When business began to slow for his Bainbridge-based retail design company, islander Rich Batcheller put his employees to work designing for the public good. A first look at what the creative minds at Blackmouth Design came up with sits at the east end of Yaquina Lane, like something out of a sci-fi flick.
It’s a 10-foot-tall geodesic dome, a tiny house built out of three shapes: the pentagon, the hexagon and the trapezoid.
“It’s a self-supporting structure,” Batcheller said, standing inside his creation Friday. “There’s no foundation, there’s no columns, there’s no beams. It’s one piece holding up the next piece, holding up all the pieces together. Essentially it’s a three-dimensional puzzle.”
Made from plywood and covered in heat-shrunk plastic, the structure forms a basic dwelling that Batcheller’s company is selling as a product, but that they’re also pitching as another option to shelter the homeless.
Batcheller said he’s been in contact with King County and the city of Seattle, pitching organized communities of the structures alongside community showers, kitchens and counseling areas.
“The idea is that we’d find these vacant parking lots that the city might own or a private company might hold, go in and sublease it for 18 months to two years, build a gigantic platform to get the guests out of the water, away from the dust and the dirt and the rocks,” he said. The community would then continue to rotate through other open lots, he said.
The dome is strong, feels bigger than a typical tiny home does and can be assembled in about four hours, Batcheller said. The company’s base model can be built for $4,800, but upscale versions with insulation and ventilation will range up to $20,000, he said.
The dome currently sits on property owned by islander Hal Bringman, who’s put it up for rent on Airbnb while it’s on display as a model unit for Blackmouth to show. In looking for a tiny home for his property, Bringman said he’s found that many don’t have a tiny price tag to go along with their size.
But the domes, “at the price point they can do, this seems like something that can catch on,” Bringman said. “It seems very sustainable and very scaleable. You can add on to it, make it more comfortable for a more permanent structure.”
Batcheller hopes his company will be able to ramp up production of the domes for a variety of end users and situations. He’d love to see them at concert venues, alternative hotels and parks.
“In a perfect world we get to make these domes for all sorts of people, whether they’re surfers or fishermen or tiny home enthusiasts or they need a quick, inexpensive shelter for their property,” Batcheller said. “The big play is tackling the homeless problem in Seattle, Portland, the peninsula, anywhere across the country, anywhere that’s interested, we’d love to help them out.”