Appearance and features of Ukrainian self-sustainable house Haus.me (PassivDom) in pictures
Ukrainian PassivDom project changed its name to Haus.me (in Ukraine, the company will continue to work under the old brand, the new one is aimed at Western markets). The company announced that it has a finished product and is ready to kick off sales. Maksym Herbut, founder and CEO of the company, showed the editor of AIN.UA his first finished self-sustaining house and explained what makes it stand out from other modular projects.
The model house by Haus.me is installed at UNIT.City. It is the smallest house of the company’s declared series of houses – 40 sq.m (there are also models 80 and 160 sq.m. big). The house has already been sold – the park plans to place an innovative sales department in it for its residential complex that is currently under construction. In the meantime, Maksym shows us the interior and exterior.
“Haus.me is a turnkey product. A person buys it the same as a yacht – with furniture, appliances, bedding, and cups. Just put it on the grass or any flat surface and its ready for you to move in,” he says.
According to Maksym, Haus.me is a constructor. It consists entirely of pre-fabricated modules. To assemble it, you do not need to hire specially trained people – any team of workers armed with screwdrivers can handle it. You just need to follow the instructions, like you do to assemble IKEA furniture. Thanks to this, the house is not only easy to assemble (assembling it from scratch takes from 7 to 14 days) but also cheaper than the construction of permanent buildings.
“The biggest problem that the construction world is currently facing is significantly increased payroll costs. In America, it accounts for an average of about 65% of the cost of the building, in Ukraine, it is 30-35%. This is a lot. We reached the labor cost in the first pilot project at the level of 4.3%,” says Herbut.
The house is assembled at the production site of Haus.me or its franchisee partners (there are 2 of them to date), after which it is delivered to the buyer in a ready-made condition.
The manufacturer gives up to 15 years guarantee for separate units of the house. Even if one of them fails, it can be replaced, like a cube in the Lego constructor. And even the courier who will deliver the unit will be able to replace it – Maksym claims:
“The house is built so that we won’t go anywhere to perform maintenance works. A German branded drive with a door closer for 750 euros puts us away by 10 years from repairing the shelf above the sofa. The door unit’s cost is as much as $6,000, but we give a 15-year manufacturer’s warranty on it.”
The case is entirely made of fiberglass frameless technology. Yachts are also made from this material, and the technology is used in the construction of civil aircraft. The material boasts high heat-insulating and earthquake-resistant properties.
All connections are seamless; only double-glazed windows are glued in – like a windshield in a car body. Such windows can withstand a hurricane or an earthquake, and the windows won’t crack, Maksym asserts.
“We did not immediately come to this. The first three houses we built were equipped with classic windows. Once, the lifting frame broke and one house fell from the crane. As a result of the fall, all the glasses broke. We thought to ourselves, is it possible to make sure that even when the house falls, the windows remain intact? So we invented the technology and patented it,” he says.
According to Maksym, windows in PassivDom houses have record-high thermal insulation performance. The total window thickness is about 250 mm, it has 6 energy-saving tempered glasses. Window design is protected by an international patent.
“This is the warmest mass-produced window in the world to date. In 2016, we applied to the Guinness Book of Records, they approved, said that we needed to document it – it cost us $1,700, which we did not have at that time. So we stopped pursuing the matter,” he recalls.
The door is also made of glass, it opens by fingerprint, face recognition or through the application.
Everything we see inside the house is included in the basic package. The room is made in the studio style, only the bathroom is located in a separate room. However, the kitchen can also be “closed”, like a cupboard, if at the moment it is not needed.
The kitchen is equipped with a full-size refrigerator, coffee machine, microwave, multicooker, and dishwasher space. All class A devices (5+), to save energy. There are enough cupboards to store dishes and small household appliances. The tabletop is made of artificial stone (quartzite).
Lighting and climate control are voice-controlled.
“When you sit down to watch a movie, just say ‘turn on the video’ – the projector drops down, the windows close (in the basic configuration the window is covered with a DLC-film, the window becomes dull). You can also turn on the music,” says Herbut.
The ceiling and wall panels are made of fabrics, the floor is matted, made of natural walnut. This creates soft acoustics and, despite the fact that the house has a lot of glossy surfaces, there is no echo in the room.
The bathroom is fully functional and surprisingly capacious. With shower and full-size washbasin. All taps, mixers, light switches are equipped with proximity sensors.
