In November, seven outstanding Ukrainians made it into the annual “New Europe 100” rating published by Financial Times. The New Europe 100 is a list of 100 people from Central and Eastern Europe who, “are changing the region’s societies, politics or business environments.”
Among the seven changemakers from Ukraine highlighted in the list are Maxim and Julia Gerbut, the founders of PassivDom.
The startup company creates energy-efficient, autonomous, mobile buildings that do not require connection to electricity or water supply but still provide a high level of comfort to their inhabitants.
The Gerbuts’ inclusion on the New Europe 100 is not the only recognition of their revolutionary technology. This year PassivDom also received a grant from the EU Horizon 2020 program within the framework of its Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) Instrument.
“Global warming is one of the main environmental challenges nowadays and existing inefficiencies in housing solutions and its manufacturing processes are one of the leading causes of it.” These are the words used to justify the disbursement. “PassivDom Ukraine addressed this problem by completely rethinking the concept of a house and searching for disruptive and innovative ways of constructing houses as completely integrated off-grid systems.”
The grant from the European Union amounted to €50,000 and was intended for use on the commercialisation of the project for mass production. This work involved a detailed feasibility study, a better vision of the target market and its rules, design improvements to meet the needs of users, creating quality business partnerships, and developing a pricing and sales strategy tailored to customer needs and predictable demand.
PassiveDom is really unique. Its frame is made during the day with the help of an industrial 3D printer. The roof is equipped with solar panels that provide the house with energy. Six-layer glass keeps the house warm. And on top of all this, PassivDom does not require a foundation and it can be transported from place to place.
“We were engaged in the design of classical conventional energy-saving buildings for 15 years,” says Maxim Gerbut, talking about the project’s origins. “We developed energy-saving systems, gathered innovations from all over the world, and invented some things ourselves. As a result, we have accumulated a lot of interesting ideas that could not have been realised in classical construction. We decided to channel those ideas into a new project – so was born PassivDom.”
The first PassivDom homes are expected to be delivered to their owners in May 2018. On the company’s website there is a map of the site where the preliminary orders for innovative products are being made. Today there are about 10,000 people, primarily from the USA and Western Europe, who have placed orders. The cost of a home, depending on its features, ranges from $64,000-97,000.
“People order them as a guest house or vacation home. Some people want to live in interesting places where it is impossible to build a classical dwelling. Among our clients are seniors and young people, rich and poor – there is no typical buyer,” says Gerbut.
The experimental production of the house is based in Ukraine, but a factory for large serial production is located in the US, where the majority of potential buyers are.
The company’s website and its Facebook page highlight the many press and television reviews of the worldwide novelty.
“We have been recognised as a project that can globally change the construction industry,” says Gerbut. Referring to the Horizon 2020 grant, he notes, “Such grants provide additional funds for scientific development, experiments, certification, and standardisation.”
PassivDom is one of only four Ukrainian companies that have received grants under the Horizon 2020 SME instrument.
“Getting such a grant is not easy,” says Gerbut, “you need a good project that can really change something globally in its field. There are not many such projects – and so not many such grants. “
Thus, Ukranian innovators have something to strive for, and the success of the PassivDom startup is a good example to follow.
The Horizon 2020 program has allocated €3 billion for the SME instrument. The instrument provides innovative startups with support of up to €50,000 to complete feasibility studies. There are also large grants available for innovative development that range from €500,000 to €2.5 million.