Editor's note: GVSU communications specialist Brian J. Bowe is visiting Kingston University in England on an annual staff exchange program. The following is the fourth in a series of dispatches he is sending back and was written for the KU magazine Bridge.
There's been a buzz among people passing a bank of windows looking out onto a courtyard at Kingston University's Penhryn Road campus these days. There's a strange dome structure that receives curious looks and questions. Is it a space ship? Is it an igloo?
In reality, it's part of a project by Kingston University alumnus David Aviram, president of Geodome Ltd.
The project involves modular building construction. Aviram invented and patented a new type of metal clip that can be used to join a series of panels together to make a sturdy structure that can be erected quickly and cheaply. The panels are hexagons and pentagons and can be reconfigured like a child's Legos.
'Modular panels, as I see them, are going to be used for entire modular construction of houses and habitable forms of buildings -- for any use, really,' Aviram said.
One of the main ideas for uses would be in humanitarian situations for building field hospitals, food storage, refugee centers, or schools -- 'anywhere the need is for more than just a tent,' Aviram said.
Tents may be cheap and easy to erect, but they don't offer things like lighting, air conditioning and other amenities and don't last long, he said.
Currently, the panels and the clips that join them are individually made and quite expensive to develop and produce, Aviram said. But he added that if they were mass-produced, a person could potentially buy a dome like the one on display for ¿3,000.
Aviram noted that there is still work to be done to perfect the system. A recent rainy day showed a few leaky spots and misaligned panels. But the inventor is hopeful that the kinks can be sorted out.
Aviram's connection to KU is strong. He earned his bachelor's degree here in 1984, his master's in 1993 and his Ph.D. in 2001.