This house belongs to the Ferrari dealership owner in Montreal, a man who needed a secure garage under his house, one where he could wash off the road salts from under his prized set of wheels. In addition, the lot is setting next to the notorious Riviere-des-prairies, a picturesque and highly flood-prone area near Montreal. By building 'high and dry', this proud owner feels safe and snug during the occasional major flood when all his neighbors need to pile their belongings on top of their fridges and counters. But he does leave the Ferrari at the dealership when that happens. He also stores a motorized boat under the same house.
Archimede sold quite a few houses near rivers that flood occasionally. Several of them did weather severe floods and many townships now give building permits only to housing that have this capacity to resist the floods. Although Canada is not subject to hurricanes, it needs to be said that this same house needs very little else to be classified as hurricane proof: laminated glass and a stronger railing and stairs design.


Placide was a fiberglass part supplier for the housing industry and the snowmobile manufacturers where Poirier was active in the early seventies. This is how they met and learned to trust each other. In 1980, they formed Archimede Systems to develop a patent that Poirier had concocted after a stint in the RV and modular housing industry. A brilliant strategist and marketer, Placide was responsible for the explosive growth of the Archimede sales. After five year and the need to develop the American market, Poirier and Poulin went their separate ways with the former creating the MAAX group of companies integrating Archimede with Acrylica and Modern Fiberglass and Metal, the original company that made bathtubs and snowmobile parts (These are the first three letters of the MAAX acronym) . He headed MAAX for fifteen years, growing it from a revenue of $10M to a $1B company recently sold at his retirement. Now a prosperous and solid golfer, Placide nevertheless sits on the board of directors of CAMADA, one of our corporate sponsors, a Venture Capital group company handled with flair by his eldest daughter Marie-France. The latter was also a very effective Archimede employee during her university holidays.


Once an Eastern Airline captain from Sierra Vista AZ flew over the Guana Bay Beach resort in Sint Maarten. He was intrigued by the shape of the housing he saw (to see exactly what he saw, check out this aerial view of Guana Bay Archimede Village, Sint Maarten NA). When he took a taxi and visited the project, he knew at once that this was IT. He needed a house that could remain unattended for weeks during his long flying blocks yet remain stable and theft proof. What better way than to buy one for his site high enough so that a potential burglar would be seen carrying a 21 ft ladder from the highway to access his balconies( where he kept expensive furniture and from which they could crack open the patio doors. ) The lower entry had but one door protected with 1/4 inch steel and a loud alarm system. He was never robbed and the house did not even need AC. From his own lips: "This house is so highly insulated that all I have to do in the hottest summer spell is to keep windows closed till 2PM. At that time the breezes kick in and I can open them to change the air...still very cool inside because of our cool nights'. Smart airline captain. Which is more that could be said of our 'French only' erection crew from Canada: Looking for a flight to this remote south Arizona location, they peeked at a globe and chose the Montreal-Dallas-El Paso flight, one that had them travel 400 miles by car. They had never heard of Tucson but remembered the Marty Robbins hit tune from the sixties!


Shown in this 1985 Quebec sugarhouse party, are seen in the photo from left to right:
  • Eric Triesman, Stanford Graduate from Santa Fe NM, assisted in getting the US operations off the ground. Now a consultant member of the Institute.
  • Placide Poulin, original partner from Beauce, Québec, now the retired and very successful industrialist that headed of the MAAX group of companies. a member of the board of Camada Group.
  • Jacques Bernard Poirier, architect and founding president of Archimede Systems in 1981. Poirier is the actual director of the Institute.
  • Don Arrowsmith, of South Florida, is the ex-Navy pilot who built a marketing program for Archimede International. He is now retired and a member of our advisory board.