Water is supplied from the water supply, but there is an option for an autonomous supply. To do this, an additional module with a 2-ton water tank is connected to the house. It is filled by a system that generates water from the air. At the same time, another shower is installed in such a bathroom – it circulates water, saving up to 80% of the resource (such technologies are used by NASA).
Autonomous sewage system is made in the form of an additional unit with a septic tank integrated into it. It can work both independently and can be equally hooked up to an external sewer.
It all costs an additional $40,000. But such a house can be put even in the mountains, even in the middle of the desert, or just on the beach.
An air quality control system, a heat pump, and an air conditioning system are above the kitchen. It allows users to adjust the temperature, humidity, indoor air quality (carbon dioxide level, odors, formaldehyde, dust, ionization, ultraviolet, etc.).
“We can guarantee that the house is 99.9% protected from any bacteria and viruses, even if a person with the flu comes inside. The same system applies to water: if the water that enters the house is very dirty, and outside there is a fire, carbon monoxide and so on – you are safe inside. By the way, the fiberglass from which the facade is made does not burn,” says Maksym.
All systems can be controlled using remotes located throughout the house, voice or through a mobile application.
The closed technical compartment contains a water purification and disinfection system, a 100-liter boiler, a reverse osmosis system that supplies drinking water to the kitchen, and other important utility systems.
Power control system is also installed here. The house is powered by lithium iron phosphate batteries, for which Haus.me gives a 10-year guarantee.
“Globally, there are only three manufacturers who make batteries for 5,000-7,000 cycles. For comparison: lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles have up to 1,000 cycles,” Maksym explained.
Nearby lies the “brain” of the house. Voice control and a door that opens with “face” – this is far from all that it can do. According to Maksym, it is a complex system that analyzes the state of the environment and patterns of human behavior, captured from many sensors in real time (there are about a hundred of them in total).
Thanks to this, the house can, among other things:
- Determine exactly how many people are in it. Based on this information, it regulates the energy consumption for heating / cooling the room.
- Close the tap, door or refrigerator if the owner forgets to do it. All this is to save energy.
- Automatically adjust lighting based on the needs and preferences of a person.
All house systems are connected to the server and transmit data to the cloud. According to Maksym, this is anonymous data – there are no cameras in the house:
“We are heat spots, and the house does not know which of us is who. In general, talking about privacy 12 years after the creation of the iPhone is stupid. Only a word is left of privacy. You have to put up with it.”
The house can be switched to manual control mode to adjust lighting, temperature and other little things yourself. “But who wants Tesla without an autopilot?” says Maksym.
The source of all energy
Haus.me claims that their houses are 100% self-sufficient. And there are no analogs in the world.
“Many can build a beautiful model house with thorough attention to detail. Then stuff it with sensors, which is not rocket science. But if you want to build an autonomous house, you have no right to take energy from somebody else. The house should not be connected to electricity or gas. The only way you can get energy is from the sun,” Herbut explains.
The problem is that besides the roof, there is nowhere to install solar panels. That is, the roof should generate enough energy to not only cool the house in the summer when there is plenty of solar energy but also to heat it in the winter when things are much worse with the generation of energy.
The roof of a 40-square house cannot generate more than 7 kW per hour on a sunny day. On a cloudy winter day, it will be possible to generate about 1.5 kW per hour. At the same time, heating and other ordinary functions of any other ordinary house require 10-15 kW per hour.
“You can put a battery that costs a million dollars, and charge it all summer, and drain it all winter. But anyone can build a house worth a million, but we decided to build it for $100,000. To do this, we had to make very warm windows, walls and energy-efficient air conditioning, heating systems, etc., so that mere 1.5 kilowatts would be enough to power everything. Not a single company in the world has done this before us,” says the founder of Haus.me.
Ins and outs of self-sufficiency
In terms of thermal conductivity, a 23 cm thick fiberglass frame equals to a brick wall 9 meters thick. Five-chamber windows also minimize heat loss. We abandoned the use of wood and steel so that there would be no cold bridges in the house.
The water-saving system allows you not to warm it in vain when you wash your hands. The automatic closing of the doors does not let the excess cold into the room. A ventilation system with air quality monitoring allows you to take as little fresh air from the street as possible so as not to waste energy on heating it, but instead work with what is already available.
The house saves literally on everything, using the heat not only from the sun but also from the human body. When talking, a person releases approximately 150 W/h of heat. Three will generate 450 W/h, and if there are 6 people in the house at the same time, then at -20 °C outside there is no need to heat the room.
