Not long before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Brad Griffith and Gary Young met at a hardware store where they were both looking for the same tool. Both had been thinking about tiny homes.
That conversation led to friendship and the original design of Litehouse Shelters — modular shelters they hope will help them transition into a new career of using their building skills to help people afford a decent habitation.
Litehouse Shelters of Sequim will be at the Seattle Design Festival from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 21-22. Griffith, Young and Janey Griffith will be showcasing their innovative modular shelters at this street festival in Lake Union Square.
To qualify to participate, the team had to submit a proposal reflecting how they would “explore what it means to EMERGE into 2021, demonstrate the relevance of design thinking, empower communities to leverage design, and promote a culture of collaboration,” according to the Design In Public Organization’s website.
“This year’s festival theme, EMERGE, seeks to inspire action, addressing the consequences of the pandemic to nurture new possibilities,” the website notes.
“Emerging is a process of adaptation, of transforming the way we interact, collaborate, and create. How can community-driven design strategies carry us forward? How will we emerge better?”
Brad Griffith said that during the COVID-19 pandemic they designed a shelter that is superior to what is currently available: energy efficient, well-ventilated, cool in summer, warm in winter, economical and Earth-friendly for cities seeking solutions for the shelter-less or people who need a tiny home or work or play space.
The shelters are built from wood, not plastic and aluminum like their competition.
“The LiteHouse Shelters are designed and modeled after the World War II plane called the ‘Wooden Wonder’ or Mosquito,” Griffith said. “Much like the Mosquito, the exterior plywood skin is shaped in a mold to make the exterior plywood layer solid wood to form the gambrel roof.
“Back then they called it sandwich construction, today we call it Composite Structural Insulated Panels or SIPs for short.”
Backgrounds in building, innovation
Young is a world-renowned maker of plexiglass-free, locally sourced wood surfboards, with a background in wooden boat building and engineering.
“For the last 43 years, Gary has pioneered the creation of environmental surf products and particularly wooden surfboards that challenge the belief that you need to use fiberglass; he is legendary in the industry,” said Pippa Rowcliffe on a GoFundMe post, an effort she organized after Young lost his home and workshop in the Kilauea Lava Flow of May 2018.
Young said he knows the value of a portable home.
“As I was evacuating, I was thinking, doggone it, if I had a 3-D home or something, I could pull it out of there.”
Griffith, a general contractor in Sequim, also teaches woodworking skills and tool-making from household objects. He’s also a skilled photographer and scientific videographer and was active in Sequim Community Makerspace before COVID-19 struck.
“At the Sequim Community Makerspace I want to share our tips, tricks, and trades with younger folks,” Griffith said.
Griffith said he was impressed by the ingenuity of some people he saw in a documentary about a Syrian refugee camp.
“They picked up their tents and moved them around so that instead of all the doors going in the same way like a cookie cutter, they combined them into a village…. and that’s where I got the concept of village instead of tiny houses,” Griffith said.
“I’m making tiny villages, with Gary’s help. He taught me how make these insulated panels.”
The modular shelters are 8 feet by 8 feet and can be combined with each other to make as big a place as the buyer desires. They are put together using hand tools and a screw gun. They are constructed of structural insulated panels of standard size for easy assembly.
The insulation, Foamular XPS, is similar to what Young uses in his surfboards and is of the same thickness as a recreational vehicle’s.
Besides helping the unit keep a moderate temperature, the insulation contributes to the lightness of the structure.
“One thing that is cool about this technique is you can make a structure that is lightweight, well insulated, and pretty light to haul around in a pickup truck if you need to,” Young said.
Both men said they are keen on reusing and recycling, and a lot of the material Griffith used for the prototype came from these types of resources, found at Around Again in Sequim or through Thomas Building Center. He said that it is better to reuse materials than send them to the dump.
The Griffiths and Young said they would love to see people from Sequim at their Seattle Design Festival booth on Aug. 21-22.
“Please come and discover a day in the big city,” Griffith said.