Dai Haifei (戴海飞), 24 years old form Hunan province, built and placed an egg shaped small house in a courtyard in Beijing, as his home. Inspired by his company’s design, Dai Haifei built the “egg” house with bamboo and it only cost him 6,427 yuan. Now he has been living in it for almost 2 month, rent free. The following is his diary on Douban describing how he builds the egg house.
My father works at a construction site; mother is a cleaner of a company. Now they are older and their physical conditions are not as good as before. I tried many times to convince them to go back home to the countryside to farm a few acres of land to live an easy life, stop running around already. They said they wanted to save money for me to buy a house to get married in. But they don’t know in order to buy a home in Beijing with their salary will take 2-3 hundred years. I want to have a home of my own, no need to be too big, as long as it shelters me from the sun and the rain. Do not want to live like ants in the remote corners of the city, do not want to give hard-earned wages to the landlord, do not want to spend three hours each day on the crowded bus, but facing the reality of high home prices, all hopes are fading.
In 2009 when I was interning for Standard Architecture, I was honored to participate in “egg of the city” (城市下的蛋) design project. “Egg of the city” series includes KTV house (already completed), Bench house (already completed), small shop house, fruit stand house, recycler house, message pallor house, backpackers house… “Egg of the city” series provides movable small homes for struggling group of people in the city, the home is also a tool for them to make a living. The green plants on the surface of the house become urban landscape. After my internship at Standard Architecture, I went back to school to finish up my graduation design, but the idea of building a house for myself was lingering in my mind. After graduation, I talked to my teacher Tang Doudou about my ideas, he was very supportive and found a few friends to help out with my work. Later I also got the finical support from my cousin, then the building work was officially started. Then we used some contractor software to see how we could better design some of the aspects of the house. We worked from July to September for two whole months, not counting labor, material costs are as follows:
Rope ties 125
Water tank, pump 95
Waterproof fabrics 508
Solar Panels 970
Square rods 30
Spray gun 450
Grass seeds 110
Energy-saving lamps 36
Air support 50
Steel mesh 240
After the house was built, shipping it from Hunan to Beijing cost 3500 yuan, so with less than ten thousand I got my own house in Beijing.
When the house arrived in Beijing I put it under the building of my company. I already lived in it for over a month. I can get to work within seconds, no need to be on the crowded bus. This is considered a luxury in the traffic congested Beijing. I used the money I saved up from not paying rent to pay for an annual pass of a swimming gym, so I can go swimming, also take showers and go to sauna there. I don’t have a kitchen in the house, so I became a frequent visitor of the local restaurants around work. No need to make meals also saved me a lot of time. In the weekends, I can go the local coffee shops with a book or I can ride my bike around the neighborhood alleys. When the house is simplified to just one bed, other than sleeping in it, other things are taken care of in public places, this is a free lifestyle.
The entire process of making the house on flickr
This design was nominated for the second annual China Architecture Media Awards
“If you don’t pay rent by tomorrow I will throw your stuff on the street”
Media coverage of the story by Beijing News on Netease:
Interview with Beijing News
In the interview, Dai Haifei said his house had been the target of eviction, but because he had no place to move to, eventually they let the matter rest. He had thought about having a real home to get married in, but for now, he enjoys life in an “eggshell”.
Beijing News: How is life after moving into your house?
Dai Haifei: No rent, I don’t need to consider to save money when eating everyday, I also bought an annual pass to a swimming pool. I go swimming after work everyday, then take shower or sauna after. In the weekends, I go walk around in the Beijing city, and hang out with friends.
Beijing News: Your cabin is placed here, will people try to move it away?
Dai Haifei: (Laughs) I was already told to move. The house is placed on the lawn of a courtyard, it is not even the company’s property. Some time ago, property owner came to tell me to move, but I have no place to move to. They could not do anything to me. Now they just let me be.
Beijing News: Have you thought about, one day you go down stairs and your house is moved away, all your possessions are gone?
Dai Haifei: The egg house is a place to sleep, my clothes are under the bed, nothing expensive. (pointed at himself) I only have these, the most expensive thing is the notebook, I leave it at work. (smile)
Beijing News: Your house charges electricity at work, and water is also from your company. Actually your company really supports a lot. Are they considered perks for being close to work?
Dai Haifei: The house doesn’t charge its battery from work, the solar panel charges the battery. My company is very tolerant as for my water and electricity usage, perhaps its part of the benefit. (laughs)
Beijing News: Beijing is so cold in the winter, in this small room you probably are freezing. Before you come here have you thought about such hard life?
Dai Haifei: I did not think so much, in fact, I do not feel very “tough”. The winder in Hunan is worse than Beijing, it’s kind of wet cold. So I think it’s no so bad here, I only sleep here, my blank is thick. I actually woke up last night because it was too hot. My parents also know my life. I called them and told them where I am. They also feel happy that I can save some rent money.
Beijing News: but they also wish you to get married and have children, live in a (real) house right?
Dai Haifei: Yes, they also said I should have a house, find a girlfriend, get married. But they do not know how difficult it is in Beijing. I used to rent, one of those huge rooms divided into many small rooms with wooden boards, only couple square meters cost 8-9 hundred a month. Before I graduated this year when I went home for my graduation design project I had to terminate the lease. They also deducted my deposit for various reasons. It was really helpless. So now I feel free, I don’t think so much any more.