FLOOD-PRONE AREA CONSTRUCTION SOLUTIONS

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 POULIN, CO-FOUNDER OF ARCHIMEDE SYSTEMS

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.

A DESERT JEWEL

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!

SOME OF THE ARCHIMEDE PIONNEERS

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.

ELEVATED WITH A PURPOSE

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.

BUILDING ON DIFFICULT TERRAIN

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.

DOMES AND ZOMES

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.