Shown at trade shows where sometimes there is only one day to put it up, the basic Archimede houses attracted crowds of up to 75,000 people in one weekend thorughout the early 80's. No one appeared to be surprised when it was hailed as 'Tomorrow's House', even though the actual purposes of sitting it high were:
  • To profit from small lots by parking the auto below it
  • To better resist floods and earthquakes
  • to create a higher space that would leave cold air below, along with boots, skis and snow covered clothing.
  • for the added security from robbery where only one door needs to be protected
  • And basically to profit from the views and the breezes afforded by elevated living.
It needs to be said that the speed of assembly reflects the speed of fabrication. Uniform repeatable parts allowed Archimede houses to be fully made 'from scratch'; all windows where of the same design and sizes, all were fixed with an insulated panel below for ventilation. And of course all panels were of the same size as explained elsewhere in this site.


Built on a granitic ledge high above the road, this house north of Quebec City was built on stilts to better fit that rock without dynamite, but also to better resist lateral ways of a moderate earthquake zone. Made up of 30-40 panels that were slid up the hill on a temporary set of parallell wooden rails, the shell was completed in just a few days. Few systems allow for such easy construction on difficult sites. The happy owners spent $30,000 for a house that cost $200 a year! to heat in frigid Quebec. (1983 figures need to be ajusted). The original concept of this house was made to fit arctic needs, mainly that it is forbidden to build directly on the frozen permafrost, as any house would quickly bury itself in the bog when the heat losses attack the frozen ground. Sales farther and farther to the south made Archimede staff quickly realize that the house had plenty of other qualities to appeal to a more universal group of buyers as far south as Venezuela and Tanzania.


Buckminster Fuller created domes while at the same time others like Steve Baert were developing 'zomes' a contraction of 'dome' and 'zonahedron', as a way to overcome the limitations set by the little domes that people where building left in right in the sixties. To the left a 3/4 dome built by an artist friend of mine, Jean-Louis Milette of Contrecoeur QC (shown standing on skis at the right ). Jean-Marie built it on a hillside in a way that his studio is one floor below, entirely exposed on the opposite side by having the dome close in below its equator, thus the name (3/4 dome). Most panels are slightly different in size although all are triangles. Which leads me to explain the difference between DOMES and ZOMES using Steve's simplification:
"Domes are a complicated way to achieve simple shapes, while zomes are simple ways to achieve complicated shapes'.
Indeed, in our zome style houses, only two sizes of panels made from the same molds achieve complicated resort complexes and housing that wouyld be impossible to combine as domes. However, we need to underline the fact that domes do give the maximum volume for the smallest outside envelope. They also provide the lowest wind drag of al structures.




Posted on Sunday 23 January 2005

by Robin T

May I offer my suggestion for a Tsunami shelter suitable for single family dwelling? It uses economical, appropriate technology and is available to all neighboring countries - namely a Coconut Palm tree trunk.

As will be well known already, coconut palms are built to withstand typhoon winds by flexing with the wind force. However, you probably cannot just shin up a palm tree when a Tsunami threatens. These trees they have a relatively shallow ball root system (around half a metre deep) spreading up to 2 metres in radius. Whilst this may withstand the average wind onslaught it is unlikely to withstand torrential flooding because the ground is washed away and turned into a waterlogged mire of sand and mud with no significant strength. Similarly, when the palm gets too old and tall and is likely to be uprooted naturally by the wind and replaced by younger fry. Most trees suffer a similar fate. However, these old palm trunks can reach 10 straight metres or more and in the vertical position are surprisingly strong yet flexible (also very heavy). If not already freely available as fallen debris, they can be purchased for a modest sum as old trees become increasingly uneconomical for coconut production. Coconut wood is often derided as a building material because of its habit of delaminating and weakening as it ages. This doesn’t seem to happen with tree trunks.

Excavator machines are probably already on site under government clearance operations. A simple swipe from a bucket will dig a 2.5 metre deep hole in which to place this palm trunk (or you can dig it manually). The excavator can also help lift and position the trunk, which could weigh as much as 2 tonnes. Note that the base of the trunk must be encase fully in stout polythene (non bio-degradable) and duck tape to prevent termite destruction. Better still, it can be painted with hot tar. Depending on funds available, a reinforced concrete base and collar may be used for additional strength (but IMHO is probably icing on the cake). Also if funds permit, the trunk should be treated with wood preservative (old diesel engine oil can help if expensive preservative is not available). The ground must then be filled in, watered and tamped down. I would also created a raised circular ground area around the base of say half a metre high and 2 metres diameter supported by a ring of used beer bottles, crushed concrete of similar device. Cap this area with cement and plant soil retaining grass around the edge. The idea is to keep the ground around the trunk from softening as long as possible. A Tsunami flood generally subsides within half a day. Even a heavy monsoon does not penetrate a compacted laterite soil more than half a metre except after prolonged soaking of many weeks so the ground supporting the trunk should remain solid. Compacted laterite is almost like concrete.

