January 2013: B.U.G. (Beautiful. Useful.Green) Design


Chuck Henderson’s 1,050 square foot conic, which he uses as an open-air workshop. ©Chuck Henderson

       Conic Shelters

“Have you taken it to the breaking point?” asks Chuck Henderson, designer of conic shelters (conics, for short).  That question led to a computer-generated structural analysis of an 80′ x 40′ conic shelter, weighing 80 tons, which was shown to support 13,000 tons before collapsing.

Keenly aware of the repercussions of global warming, Chuck is designing gorgeous, and ruggedly versatile architectural shelters – conics – on the cheap.

Why is it beautiful? These conical structures, built from thin materials like plywood or reinforced ferro-cement type concrete, adhere to basic geometric formulas. The conic shell flexed into striking curves ‘acts as sheathing, structure and roofing’ of the shelter. The soft waves of the roofs evoke the swoop and rise of mountaintops, molded by wind and weather. And just like those mountain ranges, conics are built to withstand extremes.

Why is it useful? “Our goal is to create minimal structures with maximum structural integrity in all loading configurations – hurricane, earthquake, snow, even tornado,” explains Chuck. His continued emphasis on performance testing conics for flexibility and durability – they dot his property outside of Gualala, California in various configurations and stages of completion – allows him to develop stronger, cheaper solution for shelter.

Why is it green? Conics are multi-purpose shelters, as likely to appear as open-air workshops as enclosed living spaces. Not only are they designed to be durable, they’re easy and affordable to construct, requiring a minimum of building materials. Conics have made appearances at Burning Man, and multi-unit conic villages have been proposed for refugee or homeless shelters.

This is just the kind of visually and structurally strong, environmentally-conscious housing solution of which we’d like to see more!

Check out Sally’s blog for more B.U.G. Designs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s