While styrofoam may be most commonly associated with disposable coffee cups, meat trays and packaging, prefab home manufacturer Japan Dome House Co., Ltd. uses it to construct easy-to-assemble modular kit homes.
Dubbed the â€œhabitat for the 21st century,â€ the Dome House is an igloo-shaped structure built from snap-together wall sections made of 100% expanded polystyrene foam (styrofoam). It might seem like an odd choice of material for a house, but the company lists a number of advantages that styrofoam has over traditional materials. Unlike wood and metal structures, for example, the styrofoam Dome House does not rust, rot or attract termites. It is also highly resistant to earthquakes and typhoons. In addition, the walls, which are treated with a flame retardant, emit no toxic fumes in a fire.
Construction of the Dome House shell is quick and easy. The prefabricated pieces, which each weigh about 80 kilograms (175 lbs), can be carried by 2 or 3 people and assembled in a few hours. Once the shell is put together, coats of mortar and paint are applied for further protection from the elements. (Watch a short video of the assembly process.)
Measuring 7.7 meters (25 ft) wide and 3.85 meters (13 ft) tall, the basic Dome House has a floor space of 44.2 square meters (475 sq ft). It is possible to construct larger, elongated domes by adding more pieces, and joint units allow multiple domes to be connected into a single structure.
Dome Houses, which are approved by Japanâ€™s Land and Transport Ministry, can be erected anywhere in Japan with the proper permit. According to the manufacturer, the versatile structures are suitable for use as hotel rooms, restaurants, freezer rooms, or even as hog farms.
The Aso Farm Land resort village in Kyushu uses about 480 styrofoam domes as lodging, recreational facilities and retail shops.
Whether or not this type of home is truly â€œperfect for the modern ageâ€ as the company suggests, the price is right. Dome House kits start at around 3 million yen (under $30,000), which does not include the cost of transport, assembly, interior construction, etc.