Jono Williams is an enterprising Graphics Designer and Plastics Engineer in New Zealand. He also runs his own IT company and has a degree in Computer Graphic Design. Over the last three years he has developed an additional interest in mechanical engineering.
Jono has previously developed a structure called the Treebach, which was constructed with the help of a group of friends in Palmerston North, New Zealand. The Treebach was mostly put together during evening hours, in darkness, due to the builders having full time day jobs. It was constructed largely from donated materials or scrap from Jonno’s family farm and cost just $1,700 NZD to build.
The original intention was to build a treehouse of some kind, either a structure in a tree or suspended between two or more trees. The disadvantages of this idea became apparent during the course of several months in which Jono wrested with various designs in order to try and produce a design that would be completely robust, able to withstand high winds and the natural growth cycle of trees. Eventually he ditched the whole idea and developed a design for a structure supported by a single steel column.
The structure has a 360 degree window which is just great for visibility. The polycarbonate window is 2 metres high and has a circumference of 14 metres. The living space is furnished with custom built furniture and is illuminated by multicolour LED lights. It also has a voice-operated beer dispenser. The lights, along with the solar panels were custom built in China. One challenge Jono had to overcome concerning the window was the tendency of polycarbonate to shrink and expand more than steel, which meant that he had to design a special seal system with a 2-inch flexibility. There is a door which opens automatically when the temperature reaches 30 degrees and closes again at 20 degrees C. There isn’t any heating yet though, judging by some of the conversations on Jonno’s Facebook page.
Pic: Jono Williams
With regards to technology, the Skysphere is powered with solar panels on top of the dome with most electrical devices controlled via smartphone using Android apps, including lighting, door access and entertainment. For privacy, his original plan was to cover the windows with an electronic smart film overlay. This would change from opaque to transparent depending on the electrical supply. However, this hasn’t been installed as yet.
The original plan also incorporated a large hydraulic ram with a lift on it, but the cost of installing this means that at present a ladder will have to do. Jonno uses a rope and pulley system to move items in and out of the living space. The tower is lit inside by an LED strip which also incorporates the tower’s wiring.
Material costs for the project have so far amounted to $50,000. The cost in terms of time was around 3000 hours of DIY with Jonno learning much of the skills he needed to build the structure as he went along.
The Skysphere certainly impresses visitors to Jonno’s blog and Facebook page, and it seems other people want one also. This is an idea that is certainly catching on.