The trunk should be equipped with simple steel spikes made from 8mm rebar drilled and hammered into holes either side into the trunk (like an electricity pylon). The top of the trunk should be equipped with a simple platform for the refuge of a family of 4 – 6 adults. As a wonderful bonus, this platform may be equipped with a small water storage tank with an inverted conical roof. This can serve as a sun-shelter and fresh water container. The tank should be made of polythene or cement/clay “ong” not PVC which becomes brittle. The family may have to stay up there for 24 hours. A major problem for post flooding is an adequate supply of drinking water so the tank should be circular of about 200 litres in size for 10 days supply. The height of the trunk should be at least 6 metres or more. The total cost should be around 2000Baht in materials assuming some government guidance.

I don’t claim my suggestion is 100% perfect but it may offer an improved survival rate for those living in coastal flat areas where there is no high ground to run to. Remember that a Tsunami travels at 80 – 100 km/h – highway speeds - so if you can see it coming you are too late to run. The trunk should have a life span of at least 10 years in my own experience and if properly built and preserved against insects, may last 50 years – who knows? I would apply old engine oil to the structure once a year and clean the tank, make it a family ritual. Termites hate engine oil.

As with any design that concerns human safety I would insist that my suggestions are reviewed by the competent local authority and a licensed Thai structural engineer. It would make a great research project for a technical university.

I, for one, would bet my family’s life on this option in the absence of an alternative. This method works successfully for offshore oil platforms by the way. I would not recommend more that a single leg for this platform (called a monopod) simply because of the danger of large floating debris becoming entangled in the additional legs and adding to the stress. I might also suggest some simple vortex breaking device connected between the spikes to prevent the pole oscillating during freak winds – very easy to do. Do not put the pole near any building that is likely to collapse, or it might topple the pole.

I have many friends and relations how have lost love ones so I hope my contribution may be of help. No one can be blamed for this disaster as events in the Indian Ocean are rare. This event was by far the largest human catastrophe of this type since records began (17 century) yet such events on a small scale are common in the pacific and the western coast of Sumatra. There is an average of 2 Tsunamis spreading across the pacific every year. Because of this, the USA has had a chain of highly sophisticated sensors protecting the whole of its western coast installed for many years. It will take a long time and a billion dollar budget to protect the Indian Ocean to the same degree (how can that be funded?). In the meantime people need some peace of mind.

My sympathies to all those affected



MEXICO- La Mision - Terraced Houses - The Paraiso Project

Recently the Archimede Institute has developed a series of models to help finance our non-profit organization. These prototypes being built in Northern Baja MX are designed to be sold locally once the testing is finished. This model has three modules with rooftop terraces, allowing the view of the sea and a means to catch the breezes or a suntan. The central courtyard is one way to allow the enjoyment of the outdoors during the colder winter months.

