numbers as desired. In other words, you could quickly build expandable communities in a wide range of architectures, anywhere that you can build a shell and deliver a ModPod.

It is easy to see that this type of “ModPod” can be modified and custom assembled for a wide variety of purposes — including for diners/restaurants, dormitories, off-grid residences or communities, multi-residence apartments, etc. The modules could also be “switched out” for newer, more powerful versions.

Most future modpods will use “on demand” hot water heaters, rather than hot water heater tanks. Residential fuel cells — for production of power, space heat, and hot water — are also likely to see wider use in modpods. Further down the road, yet, one might see LENR-powered inserts, or ultra-tiny nuclear fusion-powered modpods, for underground homes meant to survive ice ages or asteroid strikes.

Obviously, the “Mod Pod” system described above is only one of a near-infinite number of possible pre-fab modular home inserts. The basic idea is that the more modern and technical working parts of a house can be contained within a custom, factory-built, central module. Such modules would come with the appropriate quality control, guarantees, and detailed owners manuals.


Both shells and modpods would be designed with specific locations in mind. A quick built community in Costa Rica would utilise differently designed shell/modpod combinations than would a rapidly built community on the Svalbard archipelago or Antarctica. As mentioned above, 3-D printers should be able to produce a dozen solid house shells in a wide range of designs, in a single day. Some of these printed houses may actually be alive, at least partially.

With a little bit of practise and experience, optimal shell/modpad combinations should be included in the database for most locations on the planet. At that point it will be time to begin designing modpods and “shells” for seagoing communities, undersea communities, and lighter-than-air sky-floating communities.


And if modpod designers and developers are clever enough, they may begin producing modpods to fit into a range of space-going shells, such as inflatable habitats, and 3-D printed habitats on the lunar surface.

As Julian Simon tells us, we are largely limited only by the limits of human ingenuity. Eric Drexler has some thoughts on similar topics.

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3 Responses to It’s Alive: Convert Empty Shells into Livable Houses, Quickly

  1. Cranky Old Dude says:

    Nice idea but already old technology. Manufactured housing designers have been doing this for at least 40 years. I have lived in two homes (one a Wausau Panelized Modular, the other a double wide style on a foundation) that had “utility cores” . It could be improved on with modern material s and assembly I suppose.

    • alfin2101 says:

      I suppose. The difference as I see it is that the “systems module” and the “shell” can be built ten thousand miles apart from each other. Hardened, weather-resistant shells can be sitting in a remote location — individually or in groups — for years or decades until it is time to bring them to life by inserting a systems module. A shell is relatively cheap and tough, depending upon how it is made, and where/how it is placed on site. The systems module contains the function and the value in a compact, separate package — until it is time to insert and connect.

      With computer design and manufacturing of more and more things, humans could get downright clever about the things they have been doing the same old way for centuries.

  2. jccarlton says:

    Reblogged this on The Arts Mechanical and commented:
    The shell of a building can be put up very quickly. Once across the street they ballooned framed a large house in about four days. Running the pluming and interior finishes took months. this could be a big labor and time savor. Of course there are other issues with housing that I will get to.

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