The Skysphere: New Zealander Jono Williams builds solar-powered retreat for $75,000
A Kiwi has built one of the world's most high-tech retreats in New Zealand for the modest sum of $75,000.
Jono Williams, a plastics engineer, graphic designer and director of his own IT company, managed to design and build the solar-powered Skysphere in his spare time after dreaming up the idea over a beer with a mate.
Three years later and his app-controlled, solar-powered tower in Linton, Palmerston North, is finally finished.
Transporting the steel Skysphere frame to its final destination proved a bit of a headache. Photo: Jono Williams
Williams says he initially wanted to build an actual tree house, but decided he needed something much more robust. He settled instead on a 10-metre steel column with 360-degree windows, which he could plonk anywhere he chose.
Despite being new to steel construction and the engineering involved to create a stable tower, Williams didn't let his inexperience stop him.
"I have just always liked to challenge myself; only thing is that the challenges always seem to get harder," says Williams, who branched into mechanical engineering when he started the project.
The TreeBach, with a gas-heated bath, was Williams' first lofty cabin construction. Photo: Jono Williams
"Then again I think the only way to proceed into unchartered territory is to throw yourself in the deep end."
Williams is no stranger to building his own getaways. He first made the news for his Tree Bach tree house in 2011, which he designed and built himself.
"I definitely wanted to step it up a notch," says Williams. "Unlike the tree bach which was just winged, more design work and careful engineering went into the tower."
That included meticulously designing the polycarbonate windows, and the invention of a floor gas heating system that is yet to be installed.
However there were setbacks along the way; some of which literally required a sledgehammer to fix.
"The steel curved pipes were not manufactured within my specified tolerances, so I had to figure out how to make it work," Williams says.
"Another real challenge was transportation of the tower from my construction site to the foundation. I had to nut it all out in my head and just do it."
While the 10-metre tower is a feat of engineering, it doesn't skimp on all the brotopia must-haves – including internet, a projector screen, a stargazing platform and a remote-controlled beer dispenser.
"My favourite feature by far is my refrigerated, in-couch beer dispenser that can hold 12 beers in the dispenser and cool an additional 36 beers," says Williams.
"I can set the optimal temperature of the fridge on my phone, press a button for a beer, and get alerted when the dispenser is getting low."
The Skysphere has superb views, and a projector screen if you get bored of the countryside. Photo: Jono Williams
Other high-tech specs include voice-controlled coloured LED lighting, fingerprint locks, motorised doors and a wireless sound system.
In the construction Williams used four tonnes of steel shipped from China, and the paint alone for his tower cost about $7500.
The spacious interior has room for a queen bed. Photo: Jono Williams
While some people may be skeptical whether a project like this is worth the time and effort, Williams says he's going to put all of his new expertise in green-energy design to good use in the near future.
"My partner and I are currently designing our first house that will be fully off-grid, and use a lot of the technology I have developed for The Skysphere."