SOUTH CALIFORNIA - Earth, Wind, Fire and Water

Baja Californians (Mexicans) reject American 'stick-built' housing construction, American heavy-watering landscaping and American no-cash-down mortgages. They build very slowly, in concrete blocks, ceramic roof tiles, paying cash as they go, planting cacti and other fat desertic plants. They basically enjoy their scenery the way nature made it: semi-desertic.
To them the American 'Dream Home' is 'matchsticks and cardboard', cannot stop a bullet (!) or even a toddler on his trike. On the outside it is packed with plants species that drink up like drunken sailors. And this is depleting the water tables and slowly drying up Mexican farms and cities too close to California. So that when the wildfires licked Mexico's border yesterday, pushed by violent Santa Ana winds, they had nowhere to go. The land in Mexico is rocky and mostly barren, the plants are all native, having thick water-gorged leaves, the houses all have mostly non-combustible shells. Here in Baja the 'bomberos' are truly a lazy bunch as there are few house fires to put out, focusing on cats stranded in trees, it seems.
An analyst on TV suggested that some of the arsonists in California are probably angry owners about to lose their house to foreclosure. This breed is unlikely to exist in a country where houses are built with cash.
Thanks, Mexico, for your school of realism, but don't you find it ironic that your Mexican sons in California have become the dominant landscapers, house framers, stick-builders and sheetrock applicators? Thanks also for helping consolidate with our Archimede Institute a few good arguments for the peculiar housing system we are about to build locally and export: low-cost prefabricated fire-proof ,earthquake and hurricane proof housing.

PERU - Earthquakes don't have to Be Like this - They are non-lethal for those residing in Archimede Houses

The immense tragedy like the one shown above have no reasons to be. These houses are actually slow and expensive to build as compared to Archimede, the latter having an incredible earthquake resistance for the following reasons:
  • 30% to 50% less unsprung weight
  • All concrete surfaces reinforced with a gauge12 mesh
  • All panels joined with similar mesh and armatures
  • Connection to floor with shear resistant steel @ 1m O/C
  • All openings reinforced with #4 rebars, protecting doors and openings
  • All wall are shear walls, yet weigh sometimes less than half of that of regular construction. The axial and perpendicular stress resistance on walls and roof is astounding.
  • All roof/ceiling panels weigh sometimes 4 times less than regular roofs, yet are fully reinforced with concrete mesh on both sides.
  • Connections between roof and walls has a factor of safety of up to 3.

Insects- Archimede Offers Nothing To Eat !!!

In the 2/3 of the world where 3/4 of the population lives, wood is threatened by insects, mildew, rot and fungi of all sorts. Aging is NOT a possibility for most wooden housing, as it is quickly lunch for the local parasites. The chemicals to protect from these are even more harmful (Chromated cupric arsenate,phenols etc...). Concrete is both unedible, rot proof and permanent. We want nothing less for our houses.


The design of tents for refugees has been plagued for years with serious shortcomings. Not any more, as our contributors have provided us with a set of features that we are putting together, designing the perfect tent.
Its features:
  • Internal guy wires that you can't trip over as they are built into the walls.
  • Allows groupings of basic units called 'ABREFS',  in thousands of different ways.
  • Wind resistance tested in wind tunnel at our Mexico facility.
  • Can be quickly on spit of size.
  • Can be subdivided into roomettes quite easily.
  • Forms a bundle that is easy to carry.
  • Comes with color coding and personalization features.

Below, slide of a very dense proposed refugee camp for future Armenian earthquake victims. We will take great pleasure in working with Armenian citizens and artists to make those camps thoroughly lovable by these afflicted people. Music by :

Ithikon Akmeotaton - Armenian Music Medley
Medley of traditional Armenian songs performed by ITHIKON AKMEOTATON, recorded at Octalogic Studio Mannheim, Germany 2007


Our oldest medical building was a success from day one, back in 1990 in Louisiana.


ABREF is a sturdy tent that can be adapted for groupings. These have several advantages:
  • Grouped tents combine each unit's high resistance to wind pressure to allow for stability under gusts of over 80 mph (see wind testing of tents)
  • Because of the ziggurat shape of these, the lanes between the clusters cut down wind speed, allowing users to walk with less difficulty under high winds.
  • The formation of wind protected courtyards allow for some privacy in an area that can be made insect-free, ideal for some cooking, child play or any function common to all 6 adjoining units (i.e. storage, water, etc...). In cold areas, we are working on a concept where a central heat source distributes hot air to the six neighboring tents.

    This grouping #8.1 (8 units + 1 courtyard) is ideal for high densities that still manage to leave some privacy. With close to 40% ground occupancy, this configuration can reach a site occupancy of up to 400 persons per acre.

There are hundreds of combinations that would greatly benefit special site morphologies, like hillside, wooded, rocky etc...We are preparing a movie showing a few of these special cases, so come back here.


A lowcost