UNYP alumnus takes Czech homes off the grid

Pavel Podruh was living in the fast lane when he was in his late 20s. He had graduated from University of New York in Prague with bachelor’s degrees in Business Administration and International Management and was splitting his time between singing in a fairly successful band and acting as a brand manager for Gambrinus Excelent.

Then something snapped. “Suddenly it started to be really important to think about family, the way I want to raise my future kids and where,” he said.

That’s when he came up with the idea of Český Ostrovní Dům, or Czech Off-Grid Homes, a startup with the mission of building sustainable, technologically advanced homes that could change how people live in the Czech Republic.

What is Český Ostrovní Dům’s main goal?

The aim is to accelerate the transition to advanced sustainable technologies in our homes and buildings. The logic is fairly simple–by actually constructing only a few technologically advanced and more sustainable houses, I can use them as an image tool to help it grow. By growing I mean to ignite demand just like Tesla did for the electric cars segment, only that we are much smaller fish, which is fine. We are far from perfect with our buildings, but it just makes sense to be a bit more sustainable. It makes sense for me and I bet it will make sense for my future kids. All and all, we are not a construction company; we are an exclusive product startup that hopes the bigger guys will follow. This way, our mission would be completed.

How are you getting college students involved?

Along with our main mission, we have created a university competition for young architects. I see it as planting seeds of sustainable thoughts. The projects you can see on our website are the winners of the first round of our competition in 2016. All of the buildings are off the grid, meaning they are not connected to any utility grid and so can function autonomously. It is an extreme scenario that the majority of people don’t really need, but we are using it to learn the principles and soon apply it to mainstream housing. Just imagine, if more houses could actually recycle their water or if they created so much energy they could share it through a smart grid with the rest of us!

What are your plans in the next five years?

We want to build our first two prototypes in 2018 and then test them. Spreading the knowledge for free wherever we can, talking about the results, admit mistakes and get better. It is a very complicated matter, but we are on schedule and most importantly I am lucky to have amazing people around. Gradually, we want to make Czech Republic a hub for this kind of architecture.

Why is the idea of becoming independent from utility networks so important?

It teaches us how we can be more earth-friendly, while keeping our way of life in the future. It is not the solution. It is just a small step. I believe there will be more steps in the future.

What have been the biggest challenges when starting Český Ostrovní Dům?

Well, honestly, funding is the main obstacle. Basically, I am all-in, which makes it very exciting and risky in the same time. We worked very hard to stabilize the company. All our investment goes into developing the prototype buildings and getting the right people.

What have been the biggest rewards?

Sticking to our mission, to accelerate the transition to advanced sustainable technologies in our homes and buildings. It resonates with the public, it resonates with universities, it resonates with government and it resonates with businesses, which is exactly what we are trying to do. In the past year we have partnered with a mix of visionary companies as well as with big brands. This way I hope we can make a collective effort to actually fulfill our mission. The next two years will be big years for us with a lot of work ahead, but we are getting closer to make our dreams come true.

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