GIMME SHELTER: Suzan and Rich Grabowski show off their invention. photography by Elizabeth Lavin

Foam Home

A Dallas couple has found a treated foam that just might give shelter to the world.

Who would’ve thought tinkering with your son’s camping equipment could one day save the world? Certainly not Rich and Suzan Grabowski, both veterans of the manufacturing biz, and yet here they are, in donated warehouse space near Royal Lane and Webb Chapel Road, with people like the Prime Minister of Pakistan eyeing their progress.

About a year and a half ago, Rich Grabowski wondered if the ground mat his son used beneath his sleeping bag could be improved. He experimented with a new kind of foam and ended up with a super-strong, expandable material whose purpose seemed to be much more far-reaching than a campsite. Thus was born the IADDIC Shelter, a house in a bag.

Packed for shipping, the shelter (pictured above) measures 10 feet by 2 feet, expanding to 10 feet by 10 feet after the 30-minute installation. But the truly revolutionary part of the product is its durability: In construction lab tests, the hut withstood hurricane-force winds up to 200 miles per hour and debris impact up to 120 miles per hour. The stuff won’t rot, won’t crumble in earthquakes, doesn’t erode, resists mold, can be wired for heat and electricity, and deters bugs—particularly important since malaria is the number one killer on the planet.

“That was actually the impetus that got us started,” Rich says. “We thought, Why can’t we produce low-cost, high-quality, better housing for developing countries? Especially with the technology we have here in the U.S.”

IADDIC is entering the next phase of production, going from hand-assembly to fully mechanized production, which they hope will bring the shelter’s price down from $1,500 to $400, rivaling emergency winterized tents. The faith-based charity organization Food for the Poor has expressed an interest in placing the Grabowskis’ first order—3,000 units to be used in Jamaica. Rich and Suzan are anticipating first year revenues of about $3 million. Five years from now, they expect to be shipping 55,000 shelters annually, with revenue projections of about $110 million a year.

Now, if you’re thinking that this IADDIC thing would make a great high-end beach cabana, you’re not alone. The Grabowskis have been approached about by-products made from the secret foam but, right now at least, they’re not biting. They’ve just got too much work to do: To house the world’s poor, they’d have to produce a shelter every 0.6 milliseconds. And, right now, the Grabowskis are just shooting for one every 15 seconds.

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