EcoHousing: Utah company makes temporary homes for disaster survivors

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 9 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

Brett Horstmann, left, Carl Stanford, Vince Rhoton and Clinton Morris of Lifetime Products pose outside EcoHouses.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

CLEARFIELD — A Utah company famous for its outdoor products like storage sheds, folding tables and basketball hoops is now working on building homes.

Lifetime Products is unveiling the EcoHouse, a 377-square-foot housing structure that can be used as an economical "shelter solution" for impoverished areas or places affected by disasters.

Each unit is divided into a master bedroom, a bathroom, a main area and a kitchen, Vince Rhoton, senior vice president of sales and marketing, told the Deseret News. "The electrical system is powered by solar panels mounted on the roof."

The electrical work and plumbing is installed by separate contractors, with Lifetime responsible primarily for the overall construction of the unit, he said.

The EcoHouse can be fully assembled in about a week, complete with sustainable electrical, plumbing and waste management to make it a fully functional four-room home, school, clinic, dining area or meeting area at a cost of $12,000 to $15,000 per unit, Rhoton said.

The EcoHouse uses the same molding and steel technology applied to Lifetime's outdoor storage sheds, with additional customized features, including external walls, internal walls, flooring, lockable doors, windows and a roof with support beams.

Manufactured at Lifetime's Freeport Center factory, the EcoHouse is currently distributed through company's facility in Monterrey, Mexico. Lifetime's partner company, EcoReaccion, is using the structure to improve impoverished areas of Mexico, a Lifetime release stated.

Lifetime, which employs 1,150 people in Utah and 1,558 workers worldwide, is currently in communication with the Red Cross of Utah regarding possibly using the EcoHouse in earthquake-stricken Haiti.

In the meantime, Lifetime is donating plastic wheelbarrows and folding tables to the relief effort.

The EcoHouse is constructed with steel-reinforced, double-wall, high-density polyethylene. HDPE is low-maintenance; UV protected; won't crack, chip, or peel; is flame-resistant and never needs painting, Carl Stanford, product design engineer, told the Deseret News.

It is made from 100 percent recyclable materials and built to last 15 to 20 years, he added.

"It's great to protect against rain and wind," Stanford said.

However, due to the EcoHouse's construction, the unit is best suited for moderate climates rather than harsh environments with extreme heat or cold, he added.

The units are modular, expandable and easily capable of reconfiguration depending upon need, according to Brett Horstmann, director of international sales.

Rhoton added that the company is preparing to roll out the initiative on a larger scale in the very near future.

Lifetime has invested about $3 million developing in the EcoHouse project and is hoping to attain about $10 million in sales within the first couple of years, Rhoton said.

"That's an optimistic goal, but that is one that we use for as a general standard for our other categories," he said.

"We expect to begin shipping complete housing units this year and larger amounts by 2011."

e-mail: jlee@desnews.com

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