Steven Elias Said Give Me a Home with a Cardboard Dome, and That Was the Start of a Cottage Industry
When he finished his hitch in the Peace Corps in 1975, Steven Elias yearned for something lightweight, inexpensive, with a natural fit in the shoulders. Not to wear but to live in. After two years in a mud hut in Brazil, Elias found the native housing in California ho-hum, not to mention expensive, and built a cardboard geodesic dome complete with pull-out bed and compost-producing toilet.
Then Elias constructed a second, simpler version and soon turned his backyard into a domeworks. When an earthquake devastated Guatemala in 1976, he headed south with three of the prefab homes lashed to his minibus. The waterproof cubicles withstood heat and humidity better than the canvas tents given to disaster victims, and two years later still serve as a makeshift clinic. One other survived last winter in Alaska’s tundra, and this past spring the State Department sent six domes to Lebanon as experimental housing for civil war refugees. Currently Steven is in India peddling samples to the government.
Built of corrugated cardboard, the do-it-yourself digs are 16 feet in diameter, cost $400 and can be erected by one person in a day. Ironically, Elias, 26, a business school grad from the University of Colorado, may find his best market at home in California’s hedonistic Marin County. “The swimming-pool cabana potential is considerable,” he says, and he’s already marketing a windowed, $12,000 luxury model for greenhouses.