“Imagine that in winter 5 people enter the house, but the house does not know about it and heats the room. It’s an evening on the street, the sun is no longer there, the electricity accumulated during the day is wasted to heat the air, and the five of us heated it so much that you have to turn on the cooling, wasting precious energy. In order to prevent such nonsense, we developed a software that understands the situation in real time and spends energy only on what is really essential,” says Herbut.
– All these inconspicuous nuances allowed us to reduce the heat loss of this house to 860 Watts at -20 °C outside. It is 20 times less than in an ordinary apartment. We managed to fit into 1.5 kW and still save a little bit in reserve, which you can use to sustain the house for another week, even if the house is covered with snow.”
You can use the application to check exactly how much energy is stored in the batteries. There are statistics of everything that happens in the house: how energy is spent and on what, how ventilation works, how much energy is generated per day, etc. All information is reflected in graphs.
Zombie-proof house from Ukraine
In Ukraine, the smallest Haus.me house costs from $80,000 to $190,000 depending on the configuration. Of this price, $50,000 is the frame, the rest is the filling.
“All the electronics here is three times more expensive than the house itself. All components are from Germany, Sweden, America. Only parquet and canvas on the ceiling are made in Ukraine,” explains Herbut.
In the US, a price for such a house starts at $199,999 and up to a million. Given the mobility and the lack of the need to obtain building permits – it is quite a good offer for Americans.
According to Maksym, the company has more than 14,000 requests from potential buyers from around the world. Most of them are in California and New York, where the housing market is oversaturated. Haus.me is mainly interested in people in the age categories of 25-35 and 65-75 years. For older people, this is a hassle-free housing, and for young people – a competitor to a trailer or a lifelong mortgage.
“All applications came by themselves – from publications. We haven’t spent a dime on advertising since the company’s founding and didn’t nudge the audience in any way,” says Herbut.
It all happened by accident. In 2016, Maksym and the team made the first prototype and brought it to the KyivBuild 23 exhibition. In order to attract attention to the project, Herbut posted ironic descriptions of various configurations of the house on the PassivDom website. One of them was the “Zombie Apocalypse House”, which was offered with additional protection against hacking, a supply of toilet paper, a dummy of a Kalashnikov assault rifle and a gift copy of the Bible.
This post caught the eye of a journalist from TechCrunch, who then wrote an article about “Zombie proof house from Ukraine.”
“Back then I did not know what a startup is, nor what kind of an outlet TechCrunch was. A friend called me and asked, “What did you do to get the U.S. Singularity University to repost the TechCrunch article about you?” And the next day, 7 million visitors came to our website and immediately crashed it,” says Maksym.
Following TechCrunch, Business Insider, Financial Times, BBC and others wrote about the Ukrainian zombie-proof house. The article has a long tail that still stretches from Haus.me.
Business model and sales
The company has 28 manufacturing partners who make house segments for Haus.me, as well as two partners who assemble and sell ready-made houses.
“We provide them with leads from our website and charge a small margin for each house sold. But the main model is connecting to our smart house system. That is, in the future, our main income will be from software, not from the house,” says Herbut.
The service package includes (these are the basic services, for each individual country they may be different, says Maksym):
- Control of remote access to the house – the ability to give access inside, manage the house and its systems in the mode of leasing the house.
- Security – video surveillance around the house, face recognition, alarm notifications, notification of security and fire services.
- Cloud-based storage of data, settings, media content – an iCloud analog with the ability to transfer settings, applications and content to new houses or to other Haus.me houses that you rent, for example, in another location.
- Round-the-clock monitoring of all house systems by the control center (for b2b and the elderly).
- Extended warranty – full coverage of all house needs, service, maintenance, filter replacement, software update.
Currently, all services are available for $66 per month, including television, video surveillance and security. In the future, a minimum of services will be provided free of charge, and a Maksymum package will cost up to $300.
The sales plan for 2020 is 30 houses. And before the end of this year, Haus.me plans to manufacture and sell only 6 houses. The company needs to get certification in the United States to deliver the houses to their clients. According to Herbut, this process will take a few months for each state.
In Ukraine, certification is not needed. “It is not a major building, there are no connections to the power grids, you do not need a project for gas or electricity. Have a land plot? Go ahead and mount it!” says Maksym.